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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 677 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

and resolved. The exclusion of those tenants who were not eligible has allowed a great deal of unfair practice in small businesses to go without redress. Many of these are small businesses that without any redress are striving to exist in the face of unfair increases in rent, advantages given to larger franchise traders, breaches of mediated agreements, key money disputes, ratchet clauses, and other general unfair practices that exist.

Let me make myself perfectly clear about the purpose of this Bill. This Bill is to broaden access to the tribunal so as not to discriminate against those businesses that entered into a lease prior to the end of 1994, are experiencing disputes and have nowhere to go for justice. The tribunal is there to hear these disputes and to decide a course of agreement that will be fair to both the tenant and the landowner. It is unconscionable that these people, both tenants and landowners, were excluded in 1994 from having access to a fair hearing. We can remedy this now with members' support for this amendment.

Last year Mr Gary Humphries informed me that a review of the Tenancy Tribunal Act was not feasible, as only a handful of people had applied to the tribunal for a hearing since the legislation was passed in 1994. Surprise, surprise! Could that be because the bulk of those tenants who really needed this access were already in a lease agreement and had been denied access? If the Assembly of the day had not denied them this access, I am sure that the tribunal would have received many requests for a hearing. It was for those people that the legislation was constructed in the first place. It was for tenants such as the former supermarket owners at Campbell and the many small businesses in shopping malls that needed the tribunal's assistance. Where are they now? They do not exist. They have gone out of business. They have gone out the back door and been replaced, often, by large franchisees. So much for our support for small business.

The arguments put forward at the time to rationalise the exclusion of those who entered into a lease prior to 1994 was that they could apply to the tribunal if the landowners were harsh and oppressive. The trouble with that is that harsh and oppressive conduct often results in the demise of a business before access to the tribunal can be arranged. It is a catch-22 situation. The tenants and landowners excluded need to have access to a tribunal that can deal with disputes caused by alleged breaches of a mediated agreement, about key money in relation to a lease or to negotiations for the entering into of a lease, a claim by a party to a lease that another party to that lease has breached or is breaching the code, or any dispute at all about a lease. Waiting until the landowner is able to be seen as harsh and oppressive is often simply too late.

One has only to wander into any shopping mall in the ACT to see that the same large chain-stores appear in Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Canberra and Woden. Where have all the local businesses gone, the ones that provided diversity and were owned and operated by local Canberrans? They have systematically been taken over by the large homogeneous stores who can afford the increased rates and the overhead costs incurred by being in a shopping mall, because they have huge turnovers or can negotiate with the landowners from a much stronger position. I wonder how many small locally-owned businesses have not been able to survive because of the lack of access to a tribunal to sort out an unfair agreement or a breach of a lease agreement. Perhaps that ought to have been the subject of the review. How many small businesses have been killed off for

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