The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 11:06 :55 ): I rise on behalf of the opposition to speak to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill 2015. As members would know, this was to be the last sitting week of parliament. The bill came from the House of Assembly only on Thursday of the last sitting week and, as a gesture of goodwill, when the Leader of the Government, the Hon. Gail Gago, asked us to sit at 11am today to see whether we could complete the bill, we said there would be no possibility of completing the debate on the bill.
Nonetheless, when she spoke to me and the Hon. Mark Parnell from the Greens we said, 'Well, if you want to sit at 11am on this particular day, we're happy to do so,' and we would make our second reading speeches this morning on this bill, but it would not be able to be passed this week. Subsequently, the government has now made the decision that we will be sitting the optional week, so I suspect that we will have a very lengthy committee stage of the bill next week, and I am not sure if we will be able to complete it.
As members would know, and you would know, sir, normal convention is that when a bill arrives in the Legislative Council, it sits on the Notice Paper for a whole week and it is then debated the following week. This allows time for some consultation and further interaction because, of course, unlike the House of Assembly, we have some other parties represented here, and in a less than thoughtful approach from the House of Assembly they do not consider the views of the Greens, Family First, Disabilities and, of course, John Darley as well.
Of course, this is an opportunity for those parties to participate in the debate and while we do not have 47 members as they do in the House of Assembly all wishing to speak, it will be somewhat of a lengthy debate, given that this bill is probably the most comprehensive overhaul of planning we have seen in the lifetime of many people, especially since the early 1990s when the Development Act was first proclaimed.
So, we are looking at the most significant piece of legislation in 30 years, and I think it is somewhat disappointing that the planning minister and the Deputy Premier, the Hon. John Rau and the Premier are desperate to get this through before Christmas, yet we are told that it will be some two to three years before all of the regulations and all the policies are drafted for this bill to come into operation.
It seems intriguing that we would have the two most senior members of the government desperate to get it through. They have in fact been lobbying the opposition leader, Steven Marshall, and he was the one who said, 'If you want any prospect at all, you'll have to sit the optional week.' I am always a bit suspicious when people are desperate to get bills through parliament.
I note today the arrival of the Hon. Peter Malinauskas to this chamber. I take this opportunity to welcome him and wish him well in his career here, but it is interesting that the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, when speaking to his election, made comment to the effect of, 'Enjoy Peter Malinauskas while you have him.' I suspect we will not have him for many years at all and that he will be on a journey to another place.
The Premier and the Deputy Premier's passion to have this pass leads me to think that there is another agenda and that we will see a reshuffle in the government prior to the parliament resuming next year, maybe as early as somewhere between now and Christmas or maybe after Christmas. I suspect this is driven, as much as anything, by Deputy Premier Rau wanting to have this bill on his mantelpiece as something he achieved, rather than letting it go to whoever the next planning minister will be—who, Labor sources tell me, is likely to be the Hon. Stephen Mullighan—so it is interesting that we are here today to debating this bill.
As I said, it the most significant piece of legislation for some 30 years. The government has moved, I think, 85 amendments to its own bill in the House of Assembly and I think another 45 or more have been tabled since. Industry only got to see those amendments late last week and our shadow minister Steven Griffiths, who has done a fantastic job in the House of Assembly, saw them late last Thursday, at 5:30 in the afternoon.
There are another 45 amendments to the bill I believe, and the Hon. Mark Parnell can speak for himself but I think he only received those amendments late yesterday, and I am not sure whether Family First, Dignity for Disability or the Hon. John Darley have seen them. They are all shaking their heads. Again it shows a bit of the contempt in which the government holds the Legislative Council that they are not prepared to provide those amendments in a timely fashion to all members of this chamber, given that they have this desire to get the bill through this year.
The bill is, I suspect, the most important one in some 30 years from a planning perspective, and I think this is perhaps an appropriate time for me to indulge myself with a little bit of history around the planning scheme and what has transpired in South Australia in the last few years.
The South Australian public has for a long time been generally discontented with the current planning system. There is perception—and, arguably, evidence to support it—that the state Labor government is too close to developers and lobbyists. Members would know that for a period of time I was the shadow minister for planning. Throughout that time, there were a number of what I and many others considered to be suspect dealings.
