Page 1585 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008
evidence before it or documents provided to it. But I cannot think of an occasion when a document provided to the committee by a minister as part of his statutory role would not have been published.
I have thought about this for a long time and it is not an absolutely perfect analogy, but if the Minister for Planning presented a draft variation plan to the Legislative Assembly committee, there is no way that the committee could stop that being published. The analogy is not absolutely perfect because the mechanisms in the old land act—and we have to refer to the old land act because this is something that is going on under the old land act—are not exactly the same. But the content and purpose of the documents are pretty much the same.
In the case of a variation to the territory plan, we are taking a large piece of land, whether it be in public ownership or in private ownership, and changing what we do on that land. With the draft management plan and the final management plan we are taking a large piece of publicly owned and managed land and saying what can and cannot happen in that area, because it is reserved for particular reasons.
It is absolutely unprecedented, and it is with some trepidation that I stand here today and ask the Assembly to do the job of the committee. I have thought long and hard about it and I have sought a lot of advice, but I think that, in the interest of openness and accountability, it is the only course open to me.
In the hearing last week, we heard from the National Parks Association. It was a public and open hearing. Any member could have attended; the hearing was broadcast and any member can refer to the Hansard. It became quite clear that the interest groups, who have a substantial interest, as we all should, in what is happening in about 50 per cent of the ACT’s land mass, were left to second-guess what the government proposed to do. They were left to second-guess what might be in the report. They could surmise a bit regarding what might be there. Therefore, they expressed in some cases support for things they think are there and concerns about other things they think are there. This is not openness and this is not accountability. This is not the way we should be running our committee system.
It is not reasonable for a voluntary organisation like the National Parks Association—and I expect that when we hear evidence from the Canberra bushwalkers, the alpine association and various other people, they will be in the same position—to have to say, “Well, we think that Namadgi national park should be going down this path, but we don’t have enough information about what the government has recommended for us to agree with, disagree with or make recommendations for a different course of action.” This is a completely and utterly unreasonable course of action. It works like this: I am a member of the planning and environment committee, and I can read this report. I am being put in the position of having to say to a volunteer, a member of the ACT community—somebody who pays my salary—”Guess what I can see that you can’t see, and you make recommendations in the dark.” Members of the community have to make recommendations and speak to the revised draft management plan for Namadgi national park in the dark because it is on the public record that this substantial document, which has been five years in the making, and two years since it was last revised, is a secret document.