Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (4 September) . . Page.. 3096 ..
Debate resumed from 27 March 1996, on motion by Mr Moore:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for Consumer Affairs) (5.34): Mr Speaker, I rise to indicate that the Government will not be supporting the Bill which Mr Moore has put before the house. He has proposed a short piece of legislation which effectively has the effect of backdating the effect of part of the legislation that was carried in 1994. He has also foreshadowed an amendment, which is considerably longer than the legislation itself, designed to address the problem which I raised, I think, on a previous occasion, namely, that the legislation had the effect of making illegal action which, before this legislation would have come into force, previously had been legal; and it would be most unfortunate if that were to have been the effect of his legislation. But he attempts, I think, to pick up that matter. I will certainly support his amendment, if he gets the chance to put it. I will also indicate, however, that the Government does not support the legislation as a whole.
Mr Speaker, the Government does not oppose the legislation because it takes the view that the issues raised are not necessarily appropriate or that there may not be an issue of bringing within the ambit of the legislation some tenants who at the moment are not protected and who deserve to be protected. It is my view that the Assembly took a large step in 1994 by enacting this Tenancy Tribunal Act and creating the capacity for a whole series of actions in the marketplace, which were previously not covered appropriately, to be covered now by both the legislation and a code of practice under the legislation to regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants. The code of practice, I am convinced, has had a major impact, particularly on the relationship between landlords and tenants. No doubt it is because of that that Mr Moore is putting forward the proposal that the code should cover a larger number of people than it presently does. I applaud, to some extent, the sentiment behind his Bill.
However, Mr Speaker, I indicate to the Assembly that I have great concern about any proposal which effectively changes the commercial relationship between parties in the ACT marketplace after those parties have entered into that relationship, when the conduct concerned is now treated differently by a piece of legislation to the way in which it was treated before. That remains the impact of Mr Moore's Bill - to change the way in which the law views particular things which have occurred in the past. Mr Speaker, I think that is a concept fraught with some risk, if I might put it in that neutral way.
I indicated when the original legislation was being debated that the view of the Liberal Party was that the legislation should be allowed to operate for a period of time, and then an appropriate and consultative mechanism should be used to review the legislation to see whether it had achieved its goals and whether it could, after that period of operation, be made to work better by some improvements or amendments.