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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (27 June) . . Page.. 2389 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

I think it is regrettable that, on this important issue, the Government has failed. This Bill is a shambles. The Government has turned the issue into a shambles. There are numbers of examples of that. The Chief Minister has said that she will ditch it if it does not work. Before it is debated in this Assembly, before it is passed, she has decided that, if it does not work, she will ditch it.

Mr Humphries: That is honest, is it not?

MR WOOD: It is honesty. She has no confidence in this Bill that she is proposing. Secondly, she has no confidence in her Deputy Chief Minister. She sent him as far away as she could get him, and on Tuesday she refused to allow him to answer any questions. Further to that, if there needed to be any other evidence of lack of confidence, it was shown today when the whole matter was referred to an Assembly committee. The Government acknowledges that it does not have the answers. This may be due to the differences between the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister. That situation was revealed when we were reminded of the ACIL report, where the Deputy Chief Minister, on behalf of his then constituency, said, "No regulation at all", and suggested that the Chief Minister had a different view. Nothing has changed. It appears that they are still arguing, although in this case Mr De Domenico has been muzzled.

All of that background does not help us to get a workable answer to the problem. We have had three reports at least - Ibecon, Hyndes and the social impact study. Mr Hyndes visited over 100 retail centres. He received a very large number of submissions, had wide discussions and went into the question most thoroughly. He reported that many of the neighbourhood centres - for that read "local centres" - are not even being used for convenience shopping, but rather for emergency shopping. Some of them are badly run down and provide little attraction to customers, he said. There is a message there in that. Mr Hyndes advised, and I quote from his report:

... the only way that the poorer performing neighbourhood centres will return to viability is through once again having a trading period available where they are not facing competition from Town and Group centres.

There is logic in that. I cannot argue with it. It was obviously an unpopular recommendation, because the Government did not accept it. In fact, the trading hours that Mr Hyndes proposed would not have achieved the target, because he had a range of hours of opening - for example, up to 10.00 pm on Friday night. The neighbourhood centres would have to trade from 7, 8 or 9 o'clock at night until 7.00 am the next morning in order to make their money, according to Mr Hyndes's recommendation.

I thought that the social impact assessment was a good one. It studied the impact of change, particularly when a neighbourhood centre closed. It acknowledged the importance of the neighbourhood centre to the community generally, but especially to special needs groups such as the less mobile, the frail aged, children and people without cars; to those at home during the day, including people with young children; to those with the least resources; and to those who live close by. The social impact study reported that, if neighbourhood centres were to disappear, there would be a negative impact for certain people. It said:

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