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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4382..


MRS DUNNE (continuing):

These families conduct a range of businesses-equestrian, feedlot and general grazing businesses. Both are situated in the Coppins Crossing area, which is where the government proposes to build a new town centre at some stage in the future. Since then very little has happened. There have been negotiations taking place since November. The families appointed someone to negotiate on their behalf in an attempt to take away any emotion and make it businesslike. But there have been backwards and forwards discussions; they have been on again and off again. Ms Tucker and her office and my office have been very vigilant on this matter and have kept in touch with both of the lessees in question and with the minister's office, basically trying to keep tabs on it and ensure that there has been progress.

There has been a bit of "on again/off again" progress. There was a flurry of activity earlier in the week. I had given warning to the minister's office that, if I was not satisfied that significant progress would be made, I would be moving a motion such as this during this week. Up until yesterday afternoon, I was assured that there would be an offer made to the families, or at least to one of the families, so that negotiations could get underway. As of nine o'clock last evening-and I have subsequently checked with the lessees today-that has not happened. My concern, and the concern of my colleagues, is that because this is the last sitting day, the government may hope that this whole problem will go away without the scrutiny of the Assembly.

The agreement to allow the changes to the leases was on the very strict condition that the government would deal in good faith. I am not saying the government is not dealing in good faith; I am saying that the government is dragging its heels. I know that there are difficult issues and we foreshadowed at the outset, when this was first debated, what those difficult issues are. Principally it is the esoteric question of "timber treatment".

For some time successive governments in the ACT have contended that "timber treatment" does not exist as a notion in the valuation of land. I have contended otherwise in discussions, both as an adviser and as a member in this place-both inside and outside of this chamber. The High Court rulings in the Oldfield case in the 1970s demonstrate quite clearly that, especially for people who hold 1956-type leases, it does exist and that the government should be negotiating on that basis. As I said back in October, if they do not do so they will end up in the courts, and they will lose because the precedent is there.

This motion is simple and straightforward. It requires the government to get on with the job that they undertook to do in good faith and complete the process before we go into the caretaker period. Even though this Assembly will rise today, the advice to this minister is that I will not take my eye off this matter.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (6.14): I understand the sentiment of Mrs Dunne's motion; however, the government believes the motion is unnecessary. In some respects it is my view that it is not the role of the Assembly, and the Assembly is not the forum in which to guide the government around negotiations when it comes to the potential surrender of a lease. These are complex negotiations and I do not believe political debate in the Assembly is the way to achieve the best outcome. That said, the government will not oppose the motion tonight, but I want to reiterate to members that I do not believe this is the most appropriate way of pursuing this issue. The


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