Michelle Lensink

Environment Protection (Board Of Authority) Amendment Bill

This speech is to indicate the Liberal Party's support for the Environment Protection (Board Of Authority) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:19): I rise to indicate Liberal Party support for this bill. It is not a large bill of many clauses, but it is quite significant in terms of governance for the Environment Protection Authority. I am grateful to the officers of the EPA for their briefing and for enabling me to keep a drawing, which explains the rather complex arrangements in place for the EPA in this state.

I note that the Environment, Resources and Development Committee of the parliament looked into the issue of governance in particular models in 2000. It looked at a number of issues quite thoroughly, recommending a particular model because of the then anomaly of the authority and the agency being separate bodies, in a sense.

The bill essentially changes the current position that the chair of the board is also the CE of the organisation, which is highly unusual in modern governance practices, which is principally why we support this bill. My understanding is that the EPA has existed within other environmental departments or agencies and was split from a particular department in the interests of independence from government. This particular measure is in the interests of ensuring that the CE is also independent of government and will no longer have the conflict of that particular situation.

The bill will remove the CE as a board member and presiding member but the CE will, however, continue to sit at board meetings as an ex officio non-voting member to provide policy advice to the board. The board will continue to have its same membership, one of whom will be appointed as presiding member, and there will be some changes to round table conferences as well.

I have been requested to ask a particular question, which is in relation to a register of interests or declaration of conflict and so forth for board members. So I put on the record for the minister to address in her closing remarks whether that is contained within the Environment Protection Act or whether it comes under some other instrument within an act which oversees boards generally.

There has been some criticism of what has occurred with replacing the CE and chair, Dr Paul Vogel, who announced his intention to retire on 1 August last year. I understand that since his departure—which was effective on 2 November 2007 and now it is 1 April—

The PRESIDENT: Five months.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Five months, indeed, and he certainly gave plenty of notice, so I do not think the situation is very satisfactory. To have the CE of the Department for Environment and Heritage acting in that position, clearly that is too much work for any person and I think that leaves a leadership vacuum in those important environmental agencies.

I put those remarks on the record in relation to that and I also ask the minister whether she has some sort of time frame within which a new CE will be appointed. With those remarks, I indicate support for the bill.

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