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Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020



Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




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Debates and Questions

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8314 We have legislation, which is one thing. But the practical reality of what that will look like on the ground is entirely guesswork. Either the government has not done this workin which case what have you been doing? You have known about this for weeks. You either do not know what it will do, are deliberately being vague about it or have intentions to do whatever it is that you like. None of which are acceptable to bring to a parliament. There needs to be greater certainty. At a time when everything is uncertain, the one thing you can do is create certainty on new measures, your messaging and what is expected of people. If you are making new rules you should be explicit in what the new rules of the game are. This does very little to go anywhere near creating certainty about what you are proposing. Looking at what we were told, in effect it is a moratorium on evictions of a four-month period. But again, we do not know and there is great latitude for scope change without parliamentary scrutiny. We know there needs to be clear space for landlords and tenants to reach alternative arrangements, which would relieve the necessity for government or NTCAT intervention. That is fine. The point of this is to create an environment where the landlord and the tenant can come together and negotiate these extraordinary situations we find ourselves in to come to a different arrangement during this period. It is designed to facilitate and put structure and rigour around it to ensure everyones rights are being catered for and that there is a balance and the requisite protections. Ultimately, this is about protection. The Attorney-General stood up and said, This is not about free rents and free rides and whatever else she was espousing. That is all correct. It is also about protecting vulnerable people who have come into an unimaginable situation that they would probably never, in a million years, have foreseen would be impacting on their lives and families. The government has to do a little more. Given that it is not in the legislation, they have to do more to explain why they landed at 120 days, how that was informed, where it came from, which stakeholders felt that was most appropriate and how it will best support the vulnerable on both sides. Remember that both parties in this are vulnerable to lessening degrees, depending on the situation. Of course, by pushing things to NTCAT, we have a situation where NTCAT is not churning through the volume of cases they ordinarily would. There is a practical impediment as much as anything else. Going back to what I started with, which was about that unintended consequence, it is all very noble to intend something but the last thing you want is for that not to deliver the outcome and make it worse. That is a terrible outcome. If we are pushing people into a system that cannot function as efficiently as it ordinarily woulddo not forget that NTCAT was designed to be efficient, its whole purpose is to create efficiency through the system. If, for reasons under COVID-19, it cannot operate and function how it ordinarily would, are we pushing people into a pipeline that creates further uncertainty because they cannot have the access they ordinarily would? These are all questions that I hope the Attorney-General will deal with in her summation or consideration in detail. What we are doing here today is trying to eliminate uncertainty. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers. That is because of the way you handled this. It need not have been handled this way, but you have chosen to go on this path of, Leave it to us, we will get it sorted. Do not worry about the detail, that is a matter for us. It is not a matter for you; it is a matter for Territorians. Ultimately this impacts them and it is our job to ensure we have applied the requisite scrutiny and asked the requisite questions, so that today we walk out of here with the very best product for Territorians. It is not about your legislation, our legislation or someone making the best argument; it is about coming up with the best product for all Territorians. That is our job today. For lease contracts that are entered into after this billif this bill is passedthe modification notices are issued by the minister. Then the situation is more uncertain than the situation I described earlier. The government has indicated that for new agreementspeople going into new rental agreements from after this bill is passedmodification notices will allow NTCAT to essentially rewrite rental agreements in favour of a tenant and that debt may be forgiven. So, that transferral of powers from the partiesit would ordinarily be a negotiation between the partieswill be facilitated to defer to the NTCAT. To make that more uncertain, new section 157C(10) states that a modification notice may allow NTCAT to create a new fixed-term tenancy which would then allow NTCAT to effectively rewrite the original lease with