Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4484 ..
MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (9.14): I seek leave to move the amendments circulated in the name of the Attorney-General.
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I move amendment No 1 circulated in the name of the Attorney-General [see schedule 6 at page 4511].
MRS DUNNE (9.14): Mr Speaker, may I seek your guidance here? I am a bit confused. I have an amendment which extends the Attorney's amendment. Should I actually amend his amendment or can I move my amendment?
MR SPEAKER: You have to move to amend his amendment.
MRS DUNNE (9.15): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name, which amends Mr Stanhope's amendment [see schedule 7 at page 4512].
This amendment goes further than the Attorney's amendment, but follows the same theme. What the attorney proposes to do here in the AAT Bill is a bit of a departure, but I think that it is an appropriate departure. This is the first time we have really seen the tribunal given the capacity to award costs. The circumstances in which the Attorney would see those costs awarded are very narrow indeed. The opposition wants to see the tribunal allowed more flexibility to award costs in a larger, but still fairly limited, number of cases.
When it is clear that the tribunal is confronted with vexatious litigation, we want to see it able to award costs. We have had the discussion in this place a number of times. There are many occasions when one or two people who have only a marginal attachment to a development can, with very little effort, stymie it for a very long time and at great cost to people in government, to the developers themselves and to people in the courts and the tribunals. It simply involves turning up to the tribunal, paying your money and lodging an objection. In many cases, a development can be held up with not very much hope of success when it actually reaches the tribunal. People do know that they can stymie developments for quite some time.
There are some good innovations in the proposals brought forward by the Attorney to cut down potential time wasting in the tribunal by ensuring that most cases are dealt with in 120 days, and this is laudable. However, my amendment goes a bit further towards discouraging people from trying to slow down a development because they do not really like it, but they do not have any serious or substantive objection. There would be a limited number of cases when you could say that an appeal was vexatious. In those very limited circumstances, the deterrent available to the tribunal would be awarding costs, which can be quite substantial in many cases.
In some of the instances I know of, a case has spent eight days in the tribunal. In such a case, opponents can say, "I do not like that,"which means they have to wheel out their QCs and their expert witnesses, not because they are bigger and smarter, but because