Debate resumed from 28 November; motion of Hon. G. K. RICH-PHILLIPS (Assistant Treasurer).
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to speak on the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2013. I state at the outset that Labor will not be opposing this bill. The bill has a number of arms and legs, and none of its parts are particularly controversial. I believe, however, that it is important to get some of the details into Hansard.
The bill will revoke five Crown land reservations to facilitate projects which include the Ballarat West employment zone development, the Bendigo Hospital redevelopment, the East Werribee employment precinct development, three nature conservation reserves in northern Victoria and the addition of land to the Psyche Bend historical reserve. The bill will also amend the National Parks Act 1975 to add 470 hectares to 11 national parks, including the Great Otway National Park and the Brisbane Ranges National Park. The bill increases penalties for unauthorised commercial activity in national parks and strengthens the offence provision.
The bill also amends the Carlton (Recreation Ground) Land Act 1966, the Shrine of Remembrance Act 1978 — which will allow for a deputy chair of the trustees of the shrine to be appointed to act when the chair is not available — and streamlines the process for setting the parks charge in metropolitan Melbourne.
I am pleased to speak about the arrangements in the bill for the Ballarat West employment zone and the East Werribee employment precinct, because both of those zones were projects conceived by the Brumby Labor government. The Ballarat West employment precinct had been commenced before the Baillieu and Napthine governments came to power.
Mr Finn interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — That is a fact, and Mr Finn knows it. The detailed planning for the road project was provided through Labor funding, and that funding was significant to the overall project. The previous Labor government was known for its hard work and dedication to jobs growth and job sustainability, which obviously is not the case in this state now, as we saw with yesterday’s announcement. The Ballarat West employment zone will ultimately deliver around 9000 jobs for the region, which is great.
The bill appoints the City of Ballarat as the committee of management for the precinct. That is also a good move, because it will enable local representation to play a key role in what is happening in its region, particularly in the area of job creation. The Ballarat West and Werribee East employment zones are just two examples of the Brumby Labor government’s work on job creation, and it gives me great pleasure to see arrangements for those two zones enhanced by this bill.
Moving on, the Bendigo Hospital redevelopment is another example of the Labor government’s work in making sure that regional health facilities, and indeed hospital facilities, have improved. From my reading of the member for Bellarine’s contribution to the debate in the other place, I understand the minister emphasised the importance of this bill being passed promptly to ensure that processes can proceed in the new year. Although this government has been in charge of the project for the last three years, it has dragged its feet and the project is currently nine months behind schedule.
The bill deals with government management of national parks. It also goes to governance issues in terms of their operation. Along with the provisions of the projects just mentioned, the bill is ultimately about Victoria’s national parks. When it comes to Victoria’s national parks it is fair to say that this government has incited some controversy around a number of issues related to those national parks. The first relates to cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park. It is a fairly well-known fact that members of the Liberal Party have done a deal with The Nationals to allow cattle to graze in the Alpine National Park. It is also widely known that the government has tried to justify allowing cattle to roam in the Alpine National Park by stating that grazing will reduce bushfire fuel loads. The trouble is that there is no evidence to support that theory, which is precisely why the previous federal government knocked it back, and precisely why the courts knocked it back when the Baillieu government tried to dispute it.
Another aspect of the bill deals with the issue of private development in national parks and points to another extremely controversial move by the Napthine government, which recently passed legislation providing for 99-year leases for private development in national parks. This move is unprecedented not just in this state and country but in the entire world. Less than 1 per cent of the 20 000 national parks worldwide have significant tourism infrastructure in them, and all the development contained in that 1 per cent of parks predates the creation of each national park. This act by the Napthine government is not just out of step with other states and other parts of Australia but also out of step with the entire world.
I also want to speak about this government’s credentials when it comes to the environment. I point to the fact that this government has cut $111 million from Parks Victoria and sacked 600 staff from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Parks Victoria. The government has also wound down a number of offices in regional Victoria that deal with a range of issues associated with the environment. To add salt to the wound, this government has also made it harder for families to enjoy a trip away by introducing fees for camping in national parks.
I could go on and on with respect to this government’s lack of performance in the area of the environment and indeed how it goes out of its way not to protect the environment.
Suffice to say today that Labor will not be opposing the bill before the house but that a lot more needs to be done in this state to ensure that our general natural environment is protected.