Page 2111 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 15 March 2005, on motion by Mr Hargreaves:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.40): The opposition will be supporting this amendment bill but I have some concerns that I would like placed on the public record. The amended legislation was tabled in this Assembly by the minister in March 2005 as the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2005. As the urban services minister said in his tabling speech, the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, or “the act”, as I will now refer to it, and its regulations came into effect on 27 September 2003.

Under section 10 of the act, the Minister for Urban Services is required to determine a suitable perpetual care trust, or PCT, percentage for each cemetery and crematorium to ensure that cemeteries and crematoria will be continually and adequately maintained after they close for new burials, the interment of ashes and memorials. Currently under the act cemeteries and crematoria must open a PCT trust fund account at an authorised deposit-taking institution, or ADI—eg a bank or similar—to contribute a percentage of income received for each burial or interment service.

Although the right has now been established for perpetuity of tenure, there is only a limited guarantee that there will be sufficient amounts in PCT funds for maintenance once a cemetery or crematorium closes. That is why the government has ensured that a long-term financial model has now been independently developed that has calculated the percentage of income to be invested in the trusts to ensure that cemeteries and crematoria will be adequately maintained. That is an initiative we supported then and continue to support.

The amended act ensures that there are improved clear and consistent legal bases for the continued operation of the PCT funds and the PCT reserve, yet these amendments propose that the minister should also determine a PCT reserve percentage, equivalent to the PCT reserve amount, which is to be deposited into a separate account in each PCT trust fund. The government has stated that the amendments establish the way in which the PCT reserve amounts are preserved and managed, and how safeguards ensuring maintenance and perpetuity are to be achieved. The amendments also set out the legal obligations of cemetery and crematoria operators, including how they contribute to, keep records of and manage the trust funds, as well as spelling out the responsibilities of the Public Trustee and the minister.

Overall, the legislation would seem to be a sensible move towards ensuring perpetuity of maintenance. It will tighten up the legislation accordingly, and we welcome that. It certainly ensures that there will be an adequate PCT reserve for ongoing long-term maintenance of the cemetery or crematorium held by the Public Trustee. However, there are some concerns. I do not say these are large concerns; they are just issues to be identified.

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