It has generally created a bad look in the development industry and the government. People now have a perception that votes, influence, development approvals and positions can be bought. As long as that perception persists, there will not be confidence in our system. A lack of integrity and accountability in our planning system is evident at all levels, from our overarching planning strategy to individual rezonings and development applications.
It has been difficult to prove corruption, particularly throughout my time as shadow minister when we did not actually have an ICAC, but there are several pertinent examples that demonstrate how the current system was, and is, conducive to negative public perception. Furthermore, the current system, which is at the whim of political interest, does not encourage good long-term planning.
From late 2010 to early 2011, I personally and on behalf of the opposition was undertaking a considerable amount of policy work centred on taking the politics out of planning. In August 2011—which, incidentally, is a few months after the current minister took on his role—I released a discussion paper which investigated moving to a more independent planning commission model.
I had met with the planning commissioner in Western Australia, Mr Gary Prattley, who had said to me that he had worked in, I think, six or seven jurisdictions—because he may have worked in New Zealand—and for some 26 or 27 different ministers in his career, and he thought the Western Australian model was the best. Incidentally, I did release a discussion paper and it got some quite significant coverage in The Advertiser. I will just read an opinion piece, not written by me but by The Advertiser. It states:
The urban planning process in South Australia has become compromised by a commonly ‑held belief that there is favouritism shown towards developers over the interests of communities on the suburban fringes. This view is not aided by the cosy and financially lucrative relationship between developers and the Labor Party, along with inexplicable decisions such as massive unplanned expansion of the M t Barker area despite the overwhelming rejection by local residents.
Proposals put forward by the Liberal Party to correct the perceived imbalance deserves serious consideration , especially the creation of a truly independent planning commission mirrored on the bod y created in Western Australia.
Such an authority would remove from the process many of the individual wants of the M inister , while incorporating representatives from government agencies to ensure better co - ordinated planning.
Under the proposed system the M inister would be allowed to oppose the wishes of the commission , but this would have to be done publicly , not behind closed doors.
There is a view in the community that it is too easy for developers to win the ear of the M inister. The fact there seems to be little justification for the enormous scope of some developments which have been imposed by communities len ds some weight to this argument.
The proposed development at M t Barker was an obvious example, drafted as it was with almost no integration with the existing community and with little regard to the impact on local infrastructure.
It may come as a surprise to some that t he major development pro posals come with ' facilitation fees ' factored into the cost; expense accounts used to wine and dine those in public office who are in a position to influence the outcome of projects.
Another significant change proposed by the Liberal Party is the status of ' major project ' only to be applied to ventures which have state significance , rather than those which mee t an artificial cost threshold.
The Liberal Party has tapped into considerable disquiet over the impact the development is being allowed to have , particularly in areas such as Aldinga, McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and M t Barker. Entire communities feel they are being dictated to by enormous development interests which have the potential to totally change the character of their areas and quality of their lifestyle.
The S tate G overnment is considering better protection f or the Barossa and McLaren Vale, but given what is happening in the Adelaide Hills it could be accused of closing the gate after the bulldozer had bolted.
That was a commentary written by The Advertiserafter we released that discussion paper. It is interesting to note that the current minister, who was only a few months into his role, was quick to dismiss that paper in a major speech he delivered to the Urban Development Institute at a luncheon. I appreciate that while he could not allow the opposition to be seen to be being on the front foot, some four years on he has presented a rewritten act largely based on the very system that we had been proposing.
At the UDA lunch, minister Rau also attempted to distance himself from planning decisions which had been made. His message was a little confused. He said there would be no more Mount Barkers on his watch, but later saying he supported the Mount Barker development. It is interesting to note that he said 'no more Mount Barkers', but I had an interesting discussion recently around the Seaford Rise development with the member for Mawson, and also on Twitter with Mr Philip White, a renowned wine writer. That, in particular, was a piece of land that was sold to the developers under the Labor government.
