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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 675 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

With those few comments, Mr Speaker, the Liberal opposition is happy to support the legislation.

MR SPEAKER: Members, I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Mr Michael Moore, a former member of the Assembly. Welcome Mr Moore.

MS DUNDAS (5.11): Mr Speaker, I rise today to restate the opposition of the Democrats to this bill. The bill follows the national competition policy review of the Cemeteries Act and the Cremation Act, and as the Democrats have done since the mid 1990s, we wish to reject national competition policy as it applies to cemeteries. The Australian Democrats believe in competition but we are opponents of the current national competition policy. We do accept that there is a need for a national competition policy but the current policy is not the way to go.

As has been stated earlier, the public interest test needs to be applied to opening the cemetery market to privatisation and competition. The national competition policy has a public interest test that has been dominated by economic assessment ahead of the harder to measure intangible attributes in the social and environmental areas. In this area of cemeteries you have to take into account cultural and religious sensibilities, and since 1999 there has been some debate leading up to what is now I think the third reincarnation of this bill.

Perpetual tenure has been the most controversial part of this piece of legislation, and while in other jurisdictions there is variety in the market, here in the ACT the minister has decided to set up a one product market-that of tenure for perpetuity-and I do have concerns about this aspect of the legislation as well.

I am pleased to note, however, that the new bill before us takes into account my concerns regarding the Chief Health Officer's decisions to exhume a body. It also fixes a few minor and technical areas in the first bill. Whilst the changes do make this law better, the problems that rest at the heart of this bill cannot be fixed by amendments in this house, and hence I continue to oppose it.

MS TUCKER (5.12): The ACT Greens will be supporting this bill, which, in essence, is a redrawn version of the cemeteries and crematoria bill of last year. A couple of taxation issues have been cleared up and a number of amendments first proposed by my office have been incorporated, and I thank the minister for his cooperative approach.

The bill essentially modernises the regulatory regime that covers cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT. It provides a framework for trusts to provide perpetual care for burial sites. Key concerns we had in this bill's previous incarnation were: that it did not provide for burial in perpetuity and so conceivably opened the door to two classes of burial system; that the Cemeteries Board did not specifically include religious or cultural representatives; and that publicly owned cemeteries and crematoria could be sold to private operators without specific Assembly oversight.

The original bill arguably implied perpetual tenure for graves, but it certainly was not explicit. There could still have been some ongoing incentive for limited and perpetual tenure to reflect financial rather than personal or religious preferences. This current bill

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