Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 July 2008) . . Page.. 2691 ..
decisions and should be specifically empowered to direct government employees and agencies to take various actions in order to deal with more of the foreseeable problems and aspects of the matters before them, including considerations such as mental health, child protection or credit issues when seeking resolutions to residential tenancies issues.
I understand that there are projects in gestation to strengthen the ACT’s tribunal system. I hope that the next time the process is put out for consultation, consideration is given to the issue of ensuring that tribunals are empowered to implement a more seamless, whole-of-government approach. In any event, I support this amendment, and I support the amendment to this amendment which would ensure that the extra flexibility is not used perversely to justify even more evictions.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.14): Mr Speaker, I will be supporting this bill. The changes that it makes are largely technical in nature and I am satisfied that they will serve to improve the various acts that are addressed in the bill. I say also, at the outset of my remarks, that I am grateful to the minister and his staff for organising a briefing for my office on the changes. I will take a little time to consider the various clauses of the bill but it is, as I have said, largely technical in nature. The acts that are amended by the bill number 11 in all. I do not propose to go into every change that the bill introduces but I will touch on a couple of the more meaningful changes.
I particularly welcome the changes to the Crimes (Restorative Justice) Act. This bill amends section 22 of the act to allow all ACT police officers to refer matters to restorative justice. Previously, the Chief Police Officer had to personally refer every matter from the AFP. This is a more commonsense change that will make the process more efficient. I understand from my briefing that police officers will still follow the same guidelines and procedures dictating when it is appropriate for matters to be referred. The bill will also allow people to be appointed to act as restorative justice convenors if they are suitable and willing to undertake the appropriate legal training as required. Previously, people without legal qualifications or training were automatically ruled out. I understand that convenors will still have to obtain the necessary training ahead of participating in the restorative justice process, but that the act will no longer automatically exclude people without legal qualifications from consideration. Again, this seems to be an appropriate measure to make the existing process more efficient.
Another procedural change contained in the bill is to rename the Essential Services Consumer Council as the Energy and Water Consumer Council. This changed name better reflects what the council actually does and is in line with the names used in other jurisdictions. Again, this seems to be a sensible change that is being made and it is one that I am pleased to support.
I will take some little time to consider the changes in the bill in relation to the Residential Tenancies Act. I understand that these changes are necessary because of the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter of Devonport and Commissioner for Housing. The Supreme Court’s decision in that case interpreted section 42 of the act to mean that the Residential Tenancies Tribunal could only issue conditional orders in rental arrears cases. This means that, at present, the only apparent remedies available to many lessors, like Housing ACT, are eviction and possession.