Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5272 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
approach that says that environmental conservation equals the protection of wilderness and the best thing that can be done with wilderness is nothing.
This is, in turn, linked to what I call the four legs good, two legs bad approach-that is, any human action necessarily constitutes environmental damage. When conservation is combined with a normal degree of bureaucratic inertia, we end up with a precautionary principle raised to the level of not being game to get out of bed in the morning. Although it is interesting that precautionary principle does not apply to issues affecting people, evidently family and social structures are much more resilient than ecosystems. Under this view, dams are evil. We know this because of Lake Pedder and the Gordon below Franklin. It appears that that is all you need to know. If you know that, and especially if you know that you are a hero and that all right-thinking socially-aware people will vote for you anyway, you can respond to questions on the subject by saying that you do not know what environmental flows are, how they are measured or how they are set or who sets them, and it is not your problem anyhow.
If members think that I am exaggerating, let us just hark back to the last sitting week of this Assembly. When asked about the well-known capacities of dams to maintain environmental flows in dry times, the Chief Minister and Minister for Environment replied, "I would think that the capacity to maintain environmental flows would depend on the amount of water in the system. If it rains a lot there is a lot of water; if it does not rain much there is not much water."That is pretty basic. It does not even make Environmentalism 101.
In response to a question about the draft water strategy, the environment minister said, "I must say that I have absolutely no idea how officials or instrumentalities measure water consumption. I haven't got a clue. I assume there is a little tap with a gauge on it somewhere, but I have no idea."To a question about why he appeared to be reducing environmental flows before there had been a promised full-scale review, he replied, "I am not reducing environmental flows. That decision is taken by the Environmental Defender."There is no Environmental Defender in the ACT government. There is an NGO called the Environmental Defender's Office, but it does not make decisions on environmental flows. At the time that the environment minister gave this answer, the opposition asked him if he was sure, if he was comfortable with that answer. He said that he was assured but cast some aspersions on members across the chamber-that we thought we knew everything.
He had obviously thought about this and after question time he got up to correct himself. He said that he had meant the Environmental Protector. I assume he meant the Environmental Protection Authority. Clearly we have an environment minister who considers that it is not necessary to know anything about his portfolio. People who are concerned about the environment will always vote for the Stanhope-Tucker alliance. This government is taking the environment issue for granted and, as a result, environmental management in the ACT is deteriorating.
We have seen this approach in the lack of preparation for the fires and the lack of provision for their consequences, which include the loss of water through catchment regeneration, the loss of access to water through increased turbidity and the explosion of weeds, of which Paterson's curse is currently the most visible and which, we have been told, we cannot possibly control. The Chief Minister in this place said, "There is no