Page 3406 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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It is quite misguided of the Liberal Party to oppose this clause, as indeed it is misguided of them to oppose tree protection legislation overall, which is what they have done earlier today.

Amendment negatived.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.52): The Liberal opposition will be opposing this clause, as we have said in the in-principle stage. Mr Mulcahy reinforced it in the in-principle stage. This is an unwarranted imposition. There is a very low level of proof required by the conservator and, in return, the conservator can make very harsh impositions upon landowners.

Mr Corbell is saying that we need to send a message that people cannot vandalise trees and profit from it. I like the way Mr Corbell always says “profit” with such venom, almost spitting the word out. It is not about people profiting from nefarious acts; it is about attributing real blame where it is necessary. The level of proof that falls to the conservator is very low. The conservator has to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that things have happened. All of the responsibility falls to the leaseholder.

As Mr Mulcahy rightfully said today, and in my experience, there have been a number of occasions where there are neighbourhood disputes over trees. And there are a range of neighbourhood disputes that escalate into tit-for-tat planning applications, refusals and interventions by neighbours. If this stands as it does, it creates, for that small number of people who don’t get on with their neighbours and who have a malicious bent, another opportunity for them to ruin their neighbours’ lives. If something happens to a tree that may cause it damage, it may not be the responsibility of the landholder; it may be the responsibility of the neighbour; it may be the responsibility of a tradesman who comes on the block to do something—all sorts of things may come into play.

The burden of proof for the conservator is far too low to essentially put a moratorium of up to five years on development on a block where a tree has been deregistered. This is inappropriate. It is slightly better than it was in the previous legislation. It is inappropriate; it is draconian; and it must be opposed.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs, and Acting Minister for Education and Training) (5.55): The government asserts that this is a quite reasonable response to the situation that the conservator may be confronted with in relation to the circumstances described. The decision that the conservator makes is a purely functional decision; it will be based on a range of technical considerations. There is an opportunity for an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against the decision.

It needs to be remembered, to put the position in some perspective—and it does go to the issue that my colleague Mr Corbell raised—that it is an appropriate response in a circumstance in which trees, potentially, are deliberately damaged to seek an advantage for profit. Dare we say “profit”! Let us say “advantage”!

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