MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (10.48): I move:
That this Assembly:
(a) the current structure of the ACT Government, where conservation functions are divided between the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate and the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate;
(b) the importance of our local environment to the wellbeing of the people of the ACT;
(c) that the Assembly voted on 20 March 2013 for the Government to establish a single nature conservation agency; and
(d) the support for a single nature conservation agency from environmental organisations in the ACT; and
(2) calls on the ACT Government to establish a nature conservation agency, located within the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate, which will be responsible for all conservation services in the ACT by the financial year beginning on 1 July 2014.
A single nature conservation agency is about creating an administrative structure that can deliver improved nature conservation outcomes through integration of all parts of biodiversity policy and research. It is about providing the best structure to protect and manage our environment. We want the best resourced service delivery. We want coordination of policy and legal requirements. We want a department that is on the same page when it comes to monitoring and recording. Overall, we want better environmental outcomes. These appear to me to be things that all of us in this place want irrespective of what side of politics we are on. So it makes me wonder why action has not yet taken place. On March 20 last year a motion was passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly which stated:
That this Assembly notes:
(a) the ACT Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement commits the ACT Government to establishing a single conservation agency to achieve better integration of biodiversity policy planning, research and management; and
(b) implementation of the proposal is currently under consideration by government.
Madam Speaker, 482 days have passed since that parliamentary agreement was signed, and almost a year has passed since the motion was agreed to in the Assembly which confirmed this proposal was under consideration by the government. Yet there has still been no action. Why has is it taking so long?
I am sure everyone can see that the sooner this occurs the better it is—for the ministers, for the public, for the environment and for stakeholders. What this motion today simply says is that by 30 June, the end of the financial year, 126 days away, the government will implement what they have already agreed on. This is one of the very rare policies which would have tripartisan support in this place.
Not only is it supported here, Madam Speaker, but stakeholders such as conservation and environmental groups have also indicated that this is their preferred model. It should be relatively straightforward. I ask members to see that we all have a chance to show our commitment to the environment, to support the rangers and other staff and to ensure we have stronger environmental outcomes.
On March 20 last year Minister Rattenbury stated, "Mr Smyth's suggestion that it should have been done by now is, I think, unwarranted and not in fact the case."So I ask Minister Rattenbury: what about now? It is another 344 days into the term. It has been almost 500 days since the parliamentary agreement was signed. Why have we still seen no action on this agreement? Minister Rattenbury said that he looked forward to an announcement in the near future about how this was going to be most appropriately delivered. I would have thought "near future"would have been by now or close to it. Mr Hanson stated in the same debate last year that the government would drift if no specific time frame was set and that we would be waiting months or even years for action to be taken. Sadly, this appears to be the case.
I do not want to see another motion passed which simply acknowledges once more the Labor-Greens agreement. We want actions and outcomes. It is a reasonable motion. It supports effective and efficient governance to improve conservation management. It gives a reasonable time frame and I look to members for their support to make it happen so that we can stop talking about it, make it happen for the benefit of all, and improve our environmental management. I commend the motion.
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (10.59): Both, Madam Speaker. As the Chief Minister mentioned, we all support the principle of a single nature conservation agency. As Mr Rattenbury has pointed out, it has taken some time. I refer back to the debate in March last year and would like to point out that in less time than we are asking for this to be created, the government has created the Capital Metro Agency, including hiring staff, setting up a website, and issuing a whole lot of material associated with that. If they had wanted to do this back after the debate in March last year, they certainly could have done so. That was well before we had the discussion about the sixth minister.
Having said that, I welcome the Chief Minister and Minister Rattenbury's reaffirmation of their commitment to a single nature conservation agency. I reiterate that the Canberra Liberals support that and that many of our stakeholders support that. At this point we will support the government's amendment, taking very seriously their commitment to look at the single nature conservation agency in line with the appointment of the sixth minister.