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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3349 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

We have to think about who the user of a cemetery is, considering the current assumption that a grave site remains where it is forever. A big part of its role is related to a sense of community, history and ties to a place. Descendants centuries later come to see grave sites. ACTCOSS point out that for some ethnic groups it is important to visit the family grave and that Canberra people are often away from their family.

People whose families have come from scattered parts of the world may also have personal experience of the significance of being able to visit ancestors' graves in places which they had never seen before but which nonetheless tell them something about themselves. Could we say that this benefit is not really one that accrues to the user, defined as the family or other close people burying the deceased person, but rather one that accrues to a community as a whole?

The Presbyterian church, which because of the interest they had expressed to me in the past I contacted for comments, have faith that there will not be private cemeteries in the foreseeable future, because there is enough space in the current public cemeteries. For that reason they are not too worried about the bill, mostly being relieved that the recommendation to allow limited tenure in public cemeteries has not been picked up. But I am not so sure. As we saw when an offer was made on the Woden Cemetery several years ago, there is some interest in running cemeteries.

Privatisation does not necessarily mean setting up a new cemetery. It could mean selling the operation of an existing one. I do not know all the ins and outs of the decision not to sell Woden Cemetery in 1997, but it seems that the laws quite likely had something to do with it, given that apparently legislation grants a monopoly to the cemeteries trust. This bill would pave the way for such a transfer and hence new tenure conditions.

How would Health and Community Care choose to exercise their freedom when providing publicly funded burials to people who could not afford to pay for them themselves? I think we could at least suspect that the public authority would not necessarily pay for the in-perpetuity option.

Of course, there are other areas of life which the Greens have argued should not be privatised. Others have not often agreed so readily as they have on this area of life. I hope that people may understand the arguments in future debates on the importance of community benefit.

There are environmental considerations to do with land use. When we talk about areas of land being taken up for graves in perpetuity, we are talking about a lot of land. The Greens would prefer smaller amounts of land to be taken up by cemeteries, but in this case a choice of tenure depending on how much you can afford to pay is not a good way to achieve this end.

Cremation uses less space, which is environmentally better, but is this an argument for introducing fees to encourage cremation? The Greens do not mind at times using financial incentives to change behaviour. However, it must be equitable. In this case there are other ways to address the use of space. For instance, we could look at regulations which could apply to everyone. Also, there is a steady trend towards

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