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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3846 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

Since then, more than 40 separate acts have been passed to amend the original legislation. If you look at the current published version of the Land (Planning and Environment) Act, you will see that its amendment history now stretches to 21 pages. In addition, regulations have been amended on at least 30 occasions in the past 10 years. Some of the amendments have been only minor, while others have reflected major policy decisions and have responded to reports or inquiries.

The Stein amendments of 1996 are an example of major policy change, but, with the benefit of hindsight, if more of Stein had been adopted, we would have had a better act than we have now. It is a matter of regret to me that the previous Liberal government did not follow through on some of the Stein initiatives.

We need to remember the circumstances surrounding the genesis of this troublesome but important act. This act, in its early form of 1990, was, in fact, seven different pieces of legislation which were overseen by a large group of people. Towards the end of its genesis, those seven pieces of legislation were cobbled together into one act. It was an act of convenience and, as a result, this act of convenience has been amended ad infinitum on the floor of this Assembly, largely at the insistence of Residents Rally in 1991.

The act was criticised in the Stein report, which quotes a former head of planning, Jeff Townsend, as saying:

The land act is a disgrace in terms of legislation. It is the worst piece of legislation anyone has ever seen. It is a piece of legislation that was amended 100 times on the floor. It is a mess.

Sadly, little has changed in the seven years since the Stein report quoted those words.

The main argument relates to the fact that the act and its regulations span and directly impact on a number of highly contentious areas of public administration. It has been amended so many times, and by several governments of different persuasions. If the act was flawed or even inadequate at the time of its inception, then surely now is the time to initiate a systematic and thorough review of all its provisions-indeed, of the act itself. We are starting to see a slow dismantling of the concept of bringing the seven acts together, because now we are seeing an exposure draft of heritage legislation that would delete part 3. There is discussion about taking out part 4 in relation to environmental assessments.

Before we take those steps, we need to have a discussion about the form such far-reaching legislation should take. Is it better to go back to six or seven individual pieces of legislation? But, rather than doing it, we should spend some time thinking about the best way to do it. The question we must seriously ask is: is this an appropriate legislative base on which to build a whole new planning and development regime, which is what the current government suggests it should do? I suggest that the answer is emphatically no.

Time and circumstances have passed this act by. Quite apart from the differing social and political dynamics of the time, at a more basic level, words in the original act have been put into use in slightly different senses in later amendments. The change of use

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