Page 1268 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008

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by that government to remove obstacles to unfettered development which were annoying their large corporate friends and donors. The senior legal officer of the Environmental Defender’s Office has stated that the DAF model has as one of its aims the exclusion of community participation in the planning process.

The restriction of appeal rights, limited legal standing, abolition of independent advisory bodies, limited referral to committees and broad call-in powers are all part of a system that, in the words of the President of the Local Government Association, Mike Montgomery, is an assault on the democratic right of communities to control the planning process.

The planning minister called the DAF system a best practice model, but he did not put forward any good arguments to justify that assessment. Just calling it best practice does not make it so. It is a truism that where you stand depends on where you sit, and it would be nice to hear the government acknowledge that not everyone agrees that the DAF scheme is world’s best practice. The quotes I just read out are from organisations that represent thousands of constituents—not fringe groups or one-eyed anti-development groups. The government would do well to acknowledge and address their criticisms and concerns.

I appreciate that the government has made a few minor changes to the more antidemocratic characteristics of the DAF model, such as the granting of standing in limited circumstances to entities whose objects clauses are concerned with the issue under dispute. However, I do not believe that these alterations can compensate for what is effectively a hierarchical and technocratic system that devalues community input.

While I do not accept the proposition that these regulations or the new planning system itself are policy neutral, it is the case that the new structure has been brought in without any clear indication as to what it will be used for. We are being asked to accept a new planning regime model without knowing the shape the government intends to mould it into when the policy-partisan parties’ provisions that were put in the too-hard basket are actually formulated and introduced. Before I can give my approval to these reforms I want to know what else is on the government’s agenda.

I actually think the whole policy-neutral response was irresponsible. We are told that energy efficiency and environmental standards are a top priority now that the legislative framework is in place. The minister himself describes climate change as the biggest social, economic and environmental challenge facing humanity. It is curious that such a high priority issue had to be put on hold while some technical, policy-neutral changes to the regulatory framework were implemented, but there you have it—the government has the numbers.

It could have included some immediate measures to assist in the implementation of its climate change strategy. It was not too scared to ram through the agenda on school closures, but why was its response so different when the big end of town expressed its disapproval of the proposed planning reforms? Mr Speaker, I am content to leave that as a rhetorical question.

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