Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 April 2008) . . Page.. 797 ..
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.57): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 4 at page 811]. I have already spoken to this amendment. I thank Dr Foskey and the attorney and I commend the amendment to the Assembly.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.58): I would like to say that I support Mr Stefaniak’s amendment. I covered some of the ground in the in-principle debate. The provision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act which is to be deleted allows people to apply to the Attorney-General for legal assistance. The rationale is that, as the ACT Legal Aid Office is the principal body responsible for the provision of legal assistance, section 62 is redundant. But, while legal aid might support applications to the AAT in a range of circumstances, it does not support applications for review of decisions in housing matters. There seems to be general agreement that these are usually the province of the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, but of course that centre also operates within very tight constraints and in those circumstances is unlikely to pursue matters which have the broad public interest in being determined by the courts at the expense of the urgent welfare issues before them.
Sometimes it is in the public interest to have things determined and clarified by a legal authority, so it makes no sense to change the law so that the Attorney-General cannot fund such cases which, while rare, are extremely important to clarify the law in the ACT. Because legal aid and welfare rights are unlikely to take complex housing issues to the AAT, we should still be able to apply to the Attorney-General in these cases. So I find the removal of section 62 of the AAT Act discriminatory. The fact that this section has rarely been used and legal assistance never granted does not mean it is not needed.
We should not be sacrificing human rights for administrative convenience. Human rights are not abstract things; they boil down to concrete decisions and outcomes. I hope the ACT government will reconsider this matter carefully with the aim to ensure its internal practices and its management of the territory’s legislation conform to the ambition of the Human Rights Act.
At 6.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for the next sitting. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly was put.
Mr Don Bell
Professor Peter Cullen
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (6.00): Mr Speaker, I rise today to express condolences at the recent passing of two very significant members of our community, Mr Don Bell and Professor Peter Cullen.
I would like to extend my sympathies and thoughts today to the family of Don Bell, who died late last month. In particular, my thoughts, and I am sure the thoughts of each of us, are with Don’s wife, Ruth.