Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007
Parliamentary Record 17
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4858 people who had not been through a cyclone, as time has progressed, have become slack in relation to debris in their yard. She also came to see me in my office because she wanted to know about progress on this issue. It is people like Mrs Pratt and others who have spoken to me on this issue, that this bill has come before us as a very commonsense and logical step for reducing the potential damage of cyclones. There was someone else who lobbied me very heavily on this issue at the Rapid Creek Market. It was Mr Frank Moukaddem, who is a friend of mine. He was concerned about the amount of debris, potential missiles, in the Coconut Grove area. This is a government that takes peoples concerns on board, takes advice from Police, Fire and Emergency Services and, hence, we have this bill. It is a sensible step to allow special powers to enforce a cleanup to come into effect once a Cyclone Watch has been announced rather than a Cyclone Warning. It provides the police and others with special powers to enforce a cleanup from when a cyclone watch is declared, or 48 hours before a cyclone is expected to strike. It lengthens the period for action. We know that Police and Emergency Services staff are really busy at the pointy end when a cyclone is coming. People often feel frustrated when they ring the authorities to say: I am really concerned about debris across the road or down the street that Police and Emergency Services personnel are not able to attend to it. These amendments provide more time for this to happen, and I am sure it is going to give people like Mrs Pratt more peace of mind. She will be able to speak to Emergency Services and Police on this issue. As someone who went through Cyclone Tracy, I am sure she will welcome these amendments. The Territory, as my colleague the member for Casuarina said, is susceptible to cyclones and the scientific advice coming through says that cyclones will increase in intensity with global warning. We are a very well-oiled machine regarding Police and Emergency Services preparedness. Most people, as the Chief Minister said, do play the game and put potential flying objects inside and try to minimise the amount of debris in the yard but, unfortunately, there are some people who do not. The increased powers and a review of the fines associated with them will certainly smarten a few people up who are not playing the game and make the environment a bit safer for everyone and give people a bit more peace of mind when the threat of a cyclone comes. Madam Speaker, I commend the bill to the House. Ms MARTIN (Chief Minister): Madam Speaker, I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. They are very practical, sensible amendments. I had not realised until the member for Johnston spoke that it actually has its genesis in Mrs Edna Pratt. On behalf of the Assembly, we thank her. It is great that individuals can speak to a minister and we see sensible amendments to a bill that really covers something most essential for the Territory: disaster preparedness. I thank all members who spoke: the Opposition Leader, the member for Wanguri who is also the WorkSafe minister - and that has a component in here, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and the members for Daly, Casuarina and Johnston. The Disasters Act covers more than cyclones. These amendments are specific to cyclones, but the act covers cyclones, floods, outbreaks of plant and stock diseases and threats. It has a wide range and we have to ensure it is as effective as possible. The components were outlined by most of the speakers. We are extending the time for cleaning up. When a Cyclone Watch is called, which is 48 hours before the strong gusts will hit, that is when cleanups have to happen. It can be enforced; there are stronger penalties. A lot of discussion was about those who did not clean up their blocks, but one of the things that we found from previous cyclones such as Monica and Ingrid, was that with some of our larger industrial developments, larger and more complex building sites, 24 hours was not enough time. One component of this is tougher penalties for those who simply ignore it, but the other is to give more time for businesses which have complex areas to clean up. For example, there were old tanks that just could not be cleaned up in a 24-hour period. Those are the kinds of things that this bill addresses. There is no doubt that flying debris is one of the major causes of damage in any cyclone and we, as a community, have to ensure we have done as much cleaning up as we can. Now, it is 48 hours in advance. Also, as part of these amendments, WorkSafe NT is now an authorised person. WorkSafe officers will have powers to enforce cleanups right across the Top End. To deal with the issue raised by the Opposition Leader on behalf of the member for Nelson, he obviously did some strange calculation when it came to penalty units and ended up with an individual general penalty fine being $550 000. It is $55 000. The penalties have not been changed since the act was introduced in 1982, so it is quite appropriate to review them. The maximum penalty for an individual is $55 000, and for a corporate body, it is $275 000.
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