Page 303 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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Assembly that the offer that was made did not include any details or methodology; it was simply a figure of around one and a half million dollars.

After the leaseholders were advised that ACTPLA’s initial offer for the larger lease was on a take it or leave it basis, the opposition and crossbench held a press conference on September 14, calling on the government to negotiate with the leaseholders in good faith and in accord with the Assembly’s motion in August. The Minister for Planning is on the record as rejecting the implications of that media conference: that the government was abusing its commitment to negotiate with the leaseholders in good faith. Instead, the planning minister said that negotiations would continue and were proceeding. As I understand it, however, the only contact that the lessees have had since rejecting the first offer has been a letter from the chief executive of ACTPLA, dated 29 November, in response to correspondence on 22 October, advising them that, since the September offer had been rejected, no further negotiation would be possible.

I do not understand how the minister can argue with integrity that negotiations have proceeded or that either the government or ACTPLA has dealt with this matter promptly, openly or in accord with the express wish of the Assembly. I will be supporting the motion and I will not be supporting the minister’s amendment. I believe that the rural lessees should expect better treatment at the hands of this government than they are getting. While most points of this amendment are statements of fact, as I have already argued, the ACT government has not engaged in ongoing negotiations with the rural lessees in an open or timely manner, or in good faith.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (5.35): I support the amendment put by the minister to Mrs Dunne’s motion. The Coonan, Tully and Tanner families hold rural leases that expire in December 2005. With the establishment of the Australian Capital Territory, the commonwealth government acquired rural land for the development of Canberra’s infrastructure. In many cases the government also purchased the improvements on the land. Rural leases were then issued with special provisions that would allow the government to withdraw land when it was required for urban development. Since this time, a considerable amount of rural land has been progressively withdrawn, and continues in the current development areas of the ACT.

The rural leases held by the Coonan, Tully and Tanner families were granted in the 1950s pursuant to the Leases Ordinance 1918. These rental leases contain land withdrawal provisions, and contain no provision for extension or renewal. They do contain a provision for compensation for improvements on expiry or determination of the lease.

Under the ACT self-government legislation in 1989, the ACT obtained legislative power to enact laws relating to land tenure and land management. It did so by the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 and the Land (Planning and Environment) Consequential Provisions Act 1991. The Land (Planning and Environment) (Consequential Provisions) Act 1991 repealed the Leases Ordinance 1918 and the leases in question were deemed to be leases under the land act. Section 173 of the land act also made provision for compensation for improvements on expiry or determination of leases of the kind in question.

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