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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4478 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The Labor Party went to the last election campaigning against the former Liberal government's use of these call-in powers. Yet it now becomes clear that it is not prepared to stop the same problems occurring in the future. The minister seems to be of the opinion that he is qualified to decide when the AAT should be blocked from exercising its proper functions, and he has already invoked the call-in powers a number of times in his first year in office in somewhat controversial circumstances.

The presence of planning call-in powers remains unpopular in the community, and degrades our public offices. Even if they are used with the best of intentions, members of the public invariably see them as examples of political expediency, and this leads to suspicions of less than transparent deals with developers. It has the unfortunate effect of making our political institutions look grubby and unnecessarily blocks well-meaning objectors from having their day in court.

I find it paradoxical that while the government has aimed to create a planning system that operates at arm's length from government, and has gone to great lengths to reduce political influence on the new planning authority, it retains the most obvious and controversial instrument of political interference in the planning process. This should be seen by our planners, our judges and the members of our community as the act of political opportunism that it is. If the government genuinely believes that our planning review processes are not functioning correctly, then let us sit down and look more closely at fixing that system. It should not be the role of government to prevent members of the community from having their concerns examined impartially by officers of our courts.

A number of reforms are before the Assembly that will hopefully improve the operation of the tribunal. We should allow that court to implement these proposals and place some trust in the strength of our institutions and our decision makers. Interfering call-in powers, I believe, have no place in a modern planning system.

MS TUCKER (8.52): I will speak to this amendment. It is something that we tried to do before in the last Assembly and Mr Corbell in opposition did not support it, so I am not expecting him to support it as a minister. But there really is, in my view, no justification for keeping the call-in powers in place. They contribute little in relation to sound planning and they instead make a mockery of proper planning processes.

Maintaining the call-in powers could pose a major inconsistency in Labor's approach to planning, and it will be very interesting to see whether the statement of planning intent, when developed, will expose inconsistencies in this approach.

There may well be situations when the minister uses the call-in power-perhaps not this minister but future ministers-to make a decision on an application that is in conflict with the principles of a prior statement of planning intent. It could be this minister as well. It can also be a classic case where these powers are used for political expediency. Although the statement of planning intent itself has no powers, the government has argued adamantly that it is important and should remain. In the end, it could be useful to compare that with, for example, use of call-in powers, because I think there is an inconsistency in Labor's approach here. I understand that Mr Corbell is doing his own

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