Page 3349 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (12.23): Mr Speaker, quite bluntly and with apologies to the PCO, this bill is a crock. We have heard in this place all the reasons why it should not go ahead. The bill appears to be trying to dig the government out of some sort of hole it got itself into in the last Assembly. The original legislation started off as a very good idea. We are known as the garden city and the bush capital. We are a capital that has gardens. But what we have now is legislation to which bits keep being bolted and added, and this is becoming quite a concern to the average home owner in Canberra.

Canberrans love their gardens—I love my garden—and more often than not they go to great lengths to preserve trees on their blocks, not knock them down. My colleague Mr Seselja and others have brought up issues about unsafe trees and home extensions. We want people to stay in Canberra. The more we keep doing stuff like this, the more we are saying to people, “We will just make it hard for you to live here. We will just make it more difficult, more prohibitive. We will become the nanny state. We will take over and we will tell you how to run your life.”

Last year a really beautiful gum tree on my nature strip started to keel over and eventually burst a water main. Workers in eight trucks turned up to repair the damage. I wanted to know what could be done about the tree because branches were falling off. I did not know whether the tree was protected or unprotected. It could well have been. I, being in this place, should know more than anybody, possibly, but there is nothing in situ to tell the average Canberran what is protected. I note that under proposed section (15) (1) (a) of part 3 of the bill a person commits an offence if the person does something that damages a protected tree. By default, not everybody in Canberra is a gardener. How would the average person know whether a tree is protected?

In view of the water restrictions, we have to look at this matter in a whole new light. The whole thing is concerning. The intention of the original legislation was good. But how far should we go in telling people how to run their lives? The bill places undue pressure on leaseholders and on business people. I know the government has made some moves to change some of the issues regarding fines et cetera but it needs to do more.

Mr Speaker, I would also go further and say that possibly the Molonglo electorate will be the electorate that is most impacted by this legislation. Why? Because it contains some of the oldest suburbs where, for obvious reasons, people will want to redevelop or undertake extensions. Also, the trees are older and in some cases are becoming dangerous and so forth. I believe that, for reasons that have been pointed out, the people in these suburbs will bear the brunt of what I now see as over-the-top legislation.

Although this exercise started off sensibly, we now see that there is to be the protection of trees around trees or, as we heard in this place, “big trees’ mates”. As amusing as that description is, we have now entered an era in which we seem to be telling people more and more about what they can and cannot do. This is clearly a huge imposition on people’s rights. I am concerned that there are 34 amendments and six consequential amendments to this bill. Are people going to know what is in the legislation? How are we going to educate the community? How are we going to stop people from being fined as a result of falling into a trap that they did not know about? I am sure we all want to see our garden city preserved but do we need the government, do we need us as legislators, to keep telling people more and more what they can and cannot do in their lives?

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