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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2219 ..

Wednesday, 26 June 2002

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Magistrates Court (Refund of Fees) Amendment Bill 2002

Ms Tucker , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk

MS TUCKER (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This is a fairly simple bill, but one of great interest to people who feel the need to lodge appeals with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal-or the AAT as it known-against decisions by government officials that adversely affect them, either directly or as a third party.

Of interest to my constituents are appeals against development approvals and approvals for tree removals. The AAT has the power to review decisions under a wide range of acts. At present, court and tribunal fees, including those of the AAT, are determined by the minister under section 248A of the Magistrates Court Act 1930.

The current fee for lodging an application for a review of a decision under the Land Planning and Environment Act 1991 is $138. Under other acts, it is $200 for a review. As an aside, these fee rates are an issue in themselves. These amounts may not seem high, but they have been imposed as a way of discouraging people from putting up frivolous appeals. Whether such fees are necessary is debatable.

Most people who lodge third party appeals do not relish the opportunity. They generally feel it is a burden they could well do without. Mounting an AAT appeal is not an easy process. It involves time and expense-not just the application fee, but in some cases the expense of seeking their own legal assistance. It is not something people do lightly. The Attorney-General may wish to review the fee rates, particularly the necessity for a different rate for planning appeals. But that is a separate issue to the bill I am presenting.

What concerns me especially is that the imposition of fees creates an unfair situation. If the appeal is successful, the person who lodged the application for an appeal has effectively been forced to pay out money to prove that their concerns about the decision were valid. If the original decision-maker had taken these concerns into account at the outset, then the person would have been saved the expense of having to lodge an appeal.

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