Page 2112 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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One concern is that the amendments will now give the minister direct control over determining the calculation of percentages for future maintenance and also the percentage required to be invested in the PCT reserve. This direct control over the management of the PCT needs to be watched closely to ensure that it is fairly dealt with by the government and that operators are not treated unfairly when determinations are made by the minister. I do not necessarily think that is going to be case. I must say that, until we know a bit more about the way the systems works, that is simply a question we raise. I will be happy to wipe that off the slate in the months to come as we see the operation put into play.

A major question the opposition has is whether or not the totality of investment profits held by the Public Trustee is returned entirely to cemetery and crematorium maintenance, or whether the act governing public trustee investments allows any, or all, of the investment revenue—i.e. the profit component, not the capital investment amount—to be paid to the Public Trustee for the management of the funds or to be redirected to other causes. I will be very happy if the minister wishes to clear that up to enable me to have a better understanding of how this works. As I say, I am pretty happy with it as it looks, but that is an issue I would like clarified.

While I presume that this cannot be the case, I must ask—and again the minister might want to clarify this—can a percentage of the investment return be creamed off the top and redirected to other non-cemetery or crematoria operations? I do not have a strong view that that might be the case but, again, it is an obvious question to ask. A bit of clarification will put that to bed, I am sure. As I said in my opening comments, the opposition supports the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2005, with the qualification that the powers of the minister need to be examined in relation to the management of these funds over the next couple of months—that would be sufficient—and in relation to the minister’s direct call over use of the profits achieved via investments.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.45): The ACT Greens also support this legislation. This legislation amends the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, which already provides a good legislative basis for the management of public cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT. This bill provides additional certainty and security in the management of cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT, both during the time of their operation and after they have ceased operations. This is important for people making arrangements for deceased relatives and friends, as it should remove any uncertainty that the cemetery or crematorium will provide memorial space into the future.

We are lucky in this town that we do not have to consider the terrible task of relocating cemeteries, due to demand for more space for the living. We need to remember, too, the functions cemeteries serve as repositories of history, open space for contemplation, walking and, in some cases, preservation of some species, particularly grasses in our region.

This bill provides for the establishment of a reserve for perpetual care trust accounts, which will provide for long-term maintenance of cemeteries and crematoria. The legislation also requires that cemetery and crematoria operators must use the ACT Public Trustee as the trustee and manager of all perpetual care trust accounts. This requirement

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