Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3750 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The real issue in regard to media notification in this bill, however, is its role as an element of the legal procedure. It was suggested that if the tasks were too wide-ranging or open-ended, the status of an emergency declaration, or any subsequent requirements or penalties, would be too easily open to legal challenge. Consequently, I have negotiated a compromise position that requires government to notify the key electronic media and the daily press and I will be supporting Mr Stanhope's amendments and not moving my own.
The need to have an effective media strategy in all emergencies remains. At one end of the spectrum, the example of the fires highlights the need to have the capacity to intervene in any media, as necessary. I would hope that the protocols have already been confirmed or established with the relevant local and national media outlets.
We floated the idea of having a note in the legislation referring to the comprehensive media strategy that government would need to undertake in such emergency situations. It would be helpful to learn how government has addressed the issue. The minister has made mention of that strategy in his speech, I believe. It is a strategy whose details we would like to see tabled in the Assembly.
It is not just the major emergencies that raise these questions. In the in-principle stage of this debate, I raised the issue of bee diseases. Whilst there are only a few rural lessees with livestock and they can all be contacted directly by government, we do not know how many hives there are in suburban Canberra and we cannot contact all beekeepers. If any bee diseases got a foothold in the ACT, given the lack of regulation and supervision covering hives here, New South Wales apiarists would be very concerned if we did not have at the very least a strategy in place that would alert all suburban beekeepers of the situation and any action they may need to take. I intend to pursue that further.
MS DUNDAS (5.48): I will be brief in speaking to these amendments. I believe that they widen the government's responsibility to inform the media in the event that one of the instruments to declare a disease or quarantine area is used before it is able to be notified on the legislation register. This issue was raised in the McLeod report and I am happy to support the increased responsibility of governments to inform the community when they are declaring emergency situations.
The importance of government communication with the people of Canberra cannot be understated during times of crisis like the declaration of quarantine and other disease control measures. Recommendation 43 of the McLeod report states:
Well-defined, well-practised processes should be developed to support the delivery of information to the public. This includes improving the alert mechanisms for residents prior to an emerging danger period.
The implementation of disease control measures is similar to an emergency situation, such as a bushfire, and I believe that it is appropriate to clarify in legislation that the government has a duty to extensively inform the community of emergency measures in times of adversity and how that communication should take place. Hence, I am supportive of the amendments.