It was while the Hon. Leon Bignell, Minister for Tourism, Sport, Recreation, Racing and Agriculture was the local member. It was sold on his watch and it was the Labor Party that allowed that urban encroachment to take place. He will say, 'Of course, but it was rezoned,' or that decisions were made back in the eighties. The rezoning certainly was but even through the deepest, darkest days of the State Bank debacle and the terrible financial mess we found ourselves in, the Liberal government choose not to put that piece of land (a government asset) on the market. That sale had been resisted for decades. It was the Labor government who sold it and it was on the Hon. Leon Bignell's watch.
So, as the local member, it was on the Hon. Leon Bignell's watch, prior to being a minister, that he and his parliamentary colleagues in the Labor Party and the Labor government sold that piece of land. I find it a bit hard to believe that then it was, of course, that we had to have the McLaren Vale and Barossa protection zones because of urban sprawl and urban encroachment, yet it was the Labor Party that was delivering that to the local communities via the party that was represented by their local member.
But I do appreciate—and I digress a little on that particular issue—that from the outset in his ministry that the Hon. John Rau, Deputy Premier, has been working towards a more transparent system. This legislation represents a great deal of work by him and his department. This overhaul has been a long time coming and it is clear from looking at previous planning debacles that the failure of the system is apparent at all levels.
At the highest policy level, we have the 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide as a premier example. The former minister commissioned the Growth Investigation Areas Report to inform the 30-year plan and we all know that, of course, we had a consultant—I think it was Connor Holmes—who was working for both the government and the developers. In this place, I have said a number of times, Connor Holmes disclosed the conflict. They advised the government that they were working for both, but the government did not care; the government said that was not important.
Connor Holmes has been, I think, in some cases, talked of in a poor light, when actually they were very open and transparent. They did say to the government, 'We are working for the developers and owners of the land', but the government was happy to accept it. I might come to some of the Ombudsman's recommendations around that in a moment, because we actually are looking at a complete rewrite of what we call the Development Act—it will be the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill—and so, of course, these are important issues that have been the failings of the previous regime and the previous legislative framework and we need to actually have a close look at them.
Connor Holmes was the author of this report and simultaneously working for the property developers to see if they could redevelop the same land. The document identified broadacre land outside the urban growth boundary, supposedly ripe for development. The opposition argued that to allow proper scrutiny for the 30-year plan, the government needs to identify the alternative parcels of land which have been considered and subsequently rejected.
We saw in the 30-year plan the Mount Barker land and of course, we had Buckland Park. Mount Barker in particular was identified as being perfect for development, but the government never released any details of any other land which had been looked at and which may have been, even in its own eyes, not quite perfect for development. It was never able to offer up any other alternatives for growth, so, of course, it was a very narrow focus; it was all about Mount Barker.
The Growth Investigation Areas Report was not released, and I think the developers and interested parties took court action to make sure that it was kept confidential. It was interesting that the Ombudsman did an investigation into the Growth Investigation Areas Report procurement. I will just read some of the recommendations in his final report in March 2013. There are about a dozen dot points here; I will just quickly read them. Of course, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) was the agency where planning sat at the time. The report states:
PIRSA failed to report its non-compliance in the GIA project procurement process with the State Procurement Board's Acquisition Planning Guideline, in its 2008-2009 Annual Procurement Compliance Report to the Board. This was contrary to the State Procurement Board's Reporting Policy.
Planning SA approached potential consultants and requested, received and shortlisted their 'capability statements' prior to the delegate giving formal approval for a selective tender process to occur. This was contrary to the State Procurement Board's Acquisition Planning Guideline.
Shortlisted consultants were requested to submit a proposal for the GIA project consultancy, prior to the final Acquisition Plan being completed and signed off. This was contrary to the State Procurement Board's Acquisition Planning Guideline.
Consultants who were asked to provide capability statements should have been informed of the basis on which their statements would be evaluated. This would have enabled the consultants to provide a more targeted response, and ensured transparency in the procurement process. I note that this was not a requirement under the Board's Acquisition Planning Guideline at the time; and the Board's recent guidelines have been amended to require the publishing of selection criteria during procurement.
Despite the failings above, there is no evidence to suggest any substantive unfairness to any of the potential consultants in the GIA project procurement process, or that Planning SA officers did not act in good faith.
