Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3276..
MR SESELJA (continuing):
presidential members and five for non-presidential members. All current members will be reappointed for an interim term for the convenience of continuity. I note that they have been asked if they wish to be considered for reappointment for full terms under the new arrangements.
The tribunal will have the power to draw to the Attorney-General's attention any systemic problems with the new tribunal arrangements to allow for ongoing review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the tribunal through the legislative process. Civil jurisdiction of the tribunal will be limited to claims or declarations of debts up to $10,000. I note with interest, too, that the tribunal will be required to resolve matters in an application before they go to a hearing. It will also be empowered to refer matters to a registered mediator for mediation.
A number of other procedural matters will apply, including the application of the Criminal Code, chapter 7, in relation to tribunal hearings. This means that penalties would apply in situations such as perjury, falsifying evidence, failing to attend or refusing to be sworn. Money or non-money orders of the tribunal will be taken to have been filed in the Magistrates Court for enforcement and rules and procedures will be in place for referrals and appeals. I note that WA, Victoria and New South Wales have a similar arrangement and that Queensland is in the process of adopting one.
The opposition will support the ACAT bills because together they will provide: better access to justice through new processes to facilitate fast decision making, including a mechanism for internal review of tribunal decisions before applications for appeal are made to the Supreme Court; improved governance across all the affected jurisdictions, including provisions to protect the statutory independence of the tribunal; improved allocation and use of resources, including better training and career opportunities for staff and tribunal members; and a consistent look and feel across all tribunals, including simple, inexpensive and informal access and more streamlined administrative processes such as forms.
Let me turn briefly to the areas of concern that the opposition has about these bills. We are told the ACAT initiative will be cost neutral, but with this government and their record of financial management, the concept of cost neutrality is most likely as fuzzy as their revenue forecasting ability. Indeed, unit title owners, for example, have been concerned for some time that interest in their administrative funds will be swallowed up to fund ACAT. This may not be caught specifically by the ACAT bills but, equally, the way is left open. We will be debating that when the unit titles bill is being considered. It is an area of real concern for unit owners and, indeed, for renters that this government is looking, in one way or another, to take the interest earned from the body corporate funds.
The government have signalled their intention to do that, they have made it clear and that is the understanding of owners. We know that they are running around in all sorts of ways. We know that the planning minister has subsequently been changing his tune and that the message that is given by the bureaucrats and the planning minister's office has gone back and forth, as to whether they are going to take the interest, which parts of the interest they are going to take and, indeed, whether they would actually