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
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 It is a moot point, but if you want to talk about how effective these committees will be, one of the first things you could do is be consistent with your own motion. The motion says that the committee shall elect a government member as chair. The member for Karama has already been paraded out as the chairperson of the committee. There is a bit of simple convention here. I have no doubt that the member for Karama may be an excellent chair and that is fine; that is not the point. The point is, though, that it is a motion to the parliament, it is the parliaments committee and it is the parliaments prerogative to give the committee the right to elect the chair. To abuse that right at the outset simply does not auger well for the independence of that particular committee. I notice that the independent member for Nelson is a member of the committee. Again, it is not going to be the case, but there would be strong arguments for such a committee to have an independent chair, and that opportunity has not even been provided at all by the government. If the government is going to construct this committee it would be good at the outset if they did construct it in a neutral fashion so it can go about its business positively. I know that the member for Greatorex has been the chairman of the previous committee for seven years straight and I applaud him for his efforts as chairman. He has been on the record consistently since the election pointing to the fact that there have been a number of issues that need to be addressed that are not being addressed. The cyanide spill on the Tanami Highway was a classic. Without going into that in any real detail we had allegations from the Minister for the Environment that it was ecoterrorism. A report was eventually produced after 12 months and said nothing. It is an issue that I believe could have been quickly referenced to a committee such as the environmental committee if that committee had been in place. There has been the damage to endangered bird sanctuaries and draining of water along the Alice Springs to Darwin railway line. In some respects, I think, fairly irresponsible statements about the attitude of ADrail, irresponsible and incorrect, and again, something where a reference could have been made to that committee to look at that particular issue. There was contaminated water at Perkins Shipping, and the lack of monitoring of the uranium mining province in East Arnhem. The terms of reference of this committee are interesting. It is restricted in two ways: one is that it can only investigate issues that are referenced to it from the minister or by a resolution of this parliament. The reference to particularly looking at uranium issues is gone. I guess the minister is going to assure us and say: Oh, they will be able to do that in any case, but if you look at the previous references to that committee, they had a particular reference to monitor uranium issues in the Northern Territory. That was a standing reference for them to investigate those issues. That is now gone. I would have thought you would have taken the opportunity as a government to give them a bit more flexibility and that is give them an own reference capability. If the minister is so applauding of the Labor governments love of the environment, I would have thought that one of the things you could do is give this committee an own reference capability. The reality is that this committee cannot investigate anything if it is not referenced to it directly by the minister so it is harnessed in that regard, or by motion of this Assembly, and the only way you can get a motion from this Assembly is if the government agrees with it. In that respect I am disappointed. I wish the committee well in its efforts. I take the opportunity to nominate the two opposition members of the committee will be Mr Stephen Dunham, the member for Drysdale, and Mr Tim Baldwin, the member for Daly. They will bring a depth of experience and strong interest on these issues to the committee. I can give an undertaking that the opposition will approach the committee in the same way it has approached previous committees since 1977. I also take the opportunity to forecast that the opposition has an amendment to make to the motion and that will be proposed by the member for Daly. Mr VATSKALIS (Transport and Infrastructure): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the establishment of the committee. It is a very important committee. Nobody can doubt the Labor Partys strong commitment to the environment. We have stated many times our support of the environment. I have personally stood up and defended myself and my colleagues against allegations by certain people that we do not care about the environment, that we are here to destroy the environment and the most recent example actually is the LNG plant. The committee is a unique opportunity for the government and also for the opposition to take a bipartisan approach to work together on the committee in order to examine issues that are either brought by the relevant minister or ministers and by the parliament... M r Elferink: They could have certainly looked into the effect on mangroves. 3040
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