Page 3324 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 18 September 2013
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (11.05): I will just speak briefly to this motion. I agree with one of the issues that Mr Hanson referred to in his speech, and that is that it is good to have the opportunity to discuss this matter in the Assembly. It is important for the ACT Legislative Assembly that local issues are aired on the floor of the Legislative Assembly and that there is the opportunity for differing views to be debated. That is something that the government wholeheartedly supports.
I would like to welcome to the chamber the residents of Uriarra who have come to listen to this debate. From the government’s point of view, we have heard your concerns; we understand the concerns as they are raised and the strength with which those views are held. We are certainly not sitting here, in response to opposition allegations, arrogantly ignoring the concerns of local residents.
But we are not the proponent of the development, and that is the issue here. We are not the proponent. There is a planning process that needs to be undertaken. If this solar farm is to proceed, it needs to go through the planning process. With those planning processes, the laws have been established by this chamber with the specific purpose of keeping politicians out of development decisions. Some of the debate we have heard this morning borders on creating a situation like the one with the Wollongong City Council and raising some of the issues that have existed in other jurisdictions where council and local members get involved inappropriately in matters that should be dealt with independently through the planning process.
Members of the opposition do not seem to understand that there is not even a development application that has been lodged for this proposal. The opposition would like to extinguish it before a development application has even been lodged. I urge Uriarra residents to stay involved and to continue to raise their concerns—to raise them with the proponents and to raise them through the planning process should a development application be lodged or when that development application is lodged. Those views are important, and the independent planning authority needs to respond to them.
There are a lot of questions about this development—whether an environmental impact assessment is required, for example. Those are the issues that need to be and would be drawn out through the planning process.
On the issue of the call-in powers, the call-in powers do sit there as a ministerial or executive power that is able to be used in certain circumstances. They have been used over the period of time since self-government. Mr Smyth used them 15 times, I think, in his time as planning minister—including, I notice, for the Manuka cinema to be developed and for the heritage value of the previous cinema to be lost to the community forever. I did not know that you were responsible for that one, Mr Smyth. So there have been occasions when the powers have been used—15 times when Mr Smyth used them, seven or eight times when Gary Humphries used them. That was in the space of about four years. Then they have been used maybe about 10 times in the space of 10 years. So the call-in power is used sparingly, and it is used with caution, but it exists as a power.