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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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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8308 This virus has no cure and no vaccine. It has claimed many lives around the world. The Chief Minister has been representing the Northern Territory at National Cabinet making tough decisions to save lives and to try to ease the impact, but the impact is huge. This health crisis has caused an economic crisis. National Cabinet, a meeting of First Ministers from all Australian jurisdictions, has determined that action will be taken by jurisdictions to help manage this situation. The bill has been developed with the following principles in mind: Parties are expected to keep meeting their tenancy obligations where possible, including by making best efforts to access government support and mortgage relief and transition businesses to alternative working arrangements where possible. Where parties are struggling they should at first attempt to negotiate to share the losses, with landlords strongly encouraged to reduce or defer rental obligations to assist tenants to get through the COVID-19 period without an unreasonable debt given the tenant's capacity to repay. Where parties cannot agree, dispute resolution mechanisms take into account the COVID-19 situation, including: o the public interest in ensuring that businesses can hibernate through the COVID-19 period o the public interest in preventing homelessness and overcrowding, particularly at this time, given the additional complexities involved in managing these issues and the burden this would place on the public health system during a pandemic. Some changes will need to be made to processes involved in managing tenancies, such as inspections and maintenance, to facilitate physical distancing and safety considerations. It is appropriate to increase deterrents in relation to opportunistic, intimidating or dishonest behaviour that takes advantage of others as a result of the current need to renegotiate tenancy arrangements. It is important to note at the outset that the Northern Territory has limitations in exactly meeting some of the principles set by National Cabinet due to the Self-Government Act. We are implementing the principles in the best way possible, within our legal landscape. The Self-Government Act contains a provision regarding acquiring property not on just terms, which has shaped the development of this legislation. The acquisition of property provision does not allow us to impose measures such as a moratorium on evictions, rent waivers and rent freezes. We are limited to legislate within the confines of this legislation. This bill before the House does that. The Territory, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing extreme impacts from the urgent need to minimise the health risks posed by COVID-19. We have seen necessary but significant interruptions to our daily lives, including restrictions on movement and social interactions to stop the spread of COVID-19. These necessary health restrictions have extended to how we go about our daily business with all the negative, but unavoidable, economic and financial impacts on individuals, businesses and the Territory economy. The Territory and Commonwealth Governments readily acknowledge these negative but ultimately necessary impacts. We are doing our all to minimise the impacts by supporting businesses during these difficult and unprecedented times with measures such as the Business Hardship Package, which is specifically relevant for commercial landlords. This Territory Labor government will deliver $180m in additional support to Territory businesses as part of our Jobs Rescue and Recovery plan. We are reducing payroll tax and utilities bills, providing incentives for commercial landlords to reduce rents, working with councils to reduce rates and working to protect Territory businesses and Territory jobs during this Coronavirus crisis. This legislation creates the power to modify tenancy legislation for commercial and residential tenancies. It is important to note that the power provided in the bill to modify parts of both tenancies legislation is limited to the COVID-19 emergency period. In relation to commercial tenancies, the bill does not lock in particular provisions of the code of conduct, but it enables a notice to be issued that will require commercial tenants and landlords to engage in good-faith