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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 140

Senator BARTLETT (6:54 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This independent review of the National Environment Protection Measures (Implementation) Act 1988 was presented to the Department of the Environment and Heritage and was subsequently presented to the Senate today. I will not speak to it at length today because I would like to take the time to read it fully, and it has only been tabled today. I should note that it goes through the operations of the National Environment Protection Measures (Implementation) Act over the first five years of its life. It covers quite a range of areas and makes some very strong findings. I would like to examine those further before I speak on them here.

I wish to draw attention to the fact that it was only due to a Democrat amendment made all that time ago back in December 1998 that an independent report was required to be presented to the parliament after the first five years of the operation of that act. Without commenting specifically on the content of it, the fact that we are able to have an independent review provided to the Senate is something of great value. All of us here, in various ways, spend a lot of time examining proposed legislation—sitting on committees, looking at evidence, hearing from people in the community and hearing assurances from government and from other interested people about how certain bills will operate once they become law. But, at the end of it all, you can never be certain a lot of the time precisely how something will operate once it becomes law—how adequately it will be enforced, whether it will operate in the way it was intended or whether there will be unforseen consequences, positive or negative. It is only after having a review after a period of time that you can get a sense of whether or not it has turned out the way it was planned and whether further changes are desirable.

That is the benefit of these sorts of reviews. That is why the Democrats have many times moved amendments to require a review of legislation. Indeed, I note that, in addition to the legislative requirement, this review included the operation of the act, the extent to which the policy objectives of the act remain valid and whether the provisions of the act remain appropriate for the achievement of those policy objectives. The government actually took advantage of the fact that the review was happening to request some additional matters to be considered as well, including the effectiveness of the overall operation of the act. So I guess the fact that the government has added extra bits into this independent review is an indication that it sees some value in the process as well, having been encouraged or cajoled to accept the idea by the Senate over six years ago.

Because of a desire to read it further, I will speak to it again another time but I think it is worth noting these things. Amendments being passed and agreed to by the Senate and things occurring down the track is all part of the continuity of that process. To enable me to be able to speak to it later once I have had a bit more of a read of it, I would like to seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.