Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 country in good and bad seasons to hold that number of stock. When you go to some parts of the Victoria River - I have been onto a couple of stations there - the ground has been very badly worn out from overstocking. Some of that land is very susceptible to erosion. It is very, very light. These are some of the issues that could be referred to this sessional committee. I hope that because certain things might be a bit controversial, the government does not stop them. Again, I refer to the industrialisation of the centre of the harbour. That is going to have environmental impact. I hope that we can take on some of these difficult and, perhaps, controversial issues. Finally, I do support what is being proposed by the minister for the environment, and I hope we can take on plenty more issues before the end of this session of parliament. M r BALDWIN (Daly): Madam Speaker, just briefly I would like to make similar comments along the lines of the member for Nelson. We do support these terms of references as being very important issues. It is just a shame that previous amendments did not go through to allow for all of those other issues that have just been articulated, not only by me previously, but by the member for Nelson as he spoke to this debate. It is a shame that the Labor government is not living up to its promises as outlined in its position paper of good governance, where it stated parliamentary committees should be free to operate unhindered and to praise, criticise or call to account the actions of the government, and that they were going to move to legislate so that under that new regime, arrangements would be introduced that would free up the committees to investigate issues of public concern without the approval of the governing majority party. After 18 months, they have not lived up to their promises, but we are getting used to that and so is everybody else. I hope the new environment minister will take on board the comments made in this debate regarding other important and serious issues, such as gas onshore and saltwater intrusion and all the others that have been mentioned as references for this committee to look at over the remainder of this term. It would be a waste of this parliaments time if we were only going to get these two references, regardless of their importance. Picking up on a couple of comments from the previous ministers for environment. He was big- noting himself that he now has an independent Office of the Environment. Well, it is no more independent than the old office under the old regime. It used to report to the minister as well, the same as the current one does. There is no legislative independence other than that which already existed. So that is a furphy. If he wants to big-note himself, that is fine. I congratulate and applaud him for offering to contribute $lm to cane toad investigation, if that is what the committee deems is required; an input from this particular government to pursue strategies to overcome the issue. I am glad he has put that on the record that there is no problem with contributing those sorts of dollars to overcome this issue. I also pick up on the fact that he did not particularly believe Bill Freeland and his attitude towards cane toads. I hope that is not the reason why he sacked him. For the benefit of the current Minister for Environment and Heritage, who took the opportunity to slag off at me in his contribution to this debate, saying, Who is the shadow minister? Well, this is a new minister who I thought was keeping track of what was going on. I have been the shadow minister since the change of government. If he does not like the fact that the member for Greatorex has been calling, as the seven-year serving chairman of the previous environment committee, to form this committee, well, that is his problem. This is the same minister who only just discovered the Outer Darwin signs the other day when he happened to drive into town for the first time ever. Dr Burns: Do not misrepresent what I said. Mr BALDWIN: Get a grip on yourself, minister and keep up with what is going on around the place. Maybe we will get some action out of you rather than the inaction of the previous minister for the environment. With those comments, and the plea for further references to this committee now that the committee has been embargoed from having a look at anything else other than what this parliament can direct to the committee - albeit Labor has broken a promise to unfetter these committees - we look forward to working on these two particular references, and bringing back valuable information for the benefit of this House. Dr BURNS (Environment and Heritage): Madam Speaker, I will be brief. We have been at this debate for some time and I do not want to rake up the coals, except to say yes, I do know a bit about cane toads. The member for Drysdale was suggesting that, basically, I knew nothing about cane toads. The observation I was making was that there is a public perception out there: Well, what is being done, what is the history, what can be done? and I believe that is important. Picking up briefly on what the member for Nelson said: yes, I am the Minister for Environment 3066
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