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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 574 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

disputes. It also said that tribunals around Australia should be able to make binding decisions on disputes and afford limited rights of appeals to the court. The government's push to abolish the Tenancy Tribunal would not achieve this aim and would certainly not give small business a fair go. I urge members to support these amendments, which would maintain the role of the Tenancy Tribunal.

MS TUCKER (12.02): The Greens will be supporting these amendments, substituting "Tenancy Tribunal" for "Magistrates Court". It is dealt with in detail by Mr Rugendyke's amendments 1 and 2. While the Tenancy Tribunal is essentially conducted under the aegis of the Magistrates Court, it provides a less complex and intimidating environment at less cost. It may be suggested that the proposal to look to the Magistrates Court rather than the tribunal is one that was suggested by the Law Society. In point of fact, the government have not put that proposal into effect, as it included a number of streamlining and simplification procedures.

The tribunal has operated well until now, and there has been no great call from any other interest group to shift the jurisdiction to a court, so you wonder why the government has chosen to pursue this path. In every situation where parties with greater or lesser resources are pitted against each other, the Greens are of the view that care must be taken to have mechanisms in place that assure a reasonable degree of balance. On this basis we will be supporting Mr Rugendyke's amendments.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (12.04): The government would not necessarily agree with Ms Tucker's proposition that the current system is working well. In this case the government is suggesting a different approach from the 1994 approach, and that is to rectify some serious problems in the existing dispute resolution process that result in delay and, indeed, uncertainty. The bill transfers jurisdiction from the Tenancy Tribunal to the Magistrates Court and imposes a new court directing process.

We have had a tribunal for some five years, and we are now in a position to judge whether it should be retained. We believe the existing system should go because the tribunal proceedings take too long, and delay translates into cost. For example, the time to first directions averaged 167 days; the longest time was 870 days. Half of the disputes going to directions hearings averaged four directions hearings. And the time to hearing averaged 292 days; the longest time there was 921 days. Surely that is something people would not accept.

Since 1998 there has been some decrease in the time required to bring the matter on for hearing but, despite those improvements, the times are still unacceptable within a commercial environment. That is unacceptable for everyone.

In this act we are proposing that a court be required to actively manage disputes within a flexible framework. It will accommodate both simple and complex disputes through a case management hearing process, and at that hearing the court will be required to virtually assess the likelihood of the parties resolving the issues in question before going to hearing and, indeed, assisting and encouraging them to do so by the most appropriate method. Also, where settlement seems unlikely, the court can give directions concerning the manner in which the proceedings will be pursued. This, in

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