Page 1790 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 1 May 1991

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Let us look briefly at the arguments that Mr Moore has used to make the case that there should be no change, or that there should be change in the approach being taken in this case. He went through the language used in the notice in the newspaper to argue that there ought to be some clearer expressions used; that we ought to be using plain English. He said that there was reference in the notice in the newspaper to "an Act" or "the Act", without clear indication of what Act that referred to. He went on to draw attention to the form of the language and the complicated nature of that language, which he said we in the Assembly, being familiar with these matters, understood, but which people in the street might not understand.

I think, Mr Speaker, that a simple answer to those comments is that nobody, I imagine, who would be prepared to make some submission to the ACT Planning Authority, based on some objection to an aspect of the plan, would do so without taking up the invitation that appeared in the ad to contact the Planning Authority and seek a fuller explanation of what is proposed for the site. At the same time, of course, any person wishing to clarify or elucidate any aspect of that process of making an objection would be able to clear up and to discuss with the staff at the authority how that would occur and what they would need to say. I am absolutely confident that those staff would be very happy to help in that process. The language used in these notices is precisely the same as the language used in every other notice issued by the Planning Authority in similar circumstances.

I would feel happier about generating an argument for debate on this matter if I felt that we were raising the argument in the context only of making more simple, plain legislation. I would feel happy if that were what we were actually out to do, but we are not. We are out to use the argument that there is some flaw in the language or there is some complexity or inaccessibility in the approach used in these notices as a device to delay the closure of the schools or the reuse of the school sites.

Mr Moore: Rubbish! I would like to do that too.

MR HUMPHRIES: Well, I do not treat this debate purely in the context in which it is put forward. I think it has to be seen very widely in the context of school closures.

Mr Speaker, we have had many debates and arguments in the past about planning legislation. There will be more debates, of course, when the planning legislation package comes to the Assembly, and we can see very clearly at that stage what we need to do about simplifying language. That would be the appropriate forum, not now.

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