Page 3279 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008
of specialisation is not incompatible with the efficiencies which I hope would follow from this new tribunal. This is because it is mainly on the administration and facilities of this new tribunal where costs can in fact be saved.
I am satisfied from my discussions with stakeholder groups and from the Attorney-General’s views on the bill that specialist knowledge of tribunal members will not be compromised by this bill. However, I think it is an issue that we will need to keep an eye on once these various areas of law are dealt with by a single tribunal.
I do not wish to pre-empt debate on the Unit Titles Amendment Bill, but I do note that this tribunal will be handling matters under the Unit Titles Act, and there has been some speculation by the government about adopting some mechanism for unit owners to pay for the additional costs. In fact, until recently, the government made it clear that they intended to skim interest payments out of the funds paid by unit owners to their body corporates to cover the costs of running unit titles matters in the tribunal. That proposal within the bill has now been temporarily shelved—and I emphasise “temporarily”. The government have stated that they are looking at different funding models and have not ruled this out as a means of funding.
I have raised this issue because I think there is a fair degree of inconsistency being shown by the government on this issue. On the one hand the Attorney-General spoke in his presentation speech about the efficiencies that this tribunal will deliver. But on the other hand we are being told that more funding is needed and that the government is looking at a new way of taxing people to cover the costs. I would certainly hope that the savings made from the consolidation of the various tribunal functions would be enough to ensure that taxpayers save money, rather than being made to pay more, but I fear that is in fact what is going to happen as a result of these changes.
I understand that the government is absolutely determined to go ahead with the Unit Titles Amendment Bill, to which this legislation has some degree of relationship. I can only hope that a little more confidence can be provided to those concerned about how the funding of this activity will occur. It is a matter of the old cliche that we hear from the government that “we’re here to help you”. A lot of people are saying, “We don’t need your help, and we sure as anything don’t want to be paying for your help, but we are being told that this will happen.” What is concerning me is that, with a little over a week of sittings left, we still do not know the answer to that question and yet we are going to be asked to vote on the legislation.
There is a tendency to turn this legislature into a rubber stamp. I think that is a very unfortunate development. It is a particular issue when you have a unicameral legislature. It is of particular concern when you have committee memberships structured as they are in this place, in the main, and the unanswered questions that arise from some of these measures trouble me.
Mr Seselja has pointed to certain amendments. I will be interested to hear the explanation as to why they came in at the eleventh hour. It simply is not good enough. They have had four years to address these issues, and then stuff is being chucked onto the table here with a few sitting days left, and members of this place, the elected representatives, are expected to do their duty and examine legislation, which we all try