I am pleased to speak on behalf of the opposition on this bill which, as all members are aware, is an extremely important measure. Every member of parliament wants the best outcome possible from this bill so it has been good to see the high level of community feedback.
This bill has involved a lot of work and consultation between the houses, and I am certain that that work will only serve to improve this legislation—again, can I say, a further endorsement for the retention and powers of the Legislative Council.
This is a piece of legislation that obviously follows some tragic events, and we have sensed a real desire from people in the community to have some involvement in the legislation to make it better.
It was a legislative requirement for this act to be reviewed after two years of operation. Hence, on 1 October 2007 John Murray commenced the review which resulted in 49 recommendations. Additionally, amendments are proposed as a result of the recommendations of the Ministerial Bushfire Management Review in South Australia and the coronial inquest into the Wangary fires.
As lead speaker for the opposition in this council, I indicate that we are, of course, very supportive of most of these amendments, but I will touch on some of the concerns that I have, as will some of my colleagues.
Our shadow minister for emergency services has met with the chief officers of the MFS, CFS and SES, held discussions with MPs with electorates in areas of high fire risk, and spoken at length with CFS volunteers and residents who live in bushfire risk areas.
These individuals have all provided sensible feedback which has helped our party room make decisions on which parts of the bill we support (and I have to say that we support the majority of the amendments) and those parts that need some extra work.
As far as amendments are concerned, I will give members some details to help them understand why we are progressing with these amendments.
The opposition notes that the SAFECOM board is to be expanded to nine members from the current eight, all with voting rights. The member for Stuart in the other place has indicated in our party room discussions that he would like to see an amendment to include a landowning SAFF representative also on the board. I will proceed with that amendment on his behalf in this place as it is a sensible amendment, and the member for Stuart detailed his reasons in the other place. He, along with the members for Schubert and Hammond, explained that there must be a farmers’ representative on the board to represent our farmers who own such vast areas of land in our state. Given that this legislation affects the farming community, it would be a commonsensical move.
Our second amendment is to include a subclause to clause 35, part 4A, to minimise the threat to human life on the land from fire. This amendment comes from the member for Waite in the other place who has held public meetings about this legislation and who had a lot of feedback from constituents in his electorate which, of course, extends into the Hills and will affect these people. His reasoning is to reflect that this legislation is about protecting human life, and so it makes sense to us that this subclause be included.
Our third amendment is to provide for a review after two years. This is a sensible amendment proposed by our shadow minister for emergency services. I trust all members will support this. It is the Liberal Party’s opinion that this bill should have provisions for a further formal review to take place so that we do not just leave it up to the whim of the government of the day to implement a review.
The Hon. John Dawkins will also move an amendment relating to commonwealth land.
We oppose the clauses in respect of moving industrial disputes from the District Court to the Industrial Relations Commission. Liberal members in the other place have put on the record that our party finds this move to be both unnecessary and inappropriate. The shadow attorney-general has stated that, in relation to the transfer of litigation to the industrial court, she was not satisfied on anything she read, including the review document, as to why it is necessary or appropriate. The Liberal opposition will not support this move.
Lastly, we thank the members of the LGA who met with us to discuss the amendments, in particular Ms Wendy Campana, who has shown great leadership on behalf of her organisation. The member for Mitchell in the other place spoke to these amendments and supported the majority of them. We are only concerned about the member for Mitchell’s third amendment in the other place relating to the establishment of bushfire management areas. I understand that the Hon. Robert Brokenshire will move some of these amendments and we look forward to lending our support to them.
I commend the bill and thank our shadow minister for emergency services (the member for Kavel) for the work he has put in and look forward to the Legislative Council working together constructively to further improve this bill.