Rushed new planning bill to give call in powers to Assembly

April 29, 2014

in Past Issues

The Government is rushing to pass the Planning and Development (Project Facilitation) Amendment Bill 2014.  It was introduced to the Assembly for the first time on 20 March 2014, the last day of the March sittings, and was scheduled for passage on the next sitting day, 8 April.  This did not happen as Minister Rattenbury persuaded the Assembly to refer the Bill to the Standing Committee on Planning, Environment, Territory and Municipal Services for consideration with a requirement to report by the first day of the May sittings on 6 May 2014.

This consultation period is ridiculously short for a complex bill with many provisions, which is over 60 pages long.  The shortness of time was amplified by the fact that the Easter and ANZAC Day holidays fell in the middle of this period, so the Standing Committee was compelled to ask that submissions be submitted the day after the Easter holidays on 22 April and to hold hearings two days later, on 24 April.

Why the rush?  This has never been explained.  In fact, the Government has never commented on the time table for introduction, let alone explained why normal legislative procedure is being set aside.  The Bill is however, somewhat controversial.  It gives the Government the right to call in any project that meets the rather low criteria required for the project to be made a Special Precinct Variation or declared a Project of Major Significance.  Such a decision may be disallowed by the Assembly as a whole, but no other appeal is permitted.  Special provisions remove any possibility of appealing to ACAT for review, or to seek redress in the Supreme Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act (AD(JR) Act).

What the Government has not done is explain what the problem is that this Bill is trying to solve.  If we knew what the problem was, we could then rationally evaluate the actions proposed in this bill and decide whether they were an effective and appropriate response to the problem.

The GNCA has prepared a submission for the Standing Committee.  This is available here.  The ISCCC has also lodged a submission which is available here.  Margaret Fanning, a member of the GNCA, was not able to participate in drafting the GNCA submission as she was on holiday at the coast, but lodged her own submission.  We think that this is also a very good submission and you can see it for yourself at this link.   All 23 submissions made to the Standing Committee are available for public inspection at:

http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/in-committees/standing_committees/Planning,-Environment-and-Territory-and-Municipal-Services/planning-and-development-project-faciliation-amendment-bill-2014/submissions?inquiry=579444.

We expect that transcripts of the hearings will be available in the next few days.  The GNCA and the ISCCC both gave evidence to the Committee, but the star turn was probably Eric Martin and Brendan Priesse, giving evidence on behalf of the National Trust.

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