I think that point there, that when you saw the consultants declare their hand that they were working for both the government and the property developers, I think that is why the Ombudsman found that, 'Despite the failings of the above, there was no evidence to suggest any substantive unfairness in any of the potential consultants in the GIA project procurement process…' He went on to say:
Government agencies must be vigilant about the probity of potential consultants during their procurement processes, in particular in relation to conflict of interest.
In the next point:
The State Procurement Board's policy and guidelines should provide more detailed guidance to assist to address the issue.
The next point is:
Before and during the GIA project procurement process, Connor Holmes were making concerted representations to the Minister about expanding and developing Mount Barker, on behalf of five developers, the Mount Barker Consortium. F urther, Connor Holmes had identified in the procurement process that they had involvement in the Mount Barker area. In my view, [the Ombudsman's] Connor Holmes were therefore conflicted in relation to the proposed GIA project work concerning Mount Barker.
This conflict of interest was not identified by Planning SA…
So, there has been a failure in the procurement system of Planning SA and in any of the procurement documentation, including the acquisition plan or risk management plan. The report continues:
Planning SA should have alerted the Crown Solicitor and sought advice about the probity implications of Connor Holmes' conflict of interest in relation to Mount Barker, at the same time as it requested and received advice about conflict of interest involving a Connor Holmes' representative in respect of the 30 Year Plan procurement.
This may have mitigated any risk that the appointment of Connor Holmes as the GIA project consultants presented, in relation to the Mount Barker aspect of the project.
There are only two to go:
The State Procurement did not conduct a 'probity investigation' of the GIA project procurement process (and nor was it required to), as described in paragraph I (b) of the referral for investigation by the Legislative Council under section 14(1) of the Ombudsman Act…
It would be in the public interest for the government to revisit its views, and consider releasing the GIA project report, in recognition of:
the probity failures in the acquisition planning process of the GIA project procurement
the failure to identify and address [the] conflict of interest in relation to Mount Barker during the procurement process
transparency and accountability concerns expressed at the time by the president of the SA Division of the Planning Institute of Australia on behalf of the membership.
So, you can see this is just an example in recent times where either the system let us down or staff in Planning SA turned a blind eye or just simply did not understand the issue around the conflict of interest, which caused a massive amount of concern with the public during that period of time. I will carry on.
The overarching policy reached through the document went on to dictate major future rezonings, population targets and dispersal—this was the GIA. Labor failed to generally consult on the planning questions, the authenticity of public consultations and any rezonings which have ensued. On the 30-year plan, we all said, 'Let's have a plan.' It is good to have a plan but, in the end, we do not believe it was ever properly consulted on, and in the end I am not sure the community has really grasped it.
At the next tier of planning is rezonings. We have a few historic examples in Mount Barker and Gawler East. The Mount Barker DPA has been the most resonant example of the problems which developer-driven planning policy creates. The DPA was instigated by a consortium, the companies of which at the time had collectively donated, to my recollection, some $2 million to state Labor over the previous 10 years.
The plan to double the population of Mount Barker and the surrounding township to almost 50,000 in 15 years has not been supported by a basic infrastructure plan and, most notably, there was an inadequate traffic plan to support a doubling of the traffic. Of course, we all know the freight task was going to double. The Freight Council says the trucks coming down the freeway are going to double in the next 10 years and probably double again from that. There was a lack of any published information on the basic community facilities that would be included.
Consultation on the DPA at the time was merely a facade of community engagement. I think there were some 1,310 hectares of rezoning factored into the state government's HELSP document which was the housing, employment, lands and something, I think, document. I do not have it written here, but I think it is housing, employment and lands. I think even the Hon. Mark Parnell is not able to help me on that one, but HELSP is the acronym for it. The document was produced prior to the completion of the public consultation, and the majority of the 540 public submissions were pretty much seemingly ignored.
Of course, at this time, I also point out that you have the DPAC (Development Policy Advisory Committee) involved in the consultation process. It listens to the speakers at public hearings and evaluates the submissions against the development plan. I will not let the Hon. Mark Parnell get off scot-free on this. There is a public perception that DPAC's independence means that advice provided to the minister will be divided from any political or developer interests, providing a vital chance for the public to make meaningful representations.
