Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2673 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Of course, it commenced on 1 January this year. The Tenancy Tribunal stated that it could not take account of the explanatory memorandum, as it believed the meaning of the Act itself was clear and unambiguous. Mr Speaker, the subsection to which the tribunal was referring was subsection 8(1). It states:
This Act applies to [harsh and oppressive conduct] whether the relevant lease was entered into, varied, renewed or extended under an option before, on or after [the commencement date].
The tribunal found that the clear meaning of this provision was that, due to the absence of a comma after the word "option", the word "before" attached only to the phrase "extended under an option". Therefore, where a lease was entered into, varied or renewed before 1 January, the tenant was not protected. In other words, the tribunal found that the subsection could be interpreted to read, and I paraphrase:
This Act applies to [harsh and oppressive conduct] whether the relevant lease was entered into, varied or renewed on or after [1 January 1995] or extended under an option before, on or after [1 January 1995].
Mr Speaker, the Director of Consumer Affairs subsequently filed with the Supreme Court an appeal against the tribunal's ruling; but, even with the expedited status, that appeal could not be heard before late February or early March of next year. The Government is anxious that the Act operate as intended by the whole of the Assembly when the legislation was originally passed. When the Assembly passed the Tenancy Tribunal Act last year, it clearly wanted to prohibit unconscionable conduct of landlords against any tenant. Unfortunately, the Tenancy Tribunal has not read it that way.
These amendments will immediately rectify the situation and allow all tenants to take action if they believe they have been harshly done by since 1 January 1995. I would ask the Assembly to support the amendments for that reason. They will operate retrospectively to 1 January this year. That is a matter which I can recommend to the Assembly without hesitation, notwithstanding my party's policy about retrospectivity, because it confers a benefit on people who are tenants in the ACT. Indeed, it was intended by the Assembly to confer a benefit. Therefore, that should be made clear not so much by changing the law as by clarifying the law that was enacted last year.
MR CONNOLLY (4.17): The Opposition will be supporting the amendments. Indeed, I commend the Attorney-General for rapidly drafting these amendments and bringing them in under the vehicle of the Statute Law Revision Bill. As I said earlier on, the Opposition wrote to the Government last week indicating that we shared Mr Humphries's concerns about the decision of the Tenancy Tribunal and that we would support any method of amending the law, be it by a stand-alone Bill or the Statute Law Revision Bill. There are certain advantages in using this Bill. It means that it will be debated and, hopefully, passed this afternoon.