Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 10 April 2008) . . Page.. 1335 ..
sufficiently well tested that the council has found the financial resources to put its case in the Supreme Court, which means it does not take this matter lightly.
This is a very important charge, and its administration in the ACT is a matter of considerable concern. This concern is borne out not more than by the fact that, for one month, the minister responsible failed to have a valid fee determination in place. This is yet another case of negligence by the Stanhope government. As we are responsible and careful about the revenues of the territory, we will be supporting this bill in its present form. But, in doing so, I have to put on the record that the opposition is unhappy that we have to pass this legislation and retrospectively validate fees, not that this is the sort of retrospective legislation that falls within the category of those that would be improper for us to pass. There is a general expectation in the community that there would be a valid fee determination for this period, but there has been none because of the neglect and the oversight of the Chief Minister and Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change.
We are also reluctant to support the bill because it goes further to reinforce the Stanhope government’s casual approach and careless approach to the administration of the water abstraction charge. I am also concerned at the general performance of the government, particularly the manager of government business who, at no stage, intimated either in meetings or in this place when he presented the bill that this bill was one of urgency.
I think I got an apology from the staff of Mr Stanhope’s office this morning because they said, “Well, you should have known that this was an urgent bill,” and I think that that was accompanied with an apology, but it was very begrudging. The Chief Minister needs to get his house in order. He needs to start with his manager of government business and make sure that he does his job properly and then move onto some of those under his supervision, direct or otherwise, who have let this situation arise.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.29): I just want to point out to the house that the manager of government business, in his haste when he changed the batting order for the day, forgot to allow Mr Stefaniak on behalf of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs performing the duties of the scrutiny of bills and subordinate legislation committee to make his report on the Water Resources (Validation of Fees) Bill 2008. Yet again, another breach in the tradition of this place where the legal affairs committee goes away, they examine the bill and the ritual has always been that they would report before a bill is discussed. We will not get a report on the bill because of the mismanagement of the manager of government business in not getting right, yet again, his ordering for the day.
As Mrs Dunne has said, this is an important bill. Anything that deals with revenue and the government’s mismanagement of the collection of that revenue is an important bill, and retrospectivity should not be taken lightly. It would be interesting to see what Mr Stefaniak, as chair, had to say on this bill and whether there is to be anything of concern from the scrutiny of bills committee. Of course, we will not hear that. We will actually hear that after the bill is passed. This is the callous disregard that the government has for the committee system, a system they said they would enhance and