Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (12 November) . . Page.. 3473 ..
MS DUNDAS (5.35): This bill appears to be quite simple. It replaces the Plant Diseases Act of 1934 and updates and modernises the legislation surrounding emergency powers necessary for controlling plants, pests and diseases, in line with similar legislation, such as the Animal Diseases Act 1993. However, I do note that the scrutiny of bills committee raised a number of issues about the implementation of this bill that should be mentioned here.
I have been informed that the minister will be moving a number of amendments in response to the comments of the scrutiny of bills committee in its report. In particular, I understand that the minister will be changing a number of notifiable instruments to disallowable instruments due to the scrutiny of bills committee identifying in its report that delegated legislative power is insufficiently subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
I agree with the amendments and will be supporting them, as I am also concerned that the existing bill does not seem to make a clear distinction between instruments of a legislative and executive character. This distinction is especially important as the designation of a thing as an insect or a disease begins a process that may result in the use of extensive search and destroy powers.
I also note that the scrutiny of bills committee's report raised the issue of whether the restriction of access to the courts was more than necessary for the smooth operation of this bill and whether inspectors should have more restrictive responsibilities in exercising their powers. In questioning this, I was informed that the powers given to the inspectors under this bill mirror those in numerous other acts. However, as the government noted in its response to the committee's report, "It would be preferable to give consideration to the suggestion in the broader context of inspector powers in all legislation."
The government has yet to give any confirmation that it will look at this question. I strongly urge the government to look at this issue in light of the fact that the scrutiny of bills committee has questioned the extent of inspector powers. We know that that exists in a number of acts and it needs to be considered in a holistic way. With those ideas in mind and considering the amendments from the Minister for Urban Services, the ACT Democrats will be supporting the Plant Diseases Bill 2002.
MS TUCKER (5.37): This bill sets out new provisions for the regulation of plant diseases and replaces the Plant Diseases Act 1934. The bill came out of a national competition policy review of that act and updates and streamlines the procedures for controlling the establishment and spread of plant diseases, such as the imposition of quarantine zones, prohibiting the entry of material that could spread disease and making orders for the treatment and destruction of affected plants or goods.
The Greens have no problem with having a strong scheme for the control of plant diseases, as we would all agree that such diseases can have significant impacts on our agricultural industry, as well as the environment more generally. This is not so much an issue specifically for the ACT, as we do not have many crops growing here, but it is important that the ACT participate in national approaches to plant disease control.