This speech is to indicate that the Liberal Party will not be supporting the Environment Protection (Commissioner For The Environment) Amendment Bill.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:47): I am in the rare position where I actually agree with everybody who has spoken on this bill already. As I understand it, the Hon. Sandra Kanck has concerns that, while we may have amended the bill which oversees the EPA's roles and responsibilities, it has become a rather timid agency of government in terms of its environmental monitoring and, therefore, this bill seeks to have another agency to oversee it.
The Hon. Mark Parnell also mentioned the need for independence of the EPA and referred to ERD evidence (most of which I also participated in) where agency advice has been ignored, and he specifically referred to the Coastal Development Board. I agree that governance issues are first and foremost when it comes to government agencies, and I completely agree with him that decisions should be based on science and they should also be transparent. However, the environment portfolio is already covered by a number of agencies: the EPA, obviously; Zero Waste; the Department for Environment and Heritage; and the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation. In my brief experience in holding the environment portfolio on behalf of the Liberal Party, it has become quite apparent to me that the environment is not a part of policy area that this government is seeking to prioritise. One of the best examples of that is the decision in relation to the solid waste levy so that, instead of actually providing, in the budget, the appropriate level of Treasury appropriation, this government rather cynically stole the money which was being collected, effectively, by local government. That indicates to me personally that it does not take the environment seriously, if it is not prepared to provide for recurrent funding for those important works. Indeed, in the budget papers for the EPA there is a considerable amount of resourcing for this financial year which is coming out of fines and levies, and those forms of revenue, rather than from Treasury appropriations. I think that speaks for itself. If this government expects the EPA to operate effectively, it is going to do so through fines and those sorts of means, rather than actually giving it a stable base of funding to enable it to carry out its operations. I would also like to commend the work of the EPA. I found the staff particularly helpful in relation to the Site Contamination Bill. It could not do enough to assist us and advise us through that very technically complicated bill. Clearly, it is very passionate about its work and very competent. In the interests of resourcing, the Liberal Party will not be supporting this bill, although we are sympathetic towards its aims.