Page 1103 - Week 03 - Thursday, 26 February 2009
There are also new systems being developed as alternatives to cremation. One system is resomation, which is a water-based process which returns the body to its constituent elements. The other is promession, which uses a freezing and drying process. Resomation essentially takes high-temperature water-based alkaline hydrolysis—breaking down compounds—applying it to human remains and ending up with pure bio-ash and liquid. It is an accelerated version of the natural process of hydrolysis-driven decomposition after shallow burial. At present, resomation is available commercially only in Great Britain and Canada.
There will be consultation with the community on natural burial and other options for burial over coming months as a part of the detailed community consultation program that has been developed for the proposed southside cemetery. Early details of the consultation are available on the TAMS website—www.tams.act.gov.au—and further details will be posted soon on the government’s community noticeboard which appears every Saturday in the Canberra Times.
This is an issue which the government is taking seriously. As members are aware, I have asked Mr Robert Smeaton, the Chairman of the Cemeteries Board, to initiate full consultation on the feasibility of a new southern cemetery to meet the needs of the people of all of Canberra, but most particularly those living in the south, and most particularly Tuggeranong. We are taking the opportunity, as part of that consultation and feasibility process, to explore all of the issues in relation to burial, including interest in or prospects for natural burial within the Australian Capital Territory.
In expressing a personal view in advance of the consultation, I am very open to the development of a natural burial capacity in the ACT. It would not necessarily need to be restricted to a new or southern cemetery. It is something that I believe we should embrace. It is an issue that is receiving popular attention in Australia and around the world. Along with other advances, changes in thinking and changes in community expectations around death, dying and burial, it is an issue that deserves the most serious consideration, and the government is ensuring that it is given that consideration.
MR COE (Ginninderra) (3.22): It is with perplexity that I am before this chamber talking about this matter of public importance. Quite frankly, I am amazed that anyone in this chamber would submit a message to the Speaker highlighting this issue as the biggest issue for discussion on this day. We serve in this Assembly in challenging times: we have a global economic crisis; we have a territory budget to go into the red; we have unemployment on the rise; we have major infrastructure problems; and many other challenges are impacting Canberrans. I am amazed that anyone in this place would rate alternatives to cremation and standard cemeteries as up there with these issues in competing for our attention at this time. The reason why so many Canberrans do not care about the Assembly’s business is because of motions like this.
A further reason why I am amazed that we are discussing this issue is the new-found fame and power that the ACT Greens have in this place. To represent almost 25 per cent of an Australian parliament is a coup for them, and it is also a great responsibility.