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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (31 August) . . Page.. 2649 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

This amendment affects section 19 of the Environment Protection Act which lists the documents held by the Environment Management Authority that are available for public inspection. An important feature of the original Environment Protection Act was that information held by the EMA regarding environmental authorisations and the like could be easily accessed by the public without having to go through the complicated freedom of information process. This was based on the principle that the community had a right to know what polluting activities were going on around them and what actions were being taken by government and the relevant businesses to control this pollution.

The Bill before us has included further documents related to contaminated sites under section 19, but, unfortunately, I believe that the list of documents is incomplete. While assessment and remediation orders are included in the list, there is no mention of the supporting reports which lead to these orders being made, such as an assessment and audit reports obtained by the lessee or occupier of the land.

I believe that the public should have access to the full range of documents that are available about contaminated sites so that they can track how decisions are made about these sites. My amendment therefore expands the list of documents in section 19 to include all documents that are produced in the course of assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. This is a really basic community right to know issue, and I am looking forward to support from the majority of members.

MR CORBELL (5.18): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party will be supporting this amendment. We support the provision proposed by Ms Tucker to expand the number of types of information available from the Environment Management Authority. Whilst the Government's current provisions do provide for an order for an assessment of a contaminated site, a remediation order, or information relating to access to the register, they do not deal with an environmental audit under a number of provisions, nor do they deal with a number of other assessments. For that reason, Mr Speaker, we will be supporting this amendment.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (5.19): Mr Speaker, the Bill already amends section 19 of the Act to include assessment and remediation orders in an already quite extensive list of documents. The proposed subsection 91D(3) gives the EMA the power to direct that a report on the remediation outcome be copied to interested parties. If we go as far as Ms Tucker is suggesting, I think we have to balance the need for accessibility to information against the needs of privacy of some individuals and their ability, say, under the FOI, to argue that this is intruding into their business and/or personal affairs. There is a very extensive list of documents. Anything else is, of course, accessible under FOI, which protects the rights of both sides of the argument. The Government opposes the amendment.

The Speaker having drawn attention to the fact that copies of the amendment were not available for circulation to members as required by the standing orders -

Debate (on motion by Mr Rugendyke ) adjourned.

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