The Hon. Mark Parnell often capitalises on this perception and, obviously, demands that the minister release the advice. What the Hon. Mark Parnell does—and good on him for the way he does it—is to get the community to come along and put in submissions, but really all that DPAC has to do is judge the proposed development against the development plan.
So, often with the submissions that are made by the public and the comments they make, DPAC is not in any position to actually assess that, because it is not within its guidelines to use. So, the Hon. Mark Parnell is a good politician and makes the most of those particular events, but sadly in the end all that happens is that we have a greater level of community frustration, because the community feels like it is not being listened to, but in fact DPAC is not really able to listen to them.
The act states that the minister's obligation to seek from DPAC is subject to his opinion on whether the proposal is accorded with the planning strategy. In other words, the minister arguably does not have to seek any advice at all, especially in the case of Mount Barker, which is aligned to the 30-year plan. That advice is unlikely to be of any major consequence. That was the point I made a few breaths before: it is the way the current system is aligned and works, and people come and give evidence and make submissions on the understanding that they are likely to have an influence on a decision, but in reality they have not been able to because DPAC is judging the proposal against the planning strategy, which is a 30-year plan.
The Gawler East DPA also created significant community impression that the rezoning document was prepared by, I think, the developers Delfin, and that the Gawler region community forum also alleged that Delfin started work on the project six months before the proposed rezoning was publicised.
It was interesting that we did not really have a major infrastructure plan for that part of Gawler, and that was one of the components of the Western Australian system where land was not rezoned unless there was adequate provision of infrastructure or a plan to provide that infrastructure. We saw with Gawler really big concerns. The town was in danger of losing its character and the main street was to be clogged up.
Gawler is a particularly lovely little town—your home town, Mr Acting President—but with all that extra development, while it brings extra economic activity, if it is not managed in a respectful way with adequate infrastructure or planning for infrastructure, you end up with a lot of traffic coming up the main street. That has been a reasonably problematic rezoning.
Further, there has been much community consultation in relation to the traffic implications of the development and no resolution, often leaving the council to provide those solutions, which of course does then put an unreasonable burden on the existing ratepayers when they have to fund some of that extra infrastructure.
In this part of my contribution, looking at the next tier down, development applications, I use major developments as an example. Section 46 of the Development Act lists the criteria for major development status being triggered. The past has shown examples of where the criteria should have been applied but was not, and conversely it was argued that with most it was not applicable but major development status was issued anyway.
An example was the former Penola pulp mill, and then we had the Le Cornu site. I said to the Hon. Paul Holloway, 'For goodness sake, get something happening up there, it's been vacant for 20 years'. So, the opposition at the time said, 'Please try and get something happening, and if you've got to use a major development, do it.' Now another 10 years on it has been vacant for 30 years, and I know that we have a proposal I think with a large hotel—the Sheraton or something—plus a range of developments to go with it.
I am not sure of the actual status of that but, given that it has been 30 years, it would not surprise me if it is another decade before anything actually happens there. These examples seem to demonstrate an issue with subjective interpretation of major development criteria rather than a flaw in the criteria itself. Robert Harding of the HIA summed up section 46:
It provides one of the very few ways in which to break the deadlock of recalcitrant, obstructive planning authorities to any type of development, which has the capacity to be opposed by small sectional interest groups.
It has now become the public perception that developers can pay to overcome these hurdles under the subjective nature of section 46, and the fact that it is an administrative decision facilitates that. I think it was the chief executive of the Makris Corporation, Mr Blunt, who said on radio at one stage that, after some discussion about their donations to the Labor Party, 'That is how the system works in South Australia.' It is a shame that that perception is there, because we do need a robust planning system, we need to have economic growth, expansion and development in our city, yet we should not have people saying, 'Well, that's how the system works.'
