GREENS MOTION: Disallowance of Planning Regulations

Today Mark moved a motion on behalf of the Greens to disallow planning regulations, in particular the regulation that allows use of the Planning and Development Fund for the purpose of administration. The motion is identical to the one which passed the Legislative Council in July, following which, identical regulations were re-introduced the following day. 


MOTION:

That the General Miscellaneous No. 2 Regulations under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, made on 23 July 2020 and laid on the table of this council on 8 September 2020, be disallowed.


This is an identical motion to one that passed the Legislative Council in the last sitting week in July before the winter break. The motion is to disallow planning regulations and, in particular, the regulation that allows the raiding of the open space fund, otherwise known as the Planning and Development Fund, for the purpose of general administration.

The true purpose of the fund is to provide community facilities such as public parks, gardens, footpaths and cycle paths. It is not for general administration of the planning system. As I explained last time, the fund is primarily comprised of cash contributions from developers in lieu of providing physical land for public open space. The money goes into a pool and is allocated to appropriate projects that help build our common public spaces that benefit the whole community.

I pointed out last time that every stakeholder group has come out in opposition to this cynical move in these regulations. We had the Urban Development Institute of Australia, representing property developers, come out against it. We had the Local Government Association, representing local councils, opposing these regulations, and then we had a huge range of community groups, representing a range of areas, residents and ratepayers. So we had what we call in the trade a 'bingo'—nobody in favour, everybody against.

Of course, as members know, a common tactic of the government, when one of the regulations is disallowed, is to immediately reintroduce it. So the regulations that this chamber disallowed on 22 July were re-gazetted the following day, less than 24 hours later. I think this is a contemptuous way to treat the parliament. It is a tactic that should be outlawed. We should have a system that prevents a government from reintroducing the same regulations within a certain period of time—say, six months—unless the disallowing house agrees.

There have been many attempts by opposition parties over the decades to bring about this law reform. However, their enthusiasm for this reform miraculously evaporates once they get into government. When we last disallowed these regulations, I said in parliament:

I fully expect that tomorrow's Government Gazette will contain these regulations again, but my plea to the minister is: when the minister introduces these regulations again, leave out regulation 25. Leave out the one that changes how the open space fund can be spent.

That did not happen and identical regulations were introduced the following day. A week later, the planning minister resigned and was replaced by a new planning minister, Deputy Premier the Hon. Vickie Chapman. So this is a great opportunity for the government to reset its priorities and its relationships with all of the stakeholders who are against what the government is doing.

I understand the new minister has been defending the regulations, no doubt on the advice of her department; however, I want to give her a chance to reconsider. The response that she has been providing to community groups has not allayed any concerns so far. In relation to spending the fund on the administration of planning reforms, and not just on community works, the new minister said much the same as the previous minister. She said:

Under the former government, funding for the reforms has always included a contribution from this fund.

I do not know whether that is right or wrong, but if it is the case then there is no need to change the regulations because the new government could just continue to do what the previous government did under the previous rules. The current government has not suggested the previous government broke the law, so their argument is very thin. Regardless, the community, the development industry and local councils all know what the fund is supposed to be used for, which is why we have opposed these regulations.

The last time we disallowed these regulations I took the rather unusual step of seeking the indulgence of the council to vote on the motion on the same day that it was introduced. I thank the council for that indulgence, which was supported, because the motion had such wide community support and we also wanted to get it sorted before the winter break. I think there was a genuine fear that the fund would be drained to satisfy the government's administrative budget problems in the planning department if we did not make our views known clearly and urgently.

I have decided not to proceed down that path today, even though I know we have the numbers because, as I said, we have a new minister and I want to give her the opportunity to fix this properly rather than us seeing identical regulations in the Government Gazette again tomorrow, which we would be again moving disallowance of in two weeks' time. So I will not be calling for a vote today, but when we come back in two weeks I will again invite the Legislative Council to support the position taken by all stakeholders to again disallow these regulations if the government has not moved in the meantime. I commend the motion to the council.