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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3347 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

In an article published on 8 March in the Canberra Times, a government spokesman said that the likelihood of a private operator entering the market in the near future was slim. He did not say it was not going to happen. I cannot accept the word of a spokesman. If the likelihood is slim, why would you bother to go ahead with this sort of stuff? We cannot take anybody's word about things not being privatised. The government said that it would never privatise Actew and it did.

The national competition policy review recommended post-burial tenure. The government said they did not accept that recommendation, and there is nothing stopping private cemeteries from doing it. That means there is a possibility that you will buy a burial plot for a certain number of years, and that is it. There is nothing stopping the private cemeteries from putting more than one casket in the same grave.

Funerals and burials are very expensive. Many people find the costs an enormous impost. People may think to themselves, "This will not happen to me." But we all know damn well it will happen to us. How many of us make specific provisions so that our families or our children do not cop the costs of $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 or $8,000?

It seems as though members in this chamber are more concerned about other issues, so I will not bother to waste any more of the Assembly's time by trying to speak to an issue which is of clearly considerable importance. The opposition will be opposing the legislation.

MS TUCKER (12.04): The Greens will not be supporting this bill, which seeks to impose national competition policy-inappropriately, we argue-on the operation of cemeteries in the ACT.

Firstly, this bill would allow private cemeteries to be established. Our current law permits cemetery operation only by the Canberra Public Cemeteries Trust, although there are no such restrictions on operation of crematoria, and the only crematorium in the ACT is privately operated.

Secondly, it completes removal of government support for cemeteries which began in 1997, after the proposal to buy Woden Cemetery was turned down. Under this bill, you have to pay the costs of having a grave maintained in perpetuity, plus a proportion of the cost of maintaining graves which were already in existence before the cemeteries trust was established. The government has presented the information as though it were always the intention for the cemetery to be self-funding at some point.

Thirdly, private operators-there are not any private cemeteries yet, but this bill opens the door-will be allowed to have a tiered fee structure and to offer a range of tenures on various plots. Because of the privatisation trajectory the government has followed, the cemeteries trust now needs to find money to cover the cost of maintaining grounds and graves in perpetuity, some of which cost the government formerly covered.

The government's plan to achieve coverage of these costs through this bill is for the minister to set a percentage to be taken from all burial fees, which will be paid into a perpetual care trust for the graves that predate the trust.

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