Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (31 August) . . Page.. 2655 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The Government says, "No, we are not going to give you that information once the land is remediated". By supporting these amendments, members will be saying, "Yes, you still have a right to know what occurred on that land". That is what the amendments are about. It is a very important right.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (5.35): Mr Speaker, these are perhaps the central amendments in the debate this afternoon. We believe the Government's model is better. The reason is that you have to say the land is either remediated or not. The ACT Government went to great expense and did exceptional work in remediating this land. Either it is or it is not remediated, and it is either certified or not certified by an independent qualified environmental auditor. There should be no further adverse consequences to the landholder.
It is either remediated or not. If it is not, then we should leave everything for all time on every register everywhere. There must be a point at which you can say that this land is remediated. Ms Tucker raises the word "stigma". In fact, it does leave a stigma over this land, and for individuals who have made a personal investment in the land it may also lead to a decrease in its value. With the model that we put forward we can protect this land and the records as well without leaving the land on the register. The EMA will still have the records and they will still be subject to FOI.
Ms Tucker argues that we may discover something in the future. How do we qualify this? How do we limit this? Do we limit it? Ms Tucker says that what I am saying is inconsistent with the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is: Do no harm when you do not know. What we do know is that we have remediated this land. The ACT taxpayer has spent a lot of time, money and effort remediating this land. Those who own the land were put to great inconvenience and difficulty, and some have chosen to stay and others have chosen to sell up and go. But you must reach a point where there is some finality on this.
The EMA will still hold the records. Should future processes evolve that say that the land was not properly cleared of the arsenic, I would be very surprised, but I am willing to accept that advances in science may prove that. At this stage it leaves for the owners of that land the signal that it has not been remediated; that for some odd reason there is still something wrong with that land. We believe our model is better. We will still have the records, and I believe that the approach we are taking is better.
I do not believe that this makes us a laughing stock at all. It is odd that when the Government says, "We would not mind being consistent with New South Wales", everybody says, "We do not have to be consistent with New South Wales". Now we are having arguments that we must be consistent with New South Wales. It is something that I will hold dearly to and use in the future. The reality is that the land has either been remediated or not. We believe that it has and therefore it is reasonable to remove it from the register.