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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3394 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

an announcement on, say, one radio station is not good enough. The fire emergency earlier this year highlighted the problem a number of people were enjoying cable TV or perhaps Classic FM in the cool of their homes-only to discover a massive bushfire in their backyard when they stood up.

You would think that, with the extraordinary capacity of contemporary communications, it would not be hard to get the message out through all media. For that reason, I will move amendments in the detail stage, requiring the minister to access all available media, in order to notify the population of action taken under these acts-whether it be closing-off borders to particular animals, plants or products, destroying or treating them.

I note the minister, in his presentation speech, added that, as a matter of good administration, further steps would be taken to inform people most likely to be affected, such as the rural community and those who trade in affected goods. It is probably not necessary to specify in the act that the minister must take these further steps. Nevertheless, after the events of January, one is inclined to specify everything that ought to happen to inform people, just, in case in an emergency, something is overlooked. More important, perhaps, is knowing who ought to be contacted in such a situation and having a mechanism in place to deal with it. The situation with beekeepers illustrates the problem. The ACT used to have a bee inspector based in Urban Services and all beekeepers were obliged to register their hives.

In the interests of economic efficiency in a brave new world, the Carnell Liberal government changed the legislation and abolished the position some time in the mid-1990s. That means there are now a number of amateur beekeepers with up to 20 hives in their backyards which may be diseased-and on occasion undoubtedly are diseased-yet there are no controls or even communication mechanisms in place.

Bees are particularly significant. The European honey bee is worth billions of dollars in pollinating crops and other produce. Honey is, of course, also a valuable commodity, so an uncontrolled outbreak of disease in the ACT could swiftly spread to New South Wales and create major problems. Another problem with bees is that, if they are not well maintained, they will go feral and impact on native plants and animals.

In the context of this bill, the issue of the spread of diseases and having no registration system or method of contacting beekeepers is problematic. I am in touch with apiarists in the ACT and New South Wales, with a view to introducing legislation to address some of these concerns. Consideration of this bill has led me to think that other plant and animal activities could benefit similarly from improved regulation.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (4.40), in reply: This bill does three things. Firstly, it amends the provisions in the Animal Diseases Act and the Plant Diseases Act to allow quarantine declarations and related declarations to commence immediately, if the circumstances warrant it. Without this, such declarations take 12 to 36 hours to commence. A delay of this kind could cripple efforts to control the outbreak of a disease or pest. Secondly, the bill replaces the limited directions power in section 13 of the Plant Diseases Act with a more general directions power. Thirdly, it amends each of the offences in the Plant Diseases Act 2002, to make them compliant with the criminal code.

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