Page 4880 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

MR SPEAKER: Ms Le Couteur, a supplementary question.

MS LE COUTEUR: Thank you. Minister, is the appointment of a public servant to the position of environment commissioner consistent with the functions of the commissioner as outlined in section 12 of the act, that is to investigate the actions of an agency where those agencies would have a substantial impact on the environment of the ACT?

MR CORBELL: The short answer is yes, Mr Speaker. It is not uncommon for public servants, people who hold public service positions, to also be appointed to positions that have statutory standing in legislation. A common and frequent example is the functions of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna, who is also often, and has been for an extended period of time now, the holder of a public service position. The same is the case currently for the Commissioner for the Environment. Indeed, it has been the case that former permanent appointments to the office of Commissioner for the Environment have been previously senior public servants holding public service office in an ACT government department.

I have complete confidence in Mr Neil and his ability to undertake his functions, fiercely, robustly and frankly in terms of the advice he provides to the government. I think he has demonstrated that to date. I am very concerned that Ms Le Couteur would seek to cast aspersions on a longstanding career officer like Mr Neil, who, quite frankly, deserves better than the sorts of comments she has made today.

MS HUNTER: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Hunter, a supplementary.

MS HUNTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, why has the government waited until the position was again vacant before considering the recommendations made about expanding the role of the environment commissioner, despite announcing that that would be undertaken over four years ago?

MR CORBELL: There are a range of interactions between the operations of the commissioner’s act and the operation of the Nature Conservation Act, both of which are subject to detailed review at this time. It would not be prudent to proceed with changes to the commissioner’s act without ensuring that there was consistency with the future operation of a revised Nature Conservation Act. The government has indicated that it will take the next six months to undertake that work to ensure that any of those issues are appropriately resolved to a level of detail necessary to allow the permanent appointment of a permanent office holder in the office of commissioner for the environment.

MS BRESNAN: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Bresnan.

MS BRESNAN: Minister, what protections were put in place to ensure that this interim appointment would be able to freely critique the government’s performance in

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video