GREENS MOTION: Disallowance of Open Space Fund Regulations - #6

Today Mark moved, for a sixth time, to disallow the Regulations that allow the Government to pilfer money from the Open Space Fund.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move:

That the general regulations under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 concerning the Planning and Development Fund (No. 4), made on 18 February 2021 and laid on the table of this council on 2 March 2021, be disallowed.

An honourable member yesterday urged me to make the same short speech I made last time, which consisted of the words, 'Members, you know what this is, and you know what to do.' But I will say a tiny bit more than that, because there is something else I want to put on the record.

I have almost run out of fingers—in fact, on one hand I have run out of fingers—to count the number of times we have disallowed these regulations. These are the regulations that allow the government to pilfer from the open space fund for the purposes of administration. Every other time we have voted on this, every member of this chamber, other than the government members, has voted to disallow these regs, and I fully expect that there will be the same result again in two weeks' time when we vote on this motion.

I want to point something out to members. The regulations have been almost identical each time they have been introduced, but sometimes there are a few little changes, and I just want to bring people up to date with what the regulations currently allow, the regulations I am seeking to disallow. It basically says that the 'Planning and Development Fund may be applied for the following purposes', and there is a very short list.

The first item on the list is what we all expect the money to be spent on: public works, public purposes. That is the origin of the open space fund—that it is money paid by developers in lieu of providing open space so that local councils and the state government can provide those facilities on behalf of the community. But the bit that members of this chamber have objected to consistently is the following: the establishment of a system that enables people who use or interact with the planning system to access planning information and to undertake processes and transactions by digital means. That is the planning portal.

The planning portal, in theory, is a wonderful tool, but in practice it is entirely a tool for developers and councils. It is not a tool for the public. My evidence for that assertion is pretty simple. The planning portal has a public register of development applications. When you look at that public register, you will find that it only includes subdivisions and some government works—maybe a school is building a new verandah—a very limited number.

I did a brief survey of one council. I just picked Mitcham council randomly, and I went on to the state government's planning portal. I looked at their register of development applications over the last two months and there were 12, apparently—12 developments in the whole of the City of Mitcham for the months of January and February. Nine of these were subdivisions and three were public works.

If I go to the City of Mitcham's own website, where they maintain their own register of applications, I find that there were in fact 270 applications lodged in the City of Mitcham in January and February, and that includes all the things that we know are being applied for on a daily basis. They are things like carports, swimming pools, rumpus rooms, demolitions and significant tree removals—all of these you cannot get from the government's planning portal.

Some people might say, 'Well, therefore, you should support these regulations because it allows money to be taken from the open space fund to help provide this information.' I do not trust that the government would do that. When I asked the planning department some time ago why they were not complying with the act that this parliament passed, their answer was less than satisfactory. I have mentioned this before in this chamber but I will just repeat it again: this parliament decided that the planning department should provide a facility for members of the public to be directly notified about matters that concern them in relation to planning.

What that means is a system of direct notification of: is some land being rezoned in my neighbourhood? Have development applications been lodged in my neighbourhood? It is not rocket science. Basically, you sign up and say, 'Please let me know when any of these things happen in my area.' It is technology that has been around for 30 years.

We put it in the bill. It was my amendment. The parliament agreed, 'Yes, let's put that in the bill,' but of course it had some caveats around it and it was subject to the government deciding that it was appropriate and they had the money and whatever. So when I put to the government, 'Why aren't you doing what the parliament asked you to do?' the response that came back was, 'No, we don't think we will. The best we can do is to let you sign up for a newsletter.' Great, you can sign up for a monthly newsletter—terrific!

The other thing is you can use the existing search function on the planning portal. As I have said, I used the existing search function and I found out that fewer than 5 per cent of applications are on it, which means that 95 per cent are a mystery unless you happen to know that you can actually go through the council's website rather than this central planning portal that was supposed to be the bells and whistles of the new planning system.

I just thought I would put that extra information on the agenda, and I fully expect that honourable members know what this is and they know what to do when we resume next Wednesday.