Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2008 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The Cemeteries Act predates self-government along with several others, so it is time to bring it up to date. I have not had time to check whether the Cemeteries and Crematoria Bill governance arrangements for the proposed new board fit with the recommendations of the Auditor General following this extensive review, and that would be worth looking at.
However, as well as updating the arrangements, it removes government responsibility entirely from operating the board whereas previously the cemetery system was partly government funded and partly funded by fees for burials. Now it must operate on a commercial basis.
It also removes the specified positions on the board, formerly the trust, for religious community representatives. The competition consultant, CIE, supported this change by saying effectively that those positions were wasted space compared to having someone with financial expertise.
This bill does not have the option of limited tenure in private cemeteries, which is an improvement over the last one, but it retains one of the other fundamentally problematic issues. The current government, when in opposition, was strongly and clearly critical of this change. And why has this changed? This is a very worrying trend-seeing the Labor Party now in government changing its position. I have been quite surprised by some of the positions coming out of the current opposition as well, but when it is the government changing position I think it is even more worrying. How can we have confidence in the government's integrity when the positions clearly stated less than a year ago are now not important? So I will move to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity, under its responsibility for municipal services. This inquiry is to open up for discussion the difficult topic of cemeteries. It is hard to talk about it, but it is important.
Privatisation, commercialisation and the removal of a spiritual perspective from the operation of the cemetery are all important questions. There are other questions that local councils in other parts of Australia are grappling with as well. A competition policy review assumes certain things. A committee can, if it takes it on, actively engage in and encourage discussion in a variety of ways.
Much of the detail of how the cemeteries and crematoria are to be required to operate is to be moved into regulations and a code of practice. We have not seen these, and Labor did not like this when in opposition. In the briefing, my office was told that it would be possible to see the regulations before voting at detail stage. However, now I understand the minister does not want to do this. So we will not be supporting this bill.
MR HARGREAVES (11.56): I would like to address a couple of things that the leader of the Democrats raised about the national competition policy. It is true to say that, when we talked about this issue in the last Assembly, I also was pretty scathing about the national competition policy, because I think it is absolutely inappropriate that the policy apply to this particular issue.
However, the national competition policy-and the legislation that underpinned it-is not a creature of this Assembly; it is a creature of the federal parliament and the federal Liberal Party and we are stuck with it. So we can sit and bleat about the national