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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3630 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The second way of providing assistance to the tribunal is in the form of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 2002. The bill introduces a positive obligation on the tribunal to consider whether a matter before it can be resolved by mediation. Although the tribunal already has the power to mediate on matters before it, there is no obligation to consider whether mediation is appropriate in any matter. This positive obligation to consider mediation, together with the engagement of qualified mediators, will result in more issues being resolved between the parties to a dispute without the necessity of formal tribunal hearings.

The bill introduces a time limit for the completion of planning appeals. Currently, there are no legislative time limits in the tribunal for resolving matters. The amendments require that a final decision on a planning appeal must be given by the tribunal within 120 days of an appeal being filed. The government acknowledges that the complexity of some planning or heritage cases will mean that the time limit may be difficult to achieve on occasion. For that reason, the president of the tribunal will have a discretion to extend time limits.

The notion of costs being awarded by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against an unsuccessful party in all cases is not favoured by this government. However, there are occasions where parties are slow in complying with a direction or order of the tribunal for no reason other than it suits that party to delay a hearing. The bill introduces the concept of the tribunal awarding legal costs against a party to proceedings only in those cases where a party fails to comply with the direction of the tribunal. The awarding of costs is discretionary and is limited to the legal costs of a case being adjourned.

Finally, the bill inserts objects in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1989. The main objects contain a statement of the principles of administrative review, that is, that the tribunal is accessible, that its proceedings are efficient, effective and informal, and that its decisions are fair. All hearings of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal must be conducted having regard to the stated principles of administrative review.

The bill also introduces objects to define the role of the land and planning division of the tribunal. This is to emphasise that the tribunal is part of the land planning and development process in the ACT. I am confident that this bill, in conjunction with the other reforms introduced by this government, will deliver to the ACT community an efficient, effective and fair system of land management.

Before concluding, Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge significant work and cooperation between PALM and the Department of Justice and Community Safety in relation to the preparation of this bill. As members know, the issues in relation to the delivery of an effective and fair system of land management and, indeed, a wholly new and integrated approach to planning are being led by my colleague Mr Corbell. I commend him in his leadership on this project and the work that is being done by his department, in this case in conjunction with JACS.

I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Dunne ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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