Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3028 ..
MR CORBELL (10.31): Mr Speaker, I present the Land (Planning and Environment) Amendment Bill (No 4) 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR CORBELL: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Mr Speaker, the Land (Planning and Environment) Amendment Bill (No 4) 1999 deals with providing criteria for utilising the ministerial call-in power under section 229A of the principal Act. Mr Speaker, I am very pleased to be introducing this piece of private members business today. It will, if passed by this Assembly, provide for the first time for a level of scrutiny, transparency and accountability to be legislated into the Act for the use of the ministerial call-in power. The Bill makes the necessary amendments to the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 by omitting the existing subsections 229A (6) and (7) and substituting new subsections. These amendments will introduce scrutiny and transparency to the use of section 229A of the Act for both this Assembly and, obviously, the broader community in the ACT.
The amendments to the principal Act provide that the Minister may exercise the call-in power only where a planning application raises a major issue of policy, where the application may have a substantial effect on the achievement or development of objectives of the Territory Plan, or where a decision to determine an application or not to determine an application would give rise to a substantial public benefit. The amendments will also empower the Minister to provide reasons for his decision both to the applicants of any development application called in and to this Assembly.
Mr Speaker, currently there exists no formal requirement for the Minister to provide to this place reasons for the use of this power. There is a requirement currently for the Minister to outline in the government Gazette that he has revoked a determination, but there is no requirement for him to formally notify the Assembly. Mr Speaker, these amendments will provide a necessary level of scrutiny and transparency to the use of this wide-ranging and very powerful authority by the Minister.
Past practice with respect to use of the call-in power under the current Government has seen the Minister provide a variety of reasons for its use, usually via a media release. But there are no clear guidelines for the use of this power. The power can be used unilaterally and for any reason that the Minister sees fit. That is not an appropriate course of action for what is a very wide-ranging power. The Minister must be required to exercise the power in accordance with some formal criteria.