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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5286 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

A former Canberra resident and keen ornithologist, Professor Possingham was dismayed to learn that in August this year the ACT Government had sold 28 hectares of Yellow Box and Red Gum woodlands in East O'Malley to a developer for the construction of luxury housing.

Despite opposition from high-profile Canberra scientists such as Professor John Mulvaney (former chair of the ACT Heritage Committee), ecologist Dr Richard Schodde and ANU botanist Andrew Cockburn, the site was sold for $31.25 million to a consortium of Greek business interests...

It was sold subject to development controls, but a copy of the controls faxed to the Canberra Times shows that most of the site will be cleared, with some of the larger trees retained as "features".

Professor Possingham, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, described the sale of the woodlands as "an ecologically irresponsible act", adding that "no-one should be clearing native woodlands for any reason", given their national status as an endangered ecosystem.

"It is disingenuous of people in urban environments to tell rural people they cannot clear land and then allow urban expansion into remnant bushland."

"There cannot be one rule for farmers and another rule for urban developments. There is plenty of clapped-out leasehold farmland around Canberra where the Government can put new houses. It is inexplicable and inexcusable to destroy one of Australia's most threatened ecosystems in this manner,"he said.

Let us look now at what is happening with the greenhouse program. Mrs Dunne started her presentation today by again accusing the Greens of causing fires, which is something she likes to say, but she never provides any substance in her arguments in terms of what she thinks appropriate hazard reduction actually involves. I will remind Mrs Dunne in case she has forgotten that during 2002 Australia experienced its worst drought since reliable records began to be kept in 1910. The average Australian rainfall for the nine months from March to November 2002 was the lowest ever during this period.

The drought was concentrated in eastern Australia, with the Murray Darling Basin, the nation's agricultural heartland, receiving its lowest ever March-November rainfall in 2002. This drought has had a more severe impact than any other drought since at least 1950 because the temperatures in 2002 have also been significantly higher than in other drought years. The higher temperatures caused a marked increase in evaporation rates, which sped up the loss of soil moisture and the drying of vegetation and watercourses.

This drought was the first in Australia where the impact of human-induced global warming could be clearly observed. As I think members are well aware, this drought has had an extreme impact on fire and fire events in this country. When Mrs Dunne talks about fires, I think she ought to recognise that we have a problem with the greenhouse effect and the fires are not going to go away. By destroying all the natural ecological systems to try to stop the fires we are just going to make the whole situation worse.

There is a lot of scientific opinion to support that. John Benson of the Royal Botanic Gardens has totally debunked a proposal that frequent burning reduces risk. In fact, he has shown quite clearly that it can create a higher fuel load. This is a complex scientific

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