Territory Stories

Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020



Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020

Other title

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

Publisher name

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8319 Slash power, water and sewerage bills by 50 per cent for businesses for six months (for regulated utility tariffs). That is an issue we will debate today. This support will be effective for six months from April 1, and businesses can apply from May 1. The Government will also help Territory businesses who need relief on the cost of their lease, by offering extra support to commercial landlords so they in turn do the right thing by their tenants. This support comes with strings attached: When commercial tenants demonstrate economic hardship and request rent relief, landlords will be expected to negotiate relief in line with the Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies, agreed to by National Cabinet. I do not know what that code of conduct is. It continues: If they do this they will also be eligible to receive payroll tax and utilities bills relief. In addition, we expect them to be able to benefit from rates relief provided by local councils. That is not in the governments hand, of course. Further: The Government will also waive the property activation levy for relevant landlords whose property becomes vacant due to the coronavirus crisis. I notice much fencing material around vacant blocks. I am not sure that has been done because they are trying to hide the block or to avoid the property activation levy. The Chief Minister also said: However, if commercial landlords do not negotiate in good with faith their tenants, landlords will not be eligible for this relief, or any of the economic support packages recently announced by the Government. What is concerning is that this legislationfor reasons I should state at the beginningin the briefing it says that the bills deal with commercial and residential tenancies under the Commonwealth Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978. It stated that we cannot acquire property except on just terms. This is the situation for the Commonwealth, the ACT and the NT. It limits our ability to freeze rent and so on. We cannot take the landlords rights away and give it to the tenant as this is not just acquisition. To avoid that issue, the only thing we can do to encourage landlords to come to an agreement with a tenant is for the government to give certain relief to businesses. That was not answered well in the briefing. It was a good briefing but not everything was covered in that short period of time. There is nothing that says a landlord has to do anything. The landlord can get some assistance from the government, including abolishing payroll tax as well as power, water and sewerage bills being decreased by 50%, if it can demonstrate substantial hardship. That has nothing to do with the issue of rental payments. If there is a landlord who said, No, I am happy as I am, they can still get those benefits. If they say, I am struggling with my payments. I am not very interested in the tenants payments. I am interested to hear what the minister has to say about people being forced into the situation where they must negotiate, or is it only done because, If you do it, we will waive things in front of you that are of advantage to you and we encourage you to do it? I do not know whether there is anything in this legislation that says parties must get together. That area needs looking at. In the new clause 5, which is section 11B, to do with the ministers power in an emergency periodthe minister has fairly broad powers. Under section 11B(2), it says: The Minister may, by Gazette notice (a modification notice), do any or all of the following: (a) suspend or modify all or part of this Act and regulations made under it