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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4000 ..



are not sure whether you are taking away someone's rights, please do not act precipitately. If you agree to amend this disallowable instrument, we will revert to what the leasing situation was in July this year, and that reflects the policy endorsed by every grouping in the parliament in 1999-the Labor Party, the Greens and the then crossbenchers. If you do not agree to this amendment, you run the risk of becoming complicit in taking away people's property rights. If you are unsure whether or not you should do that, I ask you to act prudently and to vote in support of this motion.


(Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (12.02): Mr Speaker, I am going to seek to refute the significant number of allegations that Mrs Dunne has made in this debate. I will do so on the basis of fact, not assumption or conspiracy theory, as we heard in respect of some of the assertions that were made by Mrs Dunne. I am also going to seek to outline to members very clearly why the government has taken the steps it has in relation to these rural lessees.

But first, a couple of things. Mrs Dunne asserts that there is some sort of conspiracy, that the government is conspiring against the rural lessees in the Molonglo Valley, to the extent that we were even denying them counselling services. It is blatantly not the case.

If a private resident chooses to seek private counselling services, that is a decision for them, and I know that many people affected by the fires have sought that. But equally, counselling services have been made available to everyone who has attended the recovery centre. I think it is unfortunate that Mrs Dunne uses this assertion of victimisation and bias to the extent that she even suggests the recovery centre is discriminating against fire-affected people. This does not in any way add to this debate.

Mr Speaker, what the government decided following the fires in January was this: we knew that we needed to provide certainty for rural lessees, particularly those who had been affected by the fire but also those who had been affected by drought. We knew that we needed to expedite offers of long-term rural leases so those lessees knew they had long-term tenure and could seek the finance they needed from financial institutions to rebuild and put back the infrastructure that they had lost.

So the government announced two things. The government announced, first of all, that it would extend the period of time available for long-term rural leases to be offered to those who had not yet taken up the opportunity to receive them-99-year leases-and it also decided that in relation to the Molonglo Valley, given that it is a clearly identified area in the territory's planning processes now as an area of potential residential development, it would not be prudent to provide for a long-term lease if in five, 10, 15 or even 20 years time the territory needed to use that land for residential development. And that is what the government announced earlier this year.

This meant that two lessees in the Molonglo Valley were offered 20-year leases. They had previously, under the previous government, been offered a 99-year lease and they did not take up that offer. The period of offer lapsed. The lessees did not take up the offer because they are in dispute with both this government and the previous government in relation to the terms and conditions of the long-term lease. That position remains unchanged. The government then indicated to those short-term lessees that they had the opportunity to take up a 20-year lease.

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