Page 4769 - Week 15 - Tuesday, 13 December 2005
I will speak to the recommendations. As you would expect of a majority-government committee, much of the report simply thanks the government, commends the government and says how well the government is doing in various areas. I am really pleased to see that the government members were concerned enough about the issues at stake to make some recommendations that challenge the government. I want to point to some of those today.
First off, we had discussion about the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment. We have been aware for a number of years that the commissioner has been asking for more resources. People may not know that she is only employed for eight days a month. That is not at all adequate and certainly does not allow a response to complaints. She is not resourced for her role in getting together the regional state of the environment report, on which she has been very occupied for most of this year.
One of the first recommendations of the committee is that the ACT government increase the level of funding for the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment in the next budget to enable the commissioner to properly discharge her functions in relation to the ACT environment. That is a very welcome measure. I hope that the fact that the two parties represented on the committee could make that recommendation will unanimously persuade the government that it is a good thing to do.
I was very pleased to see the committee recommend in recommendation 4 that the Land Development Agency and the government continue to pursue mechanisms for making housing affordable, particularly for first home buyers. I am disappointed that there is that focus on house buying, because we all know that you have to have a reasonable level of income before you can move into the house purchasing market. I was very pleased to see the following recommendation at 1.44:
The Committee recommends that the Land Development Agency require a percentage of multi-unit and greenfields developments to be constructed as affordable housing.
This, of course, is the very proposal that the Greens put to the Assembly earlier this year and that my predecessor, Ms Tucker, put before that. I remind members that at that time they rejected it, but it is very pleasing to see that the Labor backbenchers have now come to the conclusion that we need that action to improve the availability of affordable private rental dwellings if we are going to tackle the issue of people who are living with housing stress and who would move out of government housing if they could afford to and if they felt there was security and affordability in the ACT private rental market. That would perhaps take some stress off public housing. Of course, more is needed.
Recommendation 5 might seem trivial but it is recommended by the committee:
… the Department of Urban Services place an agreed number of trunks and mature felled trees in open woodland and forest areas of Canberra Nature Park for wildlife habitat.
I read last weekend that David Attenborough, a nature guru, said that insects are probably the most important species in the world in terms of our biodiversity. They are certainly the most numerous. Some of them we might not like. But the role they play is