Page 320 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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I note Mr Corbell has already spoken today about the release of a report prepared by the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis and tabled by the Speaker this week in the Assembly. That report on the Latimer House principles and the ACT Legislative Assembly supports the government’s decision as outlined in this bill to limit appeals on major infrastructure projects like light rail, so it is worth reflecting on that. I know Mr Corbell has. This group is well respected and I am fairly sure they interviewed quite a few members of the Assembly in putting their report together.

The report states:

The approach to seek legislative approval through the whole of the Assembly to limit rights to judicial review (as in the case of Light Rail) seems a satisfactory and democratic safeguard to the exercise of such limitations in the ACT’s Westminster system of government and an appropriate way to avoid additional costs being imposed on ACT taxpayers.

The report also notes:

In some matters the right of appeal can be seen as a highly over-rated commodity and itself a cause of concern to the citizenry.

Finally, the report goes on to state:

The Government has recently sought to limit appeal rights through legislation in regard to plans for a light rail system in northern Canberra and Gungahlin in an attempt to reduce the additional cost to the project of being subjected to delay and appeal by narrow vested interests. Its justification for this action has been that the project is part of an electoral mandate. It seems that the unfettered rights of narrow vested interests to seek to thwart broader interests of the citizens of the ACT needs reflection and review if the very expensive and most often fruitless processes are to be avoided.

I think these are thoughtful comments made by people who study governance and are considered expert. They consult with other academics and they are very much operating in this space. I think the observations they make are quite fascinating and reflect the thought that has gone into this legislation and the balancing of interests that is sought to be made. I certainly understand that such appeals held up the light rail project on the Gold Coast, and that is the sort of issue we are trying to avoid here.

I conclude by making the following remarks. This bill is a very different piece of legislation to the planning and development project facilitation bill we examined earlier last year. Since then, the project-specific legislation for the Symonston secure mental health facility was passed last June, and I do not believe there have been any substantial concerns about how that has progressed. In a similar vein, this bill paves the way for a clear rollout of light rail specific infrastructure. Although the community is often naturally fearful of new large-scale projects, I think this legislation is a fair and open way to progress light rail.

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