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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 575 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

the opinion of the court, will enable costs again to be reduced and will help to achieve a prompt hearing of the matters at issue between the parties to the proceedings.

I think that will be a significant improvement to the current arrangements and the delays I have mentioned. The approach also has the flexibility to enable a sensitive response to the resolution requirements of each dispute. Additionally, it will require the court to encourage the resolution of disputes by non-litigious means. I urge members not to support these amendments, which might serve to cut back the approach proposed in this bill, because I do not think turning back the clock will be in anyone's real interest.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (12.06): The Labor Party will not be supporting these amendments. I have to say at the outset that I think the Attorney's comments are fair. Some of the explanations he makes about the failings of the tribunal are a quite serious reflection on the efficiency of the tribunal that we have in the ACT and in themselves warrant some other response. It is a matter of grave concern that it takes an average of 167 days from application to a first directions hearing in the Tenancy Tribunal. That is more than six months to get your foot in the door. The Attorney then advises us that a matter before the Tenancy Tribunal requires an average of four directions.

The Attorney then advises us of a matter--the longest-standing matter, perhaps an extreme example--being before the Tenancy Tribunal for over 900 days. That is almost three years. Yet we are led to believe that, if you want a speedy and cheap resolution of the matter, you take it to the tribunal and have the matter dealt with expeditiously, cheaply, more efficiently and better than the Magistrates Court can deal with it. Those figures do not suggest that that is the case at all. They suggest that the tribunal is not particularly timely. If a matter is before the Tenancy Tribunal for three years it is a little bit difficult to stand up in this place and suggest that it is a speedy and therefore cheap way of resolving an issue.

It cannot be said that the Tenancy Tribunal has covered itself in glory. The government's approach to the matter is to give the Magistrates Court a go, and we are all aware of the joint resources and the similarities that there are in any event between the tribunal and the court. A magistrate heads up both organisations, of course. A magistrate will continue to deal with matters, as magistrates in the past have dealt with tenancy matters. I think the registrar is the same person, and the procedures are basically the same. But one area into which the government has made significant inroads in the last couple of years, although there is an awful lot more work to be done, is the case management of matters that come before the Magistrates Court.

The basis on which the Labor Party has decided to oppose these recommendations and support the new scheme that is being introduced to the bill is very much a recognition that, through improved and enhanced case management and a genuine commitment to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, a new approach will be to the benefit of tenants, landlords and everybody involved in disputes involving commercial retail tenancy.

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