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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 203 ..

Community Services and Social Equity-Standing Committee


MRS CROSS (11.14): Mr Speaker, I move:

That the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity inquire into and report by the last sitting day in September 2002 on the operation of the Dangerous Goods Act 1975 with particular reference to:

(a) the sale of fireworks in the Territory;

(b) the general safety of setting off fireworks; and

(c) any other related matter.

Mr Speaker, I am seeking to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity rather than proposing legislation because the sale and use of fireworks is such a divisive issue within our community. I believe that an equitable approach needs to be determined. The users of fireworks are likely to be family groups wanting to celebrate festive occasions and I do not believe it is appropriate to punish the whole community because of the illegal activities of a few. I believe that we need to balance people's freedoms with community safety.

I believe that the banning of fireworks is generally favoured by those whose pets have been traumatised or who have experienced property destruction. Those who want fireworks to remain are the sellers and the users, and the users incorporate families, individuals, young people and older people.

The Liberal government tried to introduce measures to curb the likelihood of illegal activity, which did work to some degree as the sale to the public has fallen. Nonetheless, illegal sale still persists.

The ACT WorkCover report of August 2001 found, amongst other things, that the regulatory changes improved clarity about the regime for fireworks although the whole legislation needed modernisation. It also found that most industry members in the ACT did not willingly take on the new requirements and in fact a number actively resisted them; the reported injury rate for people trebled from last year; reported injury and deaths for animals continued at a similar level to last year, which is still unacceptable; complaints also doubled from last year; reports about injuries and property damage appear related to the use of illegal fireworks, like "bungers"-modern bungers are simply small bombs that can main and kill; illegal sales appear to be continuing; and imports still exceed legal sales.

We have the WorkCover report but we need more information and discussion on the matter, especially given the divisiveness of this issue. Therefore, I prefer to refer this to a standing committee for further consultation and examination. We need to be wary of hasty government action which can too often be heavy handed and riddled with unforeseen consequences. I am mindful that this is a very emotional issue in our community. As I said, it is a divisive issue and I would appreciate my motion being carried.

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