Page 2260 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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we got some comfort that they recognised that there was a problem, when you have these ridiculously long forms. Industry professionals—people who have been involved in planning in the ACT for many years and have seen various different types of planning law in that time, going back to pre self-government days—are finding it almost impossible to understand some of these forms and are having real difficulty in completing these forms. Yet we were told that it would be simpler, faster and better. I think that has been one of the great disappointments.

They got it significantly wrong, and then they brought back a territory plan which was far from perfect but which was accepted by industry, in particular because they just wanted the change to go ahead. I think they just got so exasperated after the problems with the first one that they said, “Well, this is significantly better than the first version.” So, even though there were still problems with it, they said, “We need to get this through.”

It has been a great disappointment to industry, and it has been a great disappointment to us. I do not think the minister could refute this: we certainly did not play politics with this reform. We actually got behind the government and said, “We will not carp and criticise you for these reforms, but we want you to get them right.” It is a particular disappointment to me that I am still getting feedback, on a regular basis, that there are still serious issues. We saw the concerns of industry. In fact, on the reports that I was getting, at the end of March, before the new planning system came in, many applications were being rushed through because there was not the confidence in the new system, and some of those fears are being realised.

I am hopeful that we can get over some of those problems, but it is incumbent upon this minister now to ensure that that gets done, and that it gets done very quickly. These kinds of bottlenecks in the planning system can have all sorts of flow-on effects. We do not want to see a situation where the simplest developments are being held up as a result of poor administration because of the complexity of forms and the planning guidelines being too difficult to understand. I put very strongly on the record our disappointment at where we have got to. We still want to see it work. It is critical that it does work. It is critical to our territory moving forward that we do see it work, and see it work well.

It is worth touching on the cutbacks to the NCA and how that might affect things here. We have seen significant cutbacks to the NCA by the incoming Labor federal government, egged on, of course, by their ACT Labor colleagues. Most prominently leading the charge has been Senator Kate Lundy, who seems to have some sort of visceral hatred of the NCA, which I have never quite understood. It is all well and good to have differences of opinion with various government agencies and with various decisions that are made by those agencies. But there seems to be a real personal disdain on the part of Senator Lundy for the NCA and for many officials within the NCA. I think it is unfortunate that that has driven the slashing of the NCA by the incoming Labor government. It has absolutely not been based on any sort of review. We know that it was not based on a review because the review happened after the announcement of the job cuts. So it is quite a ridiculous process that has been broadly supported by ACT Labor.

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