Page 981 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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The amendments relating to billing by private practitioners are aimed at increasing control over the Legal Aid Commission’s liabilities. These amendments clarify that the commission is not obliged to pay for legal services provided by a private legal practitioner before an application for legal assistance is made. However, it may pay if notice of the intending application is given to the chief executive officer. The amendments will also require private legal practitioners to invoice the commission for services within six months of the finalisation of a matter.

Mr Speaker, these amendments will have a substantive impact on the way in which the Legal Aid Commission provides this valuable service to the ACT community and I thank members for their support for these amendments.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 17 February 2005, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (10.53): The opposition will be supporting the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2005. The bill makes a number of significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act of 1997 and is the result of a review of that act by JACS. We do note that most people are quite happy with the existing legislation, although there are a number of areas where change is seen as desirable. There are a number of areas in this bill that the opposition will be watching closely to see how it pans out.

There are always a number of issues in relation to residential tenancies. Nearly 30 per cent of Canberra residents are tenants and over 10 per cent of properties are public housing. There are a number of issues that have plagued this area over the years, ranging from antisocial behaviour by a number of tenants in both public and private housing, through to issues around crisis accommodation providers. My colleague, Jacqui Burke, will also speak to this particular bill as it affects her shadow portfolio responsibilities.

One of the major reforms contained in the bill relates to the termination of residential agreements by prescribed crisis accommodation providers. This sits uneasily in the act because certain providers wish to impose a condition on a tenancy to the effect that it is conditional on the tenant continuing to use a particular service or on a comparative assessment of the others’ needs in the community. The effect is that a tenant may be evicted with four weeks’ notice. Currently, the provider must seek endorsement of the condition on a case-by-case basis by the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.

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