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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4910 ..

MR WHITECROSS (continuing):

We are talking about the allocation of a piece of land for use by someone and it is not like other kinds of contracts. Mr Moore and other people talk about lease renewal as if the Government can walk in one day and start hammering boards over the windows and say, "I am sorry; your lease has come to an end. Bad luck". That is not the real world. In my view, it is a fairly arbitrary occasion on which to be going after lessees for tax revenue to fund community activities.

I think that Mr Moore has an understandable interest in the issue of revenue from commercial lessees. There may be other ways of addressing his concerns that he might want to contemplate, but I do not believe that the arbitrary occasion of the renewal of the lease is the occasion. As I said before, the defenders of the leasehold system who seem to believe that somehow or other we have to retain this uncertainty around the renewal of leases in order to truly defend the leasehold system are missing the point. The leasehold system has lots to offer the ACT, but I do not think maintaining an air of arbitrariness and uncertainty around the renewal of leases is a necessary component of defending the leasehold system. As a result, we will not be supporting Mr Moore's amendments.

MR MOORE (11.05): In some ways I find it difficult to know quite what to say, Mr Speaker.

Ms McRae: Good. Do not say anything.

MR MOORE: I will say something because it concerns me that we have a situation where we clearly needed more time with this legislation. I indicated to the Labor Party that that was what we needed. Ms McRae has made it very clear, Mr Speaker, that this legislation is going to follow the Stein report, the Government's response, the Mant/Collins report and all those others. Where in all of those did it say that we should be having automatic renewal of commercial leases? Mr Speaker, I think that is the first question. By all means, come and get it out in midair. The critical issue about the fact that we did not have enough time is that we have Mr Whitecross suggesting that a lease is not a contract.

Ms McRae: He did not say that. It is not a contract like cleaning a carpet, he said.

MR MOORE: It is exactly that. It is a contract. It is an agreement between two parties about the way land is going to be used, and Mr Whitecross even used the example of a carpet contract. To have your carpet cleaned there is a contract between two parties about how the carpet is going to be cleaned. A lease is a contract about how the land is going to be used. That is what it is about, Mr Speaker. Naturally, when you come to the end of that time, it is time to reconsider. It is time to reconsider the contract to make sure it is the way we want it to be.

Mr Speaker, it seems to me that the major problem here is that we simply have not had enough time, particularly time for community input into this issue. It is interesting, Mr Speaker, that report after report on the leasehold system has said, "Strengthen the leasehold system; do not weaken it", yet we proceed to weaken it.

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