Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (12 November) . . Page.. 3474 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
However, the scrutiny of bills committee raised a particular problem with one aspect of this bill, in that it prevents any legal challenge to decisions to impose quarantine on properties, to declare an area to be subject to import restrictions or to issue an order for the treatment or destruction of plants. The committee noted that this goes against the common law rights of citizens to have access to courts to challenge the actions of state officials that adversely affect them.
I have considered this issue carefully and have decided that the broader public benefit that would be obtained from swiftly controlling plant diseases outweighs any restrictions on individual activities that may be involved. Allowing such a decision to be subject to appeal or court action could hinder timely action to prevent the establishment or spread of a disease. In many cases, it is important for controls to be imposed immediately an outbreak of disease occurs, to prevent the disease spreading further and causing more damage to agricultural production.
I note that this approach of limiting appeal rights is already found in the ACT's Animal Diseases Act and is consistent with the approach taken in plant and animal disease legislation in other states and in national strategies to control diseases in the agricultural industry. There are also some balancing provisions in the bill for this restriction. The bill does provide some scope for challenging these decisions through the Assembly rather than the legal system, because the relevant declarations are disallowable instruments.
The bill also provides for the government to give compensation to a person whose property is affected by the operation of the act which would amount to an acquisition of property; for example, if a crop that has commercial value had to be destroyed. Overall, I think the approach of the bill is reasonable, given the significant threat posed by plant diseases. I will be supporting this bill.
MR WOOD (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services) (5.40), in reply: Mr Speaker, other speakers have acknowledged that this reform is long overdue and that the former act sought to interfere with the day-to-day running of businesses and was really out of touch. This bill takes the approach of leaving it to people to run their businesses but still retain comprehensive and essential powers for government to intervene, where necessary, to protect the interests of growers and the community at large. The bill matches the approach taken by relevant Commonwealth legislation and reflects what has been agreed at a national level as the best way to proceed.
The scrutiny of bills committee raised three issues. We have addressed those in our response, but I will give further comments today. As part of the response, the government is proposing four amendments which are all the same but to different clauses of the bill. Members have those amendments on the table in front of them. These changes arise from the scrutiny of bills committee's report.
The committee queried why some of the declarations in the bill were notifiable, while others were disallowable. As it presently stands, the declarations in clauses 5, 6, 7 and 9 of the bill are notifiable. They were proposed as that because the government was of the view that these items were more administrative than legislative. However, the government recognises that there can be a difference of opinion here and, after