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Thursday, 3 December 1998
Page: 1172


Senator HILL (Environment and Heritage) (10:23 AM) —I think the Democrats are a little overly concerned. We are simply dealing with the definition of matters of national interest. We are saying that it is a matter of national interest if the Commonwealth and the states agree that it is.

Bear in mind that, as we said a little earlier, we are talking about a scheme for implementation at the Commonwealth level of national environment protection measures—a standard for measures across Australia—and when it is more appropriate for it to be implemented by the Commonwealth under its administrative or legal procedures and when it is more appropriate for the states. If the Commonwealth and the states agree that it is more appropriate that it be dealt with under the Commonwealth, on the basis that it is a matter of national interest, I cannot see how that could be of concern. It just strikes me as sensible to include this provision so as to cover circumstances that are not easily identifiable—and that is the whole point—but where the Commonwealth and the states at some time in the future believe that the Commonwealth processes are more appropriate. We do specifically refer to issues such as telecommunications and air transport. We know aspects of national interest that are involved within those, but there may be others where the Commonwealth and the states jointly agree that it is more appropriate to deal with them at a national level. It is simply to provide that flexibility that we have included the provision in the bill.