I have also noticed that the Buckland Park decision was outside the urban growth boundary. I did speak to Stuart Moseley from Planning, the advisor who first spoke to me; I cannot remember his exact role but he came to see me with a representative from minister Rau's office. Interestingly, I have been informed that Mr Moseley has now taken up a position in Queensland and is no longer here in South Australia—and I am getting a nod from the Hon. Mark Parnell, so he may have heard that as well.
He was the person who came to me and we had an hour and dealt with only about 15 to 20 per cent of the bill, but I have never got back to have that more formal briefing with him. It is interesting that he is one of the major architects and he is going to shoot through to Queensland before the job is done. No disrespect to Mr Moseley, but it is intriguing that he finds Queensland either more lucrative financially or less stressful, because he does not have to deal with this new piece of legislation.
I said to him, 'This new urban growth boundary that you are proposing, could we have something like Buckland Park, something that is proposed outside the urban growth boundary?' He said, 'Oh no, no, David. It will be so far north that no-one will ever want to do it.' I said, 'I beg your pardon?' and he said, 'No, no; it will be way up north somewhere.' I said, 'That still doesn't mean that if a developer chose to, and the government of the day wanted to, they couldn't rezone some land on the other side of the urban growth boundary,' and he agreed that could still happen.
So it is rather bizarre that the government has been proposing this urban growth boundary but its own architect of this new legislation is saying that could still happen, as we saw with Buckland Park where, out of the blue, the land was rezoned. It was suitable under a major development criteria but the development involved a ministerial sign-off on a substantial DPA. That is interesting, and I am not sure what the future of Buckland Park will hold. I think the Hon. Mark Parnell was one of the first to say that it was not connected by way of any real infrastructure, and the rising costs of fuel and transport mean that if you are not careful with a development like that, that is so far out on its own, it may become isolated, and be an isolated community rather than connected to this great city which we all love.
Adelaide is, I think, the fourth most liveable city in the world and maybe, if we get this development and this new bill right ,we might just make it up the ladder and become the number one most liveable city in the world. Certainly, developments and proposals like Buckland Park were off the radar ,and I was astounded when Stuart Moseley said that it could still happen but it was just that they were going to put the line so far north that no-one would ever want to do it. Why have a line if that is what can happen?
In summary, all planning decisions in South Australia ultimately hinge on ministerial consideration and decision. The 30-year plan was a submission to cabinet and any amendments to develop plans, ministerial or otherwise, require ministerial approval. Despite local government's role in assessing local developments, the minister has the power to grant major development status, and normal developments are subject to ministerially approved and sometimes prepared development plans anyway. Therefore, my fundamental argument for adopting a model similar to that of Western Australia was that in order to achieve a transparent system, where planning and development decisions are made with the sole motivation of achieving good economic, environmental and social outcomes, those decisions must be made by people without political motivations.
As Mike Rann's exit from the political scene drew to a close, urban planner Kevin O'Leary wrote an article which perfectly summarised the long-lasting damage to our planning system over that time, and I will paraphrase from some of his article. He said that instead of an overarching vision for Adelaide, Rann's administration opted for a string of showcase developments, and many of those showcase developments, unfortunately, will not meet the wider strategic needs of the city; for example, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, essentially a stand-alone facility. At the same time there were a host of changes taking place to deliver health services and, importantly, they were changes like refocusing on preventive medicine and community health, which meant that it made sense to integrate hospitals more closely to the existing urban fabric.
I was at a function—I think it was at Colliers, they often have a midyear function for their clients—and the Hon. Kevin Foley was guest speaker. He took questions from the group but when he ran out of questions he looked at me and said, 'Ridgway, you're not in my house. You ask me a question.' So, I said, 'Thanks, Deputy Premier and Treasurer. What expert planning advice did you get before deciding to relocate the Royal Adelaide Hospital to the railway yards?' He said, 'None. Mike Rann, John Hill and I just thought it was a good idea, so we did it.'
Maybe it was a little bit relaxed at that stage of the evening, but that astounded me that we would spend it is now $2½ billion, and was at $1.1 million a year for the next 30 years, so it is about $12 billion, on a new facility that I am sure will be, parts of it, very good, but you would think that a government that is going to spend $2½ billion or sign the state up—taxpayers, all of us, all of our families and children and grandchildren—to a debt that is going to take 30 years to pay off would seek some expert planning advice to make sure that is the best use for that piece of land. That caused me some concern, that he was quite proud of the fact that they did not get any advice: they just thought it up themselves.
