Page 3343 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.00): Mr Speaker, Mrs Dunne and, to some extent, Dr Foskey have both expressed some real concerns about this legislation. It troubles me that there are aspects of this bill that I do not think have been thought through. I think that what we have before us is not consistent with a philosophy of reasonable and appropriate legislation. I am a bit surprised that the legislation has been brought to us with obvious question marks over it.

The example that Mrs Dunne gave of requiring compliance with Australian standard 4373 when engaging in pruning typifies some of the extreme elements contained in the legislation. This is the sort of thing that we read about in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Age. We are told, “Here they go again the ACT. They are going to out-legislate the rest of Australia. They will come up with some new extreme measure.” The sad fact is that you have got to then go and defend all this stuff and try to assure people that we are serious about our legislative role. We bring in a rule or a standard such as that and apply it to every ordinary citizen in Canberra, not just people who are involved in professional areas such as horticulture. We immediately impose these expectations across the entire population of our city and assume that people have access to these things, understand these things, and can reasonably comply with them.

Mr Speaker, I am troubled that the question here seems to be how high we can build the stack of red books on the bar table and whether we can reach the ceiling with more and more legislation. We seem to want to legislate and regulate for every facet of life. Philosophically, I have a problem with that and I think that this bill is a fairly good example of what I am talking about. I know that the legislation is an improved attempt to sort out a problem but probably in its genesis—and I understand it may extend back quite a period of time—it was ill conceived. For five years we have heard about the tree register but apparently it is still nowhere near in order or appropriately documented.

I think all members here and most of our community take pride in our beautiful city, and it is important that we work to maintain it. We are not advocating that people go down to Lanyon, take out a chainsaw and be allowed to chop down the wonderful trees that are there or engage in other sorts of environmental vandalism. But I think using legislation of this kind, which seeks to embrace everyone in the city without being more selective and discerning, and which imposes expectations both at law and in various measures of compliance that are verging on being unreasonable, is not the way to go.

The bill approaches the task of the city’s beautification in the wrong way. It has all the hallmarks of a draconian piece of legislation. In the first instance, it covers every piece of leased land in the urban area. I was interested to hear Mrs Dunne mention that even the Council for Civil Liberties has raised concerns that the legislation unreasonably intrudes on people’s rights. Complaints have come from that quarter but these issues extend beyond any partisan interest.

The bill creates two types of protected trees: registered trees intrinsically valuable for scientific or heritage reasons; and regulated trees in a tree management precinct. But it is important to note at the outset that all of urban Canberra is to be considered a tree management precinct. I know that there are some wonderful trees in some parts of the city, particularly through the electorate of Molonglo, that it is important to maintain and that will be important for the development and future look of our city. But I am sorry,

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