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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5041 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

those who have sold their houses in the market, rather than those first home buyers, and consequently contributed to the affordability crisis.

MRS CROSS (4.49): I rise today in support of the government's First Home Owner Grant Amendment Bill 2003. The government is certainly correct in restricting those under the age of 18 from applying for the first home owners grant; however, the provision giving the Commissioner for ACT Revenue power to use his discretion when dealing with minors is also important, as it allows genuine applications from minors to be accepted. The government is also correct in introducing a six-month residency requirement which applicants must satisfy for entitlement to the grant. These changes ensure that a significant loophole in the first home owners grant has been closed. These are good changes and the government should be applauded.

I do, however, have two issues with the bill. I am concerned with the retrospective operation of the bill. It should not be common for retrospective laws to be passed through this chamber. However, the scrutiny of bills report noted that it is common for laws having financial effects to be made retrospective. I accept this but would like to note for the record that I believe the making of retrospective laws is bad law making.

My other prime concern is the haste with which the government found it necessary to debate this legislation. This bill, whilst admittedly less complex than many other bills we deal with, was introduced on 27 November and we are debating the bill 12 days later. The practice of pushing bills through before there is time to properly examine them is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It has been very difficult for crossbench members and their staff to completely digest, seek consultation on and analyse the raft of fresh legislation the government has hurriedly pushed through in these last few weeks. This discourteous practice will not be accepted in the future.

MS DUNDAS (4.51): The ACT Democrats will be supporting the amendments to the first home owners grant as put forward today. The bill, like many we are debating today, is a machinery one that addresses problems that came with the writing of the act. The present act has a loophole that allows parents to purchase properties using their children as proxy. I think we all understand that that was not the intention of the legislation. This is not necessarily the fault of ACT governments, past or present, as the same error has occurred in Commonwealth legislation, and in other states and territories.

The bill addresses two main issues in the current act. It removes the eligibility of minors for the grant and introduces a six-month residency requirement on recipients of the grant. I note that the current legislation has a residency requirement but there is no minimum period, meaning that a person may reside in the property for only a day.

Concern has been raised over the use of retrospectivity in this bill. I note that the Treasurer has chosen the day of his media release as the beginning of the retrospective operation of this piece of legislation. I think this is an unfortunate choice, and should not be repeated in the Assembly. I have quite often put on the record my concerns about policy by press release.

It is not the duty of this Assembly to be legislating the content of the Treasurer's media statements. The Treasurer should take note that this type of behaviour is unnecessary and undesirable for the legislature. There is an important distinction between the executive

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