Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 18 March 2010) . . Page.. 1102 ..
vexatious matters generally do nothing more than waste the time and the money of all parties in the matter, not to mention the time of the ACAT. They usually are brought on specifically to achieve that purpose.
So if this legislation can further discourage such claims by exposing applicants to the potential of considerable cost, this is the opportunity to do it and my amendment achieves that purpose. I commend the amendment to the Assembly. I congratulate the government on finally coming on board in the matter of vexatious and frivolous claims and the costs associated with this but I encourage them to come further and to make sure that when costs are being taken into consideration all costs are open for consideration.
This, of course, does not mean that all costs must be taken into consideration but the Canberra Liberals believe that it is reasonable that the possibility of those costs should be taken into account. Mr Stanhope reported anecdotally on a matter that has been held up in the ACAT for a considerable time. On some occasions, the costs associated with being held up in the ACAT are substantial.
I know of one case at the moment that is costing a developer something in the order of $4,000 a week in holding costs. If that was eventually considered to be a frivolous or vexatious claim, that $4,000 a week that it is costing him week after week after week could not be recouped. These claims have potential to drive people out of business, to send them into bankruptcy.
I can recall a number of occasions when building companies in this town have come close to being ruined by appeals in the AAT. If people legitimately want to take on appeals in the AAT, they must do so for legitimate reasons. If they are just doing it to be spoilers they need to know that they face substantial costs, because their frivolous claim that might cost them $200 to put in can put substantial companies out of business, ruin people for a very long time and put people out of work for a long time. Those things need to be weighed up but I think the community good is better served by the prospect of a large menu of costs rather than a small menu of costs.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.46): As I flagged in my earlier comments, the Greens will not be supporting this amendment. Again, as I think Mrs Dunne’s speech has just highlighted, this is quite a substantial policy question. There is some irony in the fact that shortly after we discuss this matter, Mrs Dunne will move a motion arguing that these provisions should not have been in this bill.
The Liberal Party has passed up the opportunity to defer these provisions but then decided to get in and get dirty and do it anyway. The irony is certainly not lost on the Greens and probably not on a whole lot of other people. The other interesting part of this, and again this underlines it, is that holding costs is not a term used in any other jurisdiction in any kind of formal way.
It probably requires some sort of definition, which has not been done in this legislation. I gather it has had some consideration by the Federal Court with regard to tax matters; so it is a term that is around. But it is reminiscent of our discussion earlier this week in which we tried to pin some substantive meaning on the term “dodgy”