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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (31 August) . . Page.. 2647 ..

MS TUCKER (5.10): The Greens support this Bill in principle as well as it is a significant and positive step towards management of contaminated sites in the ACT. While the ACT does not have the scale of industrial land that other States have, it has had its own controversy over contaminated sites - for example, residential land found to have been built over old sheep dips, contamination of the Kingston foreshore and the clean-up of old petrol station sites. Canberra is not like other capital cities in having many disused industrial sites being redeveloped for other uses, but, in accordance with the precautionary principle, it is important to have the legislative framework in place to deal with situations that may arise in the future.

The Greens believe that to ensure protection of the environment and public safety it is very important that adequate records are kept of contaminated sites, that assessment and remediation of contaminated sites are done to the highest standard possible, and that the public have full access to all relevant documents and to appeal rights to ensure that the whole process is accountable.

I note that there has been the opportunity for public input into the Bill through the release of an exposure draft which was then referred to the Urban Services Committee for inquiry. This process has resulted in a number of improvements to the Bill. However, there are still some aspects that I think are deficient.

I note that the Bill is largely modelled on the contaminated land legislation in New South Wales, but there are some noticeable differences where provisions of the New South Wales legislation relating to public notification and access to information have been watered down in this Bill. Some of the submissions to the Urban Services Committee, most notably the submission from the Environmental Defenders Office, highlighted the differences between the ACT Bill and the New South Wales legislation, and also the Queensland contaminated sites legislation, which is also quite stronger than the ACT Bill. The Urban Services Committee picked up some of the concerns of the Environmental Defenders Office in its recommendations which the Government has subsequently incorporated into the Bill. There are still some outstanding issues that need to be aired during this debate.

I have prepared a number of amendments to the Bill which I will talk about further during the detail stage. However, I would like to remind Mr Smyth, the Minister for the environment, who has had a positive association with the Earth Charter process, of something. I have not heard him challenge this at any of the forums that we have both been at. It is a basic principle of the Earth Charter. The benchmark draft 2 No. 6 principle is "prevent harm to the environment as the best method of ecological protection and, when knowledge is limited, take the path of caution". Minister, I want to remind you of that because that is basically the precautionary principle which is absolutely fundamental to any environmental regulation, and you have supported publicly the principles of this charter. I would be very disappointed if you are not able to make your practice fit with those public statements that you make.

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