Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 26 August 2008) . . Page.. 3700 ..
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (10.28), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate. I would be the second youngest member of this Assembly, and I acknowledge I have not been here in the capacity as a member for that long; in fact, I would be the shortest serving member of this place. However, I have observed ACT politics right back to the very first Assembly, and I have worked in and around this place since its inception going back to the early 90s. My observation is that when we get these sorts of arguments and people are opposed to something, they generally go down two tracks: column A is around their concerns about process, and column B is normally when they might actually have an intellectual position and have undertaken some rigorous thought about the piece of legislation.
What we have witnessed from contributions in this debate is a bit of a variance. Mr Smyth indicated that some people do not understand the legislation. Some of those people include some of his colleagues, and that was quite evident from the contributions that they made, most particularly Mrs Burke, who seemed to be reading a speech that was drafted some months ago in relation to an exposure draft rather than the actual piece of legislation that we are debating this evening. A lot of questions have been raised, and I will come to those in detail in my response.
The bill is the result of an extensive process of consultation that goes back more than two years. I do note that nearly every speaker in the debate has agreed that there is a need for reform, and they have all agreed, to varying degrees, that there are many, many good provisions in this legislation. I have said that in the democratic process you are not going to get agreement on everything and that it is very healthy that we do have this opportunity to debate the various levels of detail of this legislation. But, fundamentally, the passage of this bill will ensure that those who live in units, town houses and apartments will have access to faster, less legalistic and less expensive dispute resolution. Why is this important? It is because, under the current act, there is literally no mechanism for the resolution of disputes, except in two or three small owner plans under section 126.
I am indebted to John Kilcullen, who has experienced the problems with the existing legislation and who wrote to me earlier this morning indicating his experiences, most particularly with the Magistrates Court and an interpretation in a 2006 case by Magistrate John Burns that effectively means that, if an owner opposes something that is objectively in that owner’s interest, then the court can compel that owner to submit. Under no other circumstances can the court issue a deadlock order. The existing Unit Titles Act, in some cases where a unanimous or unopposed resolution is required, gives each individual a power of veto for which no reasons need to be given.
On Magistrate Burn’s interpretation of section 125, there exists no machinery, no mediation process and no possibility of court intervention for resolving disputes where there is any conflict of interest between owners. Mr Kilcullen goes on to contend that the proposed revisions to the Unit Titles Act remove most requirements for unanimous or unopposed resolutions and provide a means of resolving disputes. There is an individual who has experienced the current legislation. He has