ALPINE RESORTS AND NATIONAL PARKS ACTS AMENDMENT BILL 2013
It is terrific to rise this evening to talk about the Alpine Resorts and National Parks Acts Amendment Bill 2013. We have heard a significant amount about the bill from previous speakers, including the fact that it adds 9.6 hectares of land on the northern foreshore of the Rocky Valley Storage and other half-hectare parcels of land to the alpine resort as well as a range of other measures which we on this side of the house welcome. We would also note, as previous speakers have, that while these measures are to be commended — and they will allow more people to appreciate and enjoy our beautiful national parks — it is very hard for the government to claim credit for environmental initiatives and environmental progress in this state.
If we look at what has happened to the environmental program and indeed to many things since this government came to power just over two years ago, we can see that the need to protect our environment and to move towards sustainability — to deal with all these very important issues — has been neglected in many senses. I think it is worth touching on these things while we consider this bill and what it is trying to achieve. Who can forget the cattle in the Alpine National Park debacle, which was really one of the first steps this government took upon coming to power and only ended when the commonwealth stepped in, after a significant amount of money was shoved out by the state in what was clearly environmental vandalism and clearly a ridiculous notion and one that was seen to be so? It was, however, one of the flagship commitments the then opposition made and that the government followed through with. It is a pity it has failed to follow through with much else. Then we have the issue of the firewood collection in national parks. This has enabled people to collect firewood without permits on the basis that it apparently cuts red tape.
It has been a free-for-all, and it has had some very significant environmental consequences.
Clearly there have been savage cuts by — I was about to say the Baillieu government, but we are in a position now of having a Napthine-Ryan government; is that what it is?
Mr Eren — Naptime!
Ms Ryall — On the bill.
Ms GARRETT — I think I am on the bill. I am sorry; I was referring to the government of the day, and we are just trying to work out who that is. Anyway we have a Napthine-Ryan government.
When it was the Baillieu-Ryan government there was a slashing of the budget commitments to the environment: $130 million has been ripped out of the budget.
Mr Katos — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I do not see what relevance the budget in the environment portfolio has to the bill. This is a very narrow bill. It pertains to some land exchanges in the Alpine National Park and also in the Falls Creek alpine reserve, and I ask you to bring the member back to the bill.
Mr Eren — On the point of order, Acting Speaker, just very quickly — because the time of the member is obviously being used up — if we go down the path of taking every opportunity to get up and make a point of order when another member has just slightly deviated from the bill before the house, this debate will be an absolute farce. The member was actually speaking on the bill; she was not deviating from it. I request that you rule that the point of order is out of order.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! I do not uphold the point of order, but I make it clear that the total budget for the department is not part of the bill, and I ask the member to return to the bill.
Ms GARRETT — I appreciate that, Acting Speaker, and while I think it is important to have wide-ranging discussion, particularly in the new era of the Napthine government, I am now moving to more specific things about the bill.
This is about the Alpine National Park. In terms of the damage that has been done in this area — and this is very relevant to the issue of the bill — we have had job cuts in Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment. They directly relate to managing and oversight of our national parks — to looking after our national parks. I can see that the member opposite is getting a bit itchy, maybe thinking he might stand up to make another point of order, but I would ask him not to, because the savage cuts of the Baillieu-Ryan-Napthine government have very much undermined the capacity for those national parks which are the very subject of this bill to be cared for in the manner in which we would hope they would be by the staff dedicated to administer and look after those parks for those who seek to enjoy them now and for future generations.
While this bill delivers some gain, we are concerned, not surprisingly, that there are not the resources and not the infrastructure or other capacity for the departments charged with looking after those parks to continue their fine work. We would point to other things, particularly regarding our precious national parks and resources. The proposals by those opposite, in whatever configuration, to open these areas up to tourism and perhaps to development are a very slippery slope. It will be interesting to see how the new leadership tackles some of these important issues. Like all Victorians we wait with bated breath to see what emerges from the government’s front bench now.
In summary, while we welcome moves to make our national parks bigger, better and more accessible to the community, this is a very small step in a long line of backward steps from those opposite in many different areas, particularly the environment.
While I am on it, and it may be seen as straying slightly from the bill, I want to touch on the failure of this government to follow through on its commitments around the reduction in emissions and the very clear statements that the then opposition leader and the then Premier made — —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! That is well away from the bill, and I ask the member to return to it.
Ms GARRETT — I am now back on the bill, Acting Speaker. While we recognise that these are good moves, we have concerns about the record of this government in this area, in all its forms. We will be holding the government to account, as we have done over the past two years. I commend the bill to the house.