Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Debates and Questions
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8313 to empower the government to do things differently, be agile and respond in this time of crisis, but that does not come at the cost of transparency, openness or accountability. From this government we are starting to see a true erosion of the fundamental principles that underpin our democracy. The fact there is no Question Time today is an example of that. You cannot tell me that we could not find one hour today, reconvene parliament tomorrow or start an hour earlier today. You cannot tell me there is not one hour today to fit in a very important part of open and transparent democracy. It is important for members who are elected across the Territory, including your own government members, to ask questions of the government. It might be in relation to COVID-19 response or a completely different issue, such as things affecting constituents acutely in particular electorates. Whatever it might be, that process is very important. The fact the government has chosen to shut it down and do away with it in its entirety, then not even allow debate to take place on that, is truly shocking. It is telling of where this governments mind is at. It shows that they are bullishly pushing ahead and that the power has gone to their heads. That is a very dangerous place for a government and a democracy. This legislation is an enabling style of legislation, which gives the minister, in this case the Attorney-General, the ability to issue modification notices under the Business Tenancies (Fair Dealings) Act 2003 and the Residential Tenancies Act 1999. With regard to the Residential Tenancies Act the minister will be able to make sweeping changes to the way in which tenancy agreements are dealt with by way of modification notice. This includes, but is not limited to, suspending or modifying the act and regulations, making provisions to regulate agreements and occupancy requirements as well as changing the time frames in which termination of a lease or possession may be sought or dealt with by the NTCAT. We do not have any detail on how this will operate or what will be included in the modification notices because they are not included in the actual bill. Once again, we have a government coming to parliament with very little consultation and little time for opposition and crossbenchers to analyse this legislation. We are then being told by the government, Dont worry, just trust us. Weve got this. There is a huge problem with that, and I will be surprised if members on this side of the Chamber do not have a huge problem with it. Of course, we recognise from a practical perspective that some things go in legislation and some things go in regulation. That is perfectly fine. But this continued attitude of, trust us, shell be right, is not going to wash. It is not okay. The government could have brought these notices into parliament, tabled them and done any number of other things to clearly indicate its intentions. Being told in a briefing is one thing; what happens in reality is another. Again, it reinforces this idea that we are meant to come to this parliament and accept what the government is saying, accept its terms and conditions and the way in which it wants to go about it. We are meant to just sit here, nod our heads and say, Oh, yes, that is wonderful, you guys are doing a great job. High five! That is not our job. I am not sure what the government thinks its job isor what our job isbut it is very important that the government understands it is here to be held to account. It has been given the task of governing the Northern Territory for all Territorians. That requires a level of scrutiny which very clearly does not bode well with them. They are very happy to continue this, trust us, shell be right mentality, by shutting down everything at every opportunity they can control to truncate, squash and obfuscate debate, transparency and scrutiny. I have not even begun to speak about budget issues. These modification notices are essentially enabling legislation here and then, trust us, shell be right, from the government when it comes to the detail. Unfortunately, because of the governments behaviour, that continued erosion of trust through its actions means that coming in here and telling us to just, trust us, shell be right, is not okay. It will not cut it and it is not acceptable. We know they will have to be tabled and gazetted, but the required parliamentary scrutiny is not done. A lot of questions will come on how these notices will operate. In the briefing provided we were told that the likely modification notices contemplated by the Residential Tenancies Act will include a direction that the time period for seeking an order of possession against a tenant during the declared COVID-19 emergency will be no less than 120 days, or four months. It was added that, even if an order of possession was granted, the modification notice might include provisions under which a possession order would need to be suspended.
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