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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3976 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

undesirable to have costs awarded in administrative decision-making processes. Where a discretion is exercised, it is appropriate for people affected by the decision to have the right to ask for the decision to be reviewed without having to worry about being made to bear the costs if they are unsuccessful.

However, there are some areas where the review process can be misused by one party in a way that is unfair to other people affected by the decision. There are occasions when a party is slow in complying with a direction or order of the tribunal for no reason other than it suits the party to delay the hearing. When this happens, other parties are put to unnecessary trouble and expense.

The bill gives the tribunal a discretion to award costs if it is satisfied that doing so is in the interests of justice. Costs can be awarded only if a party has contravened a tribunal direction. The power to award costs is unlikely to be used often, but it provides support for the idea that the tribunal must complete planning appeals within 120 days.

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

Additional objects for the land and planning division are also inserted to emphasise that the AAT is part of the land planning and development process in the ACT. Those objects balance the discretion to order costs in certain cases and place it in the context of fair, efficient and effective decision-making.

In combination with additional resources, the provisions in this bill will reshape the planning appeals process in accordance with this government's commitment to the Canberra community.

I acknowledge the enormous amount of work undertaken by Mr Corbell, his office and his officers in the major planning reform process in which this government is engaged. It was a very explicit and direct commitment we took to the last election. This government has a clear mandate to deliver these reforms. The attitude of the opposition to this reform process is disappointing in the extreme. The obstructive time-wasting approach of the opposition to these issues flies in the face of the very clear mandate we received. Consultative processes have been adopted by the government. I think the record should note that.

I conclude by acknowledging the mammoth effort the public service, through PALM and through the minister's office and officers, have put into this very good process and achieving these very good outcomes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

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