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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 8316 There is one material difference in 11B which limits the ability of the minister to require a landlord to engage in negotiations with a tenant for 30 days before issuing a notice to quit. Perhaps the Attorney-General can explain how that compares to the 120-day moratorium that has been flagged in the residential tenancies space and why that difference exists. It would be good for the Attorney-General to expand on what can be expected in a modification notice relating to commercial tenancies, because we have not seen that as we have not seen it with residential tenancies. Will any such notice include provisions on lowering rent, extending the time period in which a warrant of possession can be obtained, or the ability for the Local Court to terminate a tenancy and substitute a new agreement? We are confident that owners of commercial properties would appreciate some guidance on what this notice will include and what time frame those completion notices will be. It is fair that people understand what the rules of the game are. You cannot change the rules of the game without any consultation and then make it vague and uncertain, creating more angst in our community than is already there. We have seen that recently with the tradies scheme. The decision to shut it down overnight without any notice was one thing, but to change the rules of the game at the same time without any consultation had a terrible impact on our tradies. They quoted for work to be completed within three months of approval and now the Chief Minister has said that approvals will be dragged out over a six month period for work to be completed sometime after that. This has caused huge problems with workload, workflow, quoting of materials and material costs. It had the complete opposite effect on the scheme than was originally intended. It had that impact because this government does not understand business. It does not bother consulting or listening to anyone about their concerns or testing an idea with someone to get some feedback. If the government had listened, anyone would have told them that you cannot unilaterally change the rules of the game so far down the track. But it did, which is why this government has form. There are a number of examples of the government having form on this issue, which is why it is so disconcerting that we are being told, trust us, shell be right. Why these notices could not have been tabled in conjunction with the billor provided something a little more concreteis appalling. It smacks of arrogance. It is another example of this government being blindly happy to go ahead and do what it wants with very little care for what anyone else has to say about those issues. In the real world it will have a profound impact on people. If we leave here today with uncertainty, we are creating additional hardship for all the people this legislation will impact. It will be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people impacted. Surprisingly, like the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, some of the changes to the Business Tenancies (Fair Dealings) Act 2003 will outlive the COVID-19 crisis. Clause 7 adds an alternative dispute resolution process for the termination of commercial leases during the health crisis and after it has ceased. Under that clause, before the Local Court may entertain an application for a warrant of possession, the matter must be referred to NTCAT for mediation or conciliation. If successful and settlement is reached, that will be the end of the matter and the application for a warrant of possession will be withdrawn. If unsuccessful, the matter will be returned to the Local Court. Whilst this seems all very reasonable and often takes place informally or through the courts already, it has the potential to add delays and costs for commercial property owners in the future. Of course, this gets passed onto their tenant, then ultimately the consumerthe Territorian. Often a property owner will have extensive discussions with a tenant before applying to the Local Court for a warrant of possession. It is ultimately a breakdown of those discussions which leads the parties to court. Mandating mediation or conciliation where such discussion exists could be unproductive and duplicate a process that has already happened and would be unnecessary. Then again we do not know, because we have not had the opportunity to test this; we do not know where it has come from. Has this come from a stakeholder saying that they desperately need an alternative dispute resolution process? Remember, this is not just for COVID-19, it is forever going forward, not part of the emergency period. The Attorney-General needs to explain where this came from. Why is it required? Why are we doing it now? Are there exemptions? Can people get waivers if they have exhausted their own mediation avenues? In other jurisdictions they allow the parties to submit a joint affidavit or declaration stating that they have already sought to mediate the dispute but have been unable to reach an agreement, thus releasing them from a requirement to have an additional process at cost, time, stress and expense for no outcome. Has a waiver provision been considered and, if so, why was it deemed unnecessary by the government?