Page 1582 - Week 05 - Thursday, 5 May 2016

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I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Jones) adjourned to the next sitting.

Emergencies Amendment Bill 2016

Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Capital Metro, Minister for Health, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change) (11.06): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

As members would be aware, the Emergencies Act was introduced following the 2003 Canberra bushfires and consolidated all previous emergency legislation in the ACT. Section 203 of the act requires that its operation is reviewed at five-yearly intervals to ensure it reflects contemporary practice. In line with this requirement, you, Madam Deputy Speaker, as the previous minister for police and emergency services, announced in July last year that a review of the act would be undertaken.

In support of the review, the minister released a discussion paper to facilitate more detailed feedback on certain issues. An extensive consultation process was undertaken, and public submissions were open for a period of 5½ weeks. Stakeholders such as volunteer representatives, unions, the ACT Bushfire Council and the Conservation Council ACT Region were specifically invited to contribute to the review. Submissions were also received from members of the public. I would like to thank all persons and organisations that contributed to the review. I appreciate their commitment to ensuring that the ACT’s emergency management arrangements are of the highest order.

In October last year the minister presented the report of the review of the operation of the Emergencies Act to the Assembly. The report’s overall conclusion was that the ACT’s emergency management and response arrangements are of high quality and reflect best practice. The report did, however, identify a number of areas where the operation of the act could be improved. The majority of the recommendations require legislative amendment, primarily to this act as well as other ACT law. These amendments are now outlined in this bill.

I turn first to ACT Bushfire Council amendments. The bill makes a number of amendments to the membership and role of the ACT Bushfire Council, a statutory body with the function of advising the minister and commissioner about bushfires. The amendment strengthens the membership of the council by requiring the minister to appoint representatives of the interests of rural lessees, the community and the community’s interests in relation to the environment to the council. Term limits for members will also be introduced, in line with ACT government practice for advisory bodies.

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