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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1561 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

the drive for reform to reverse them-although introducing Medicare after the Liberals' dismantling of Medibank is one example from some time ago.

More often it is a case of Labor finding the budget savings convenient and saying that the changes are by now too entrenched; it is all too hard, and, "Sorry, party members and voters, but we can't go back."Instead, they do a little tinkering-so that a limited government function is available to mitigate the deficiencies of the industry-based arrangements.

That is what we have in this bill. I see no sign of a view on the part of this government that certification of building work in accordance with government regulations is really core government business and should therefore be restored to government-put back in the hands of accountable public officers.

This bill takes no such stance and will not upset any private interest applecarts. The government is so careful not to offend private sector interests that it timidly assures them that its in-house certification capacity will be used only as a certifier of last resort and will in no way compete with industry certifiers. Indeed, the government certifier can be appointed by the building controller only where no other private certifier has agreed to take on the work.

The question I have is: in whose interests do we have certification, if not that of the public? Largely it appears it is in the interests of industry and that the public's stake as citizens-and therefore the employers of public servant certifiers-has given way to that of consumer and having to hunt around for reasonable service with no power to require it. So while this bill patches up what the minister describes as a fundamental flaw in the system, we are left with the question of whether this fix-up is adequate to provide a sound system. Or do other fundamental flaws remain, and will further measures be needed?

For example, we know that the limited random auditing done by government under this system has uncovered significant poor practice in the industry, requiring disciplinary action against two major providers of certification services and resulting in a shortage of alternative suppliers.

What we do not know is what undiscovered problems have simply gone through, with the government's rubber stamping of the papers, for which the industry self-certification scheme provides. I am interested to hear how the Labor government's thinking has been shaped by its experience of this system and, given its earlier philosophical opposition to it, its thoughts on future directions and what the optimal certification system should be.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.17), in reply: I thank members for their support for this important legislation. Mr Speaker, as Ms Tucker rightly points out, the government's response is one designed to address a gaping hole left by the previous administration when it introduced private certification. It left no capacity whatsoever for certifier of last resort, unlike other jurisdictions that had also introduced private certification, including Victoria. In Victoria, under Jeff Kennett, the Liberal government left the government as certifiers of last resort-or indeed even in competition with private certification.

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