Mr O'Leary compared the creation of the 30-year plan to similar documents from other worldwide metropolises, and there was no evidence that multiple growth options had been explored or evaluated, as was the case in other parts of the world, and there had not been a community engagement plan which actually attracted positive public interest in a way that the public got involved on a constructive level. The process adopted by this government only attracted public backlash and in turn got the government's back up, which caused them to want to elbow the public out of the process even more.
Mr O'Leary quite accurately pointed out that if the Rann-Foley administration continued, we would have likely seen Mount Barker-style debacles repeated in other parts of Greater Adelaide's regions. Rann's attitude to public engagement was essentially to subject it to a faux consultation process to get to the real business done behind closed doors with the development industry. After all, I think it was the Hon. Kevin Foley's view, and I am quoting him, that, 'Ultimately, you have to be a prick to get anything done in this state.'
It is interesting that, in talking about public consultation, in the Western Australian system, their independent planning commission had a process called Dialogue with the City, which is something that I was considering and we had some discussions about in the opposition party room. My recollection of Dialogue with the City is I think they chose some 1,200 participants: 400 randomly off the electoral roll, 400 who I think they chose that had a particular skillset, and 400 who could actually nominate themselves. In Perth, Channel 7 and The West Australian newspaper followed it quite closely.
My understanding is it was a bit like doing jury duty: if you were on there, you had to be on there. You were educated and explained as to the process it would go through, and they had a map of Greater Perth—I think there is a special term they use in Western Australia, but say it was the Greater Perth region. This group was broken into 120 groups of 10, so there were property developers, government bureaucrats, members from the public—I am not sure whether there were any politicians, but certainly members of political parties—Indigenous groups and environmental groups who were involved in this. It was a very broad cross-section of the community.
They were then told, 'We are going to have growth in Western Australia over the next 20, 30 years. Where should it go?' They were all given a big map of Perth with all of the overlays of land use; land type; and infrastructure for power, water and gas; and little population stickers, if you like. These groups all worked out where they thought the population should grow. The assumption was that there will be population growth. I think to grow any modern economy, with a growing world population and sadly some of the stuff we see in other parts of the world with displaced people and refugees—and Australia has been a very generous place over the last couple hundred years; we have always had our doors open to people who want to make a contribution to our great community and our great society—so I think the premise was there will be population growth.
These groups decided where the population growth should go, and even within the groups you may have had a couple of environmental people who were very opposed to population growth in certain areas and were being mindful of the environment, and you may have also had a developer or two. I am told it was an interesting atmospheric surround, but each group had to come up with a compromise. You could not walk away and say, 'We're not going to do it.' So, each of these 120 groups came up with a map of where they thought population growth should take place, and then all 120 maps were merged into a final map for Perth.
It did cost a couple million dollars, but that is the sort of community engagement I think we should look at in this state, where you actually go to the community and say, 'We are going to have some population growth. Where should it happen? Let's sit down in a responsible sort of way and have a chat about it.'
That is where this process fails with what the government is proposing at the moment. My recollection in WA is that they do it about once every 10 years, and there is a report to parliament on how they are going against that community decision about every five years. That is something that would be worth considering, because it does give the community a very broad say, and I will come to some of the comments of the expert panel around the planning improvements. That was done in little groups, and there were submissions to it, but when you have everybody in the room you have a much better opportunity to get a bit of compromise and dialogue between all of the different groups.
Once that is in place—in the Western Australian model, for example—the Planning Commission has a really broad guideline of what the community expects over the next decade and beyond where they want growth. It then becomes a matter of the provision of infrastructure and making sure there is adequate infrastructure over time to facilitate that growth. So, I really think that is something we should be looking at. Once that decision has been made, you expect the Planning Commission and the government of the day to actually get on and deliver where the community has identified there should be some growth.
As we look at the process in front of us though, it is not the same. As expected, with an overhaul of this magnitude, it is not without a great deal of complication. Firstly, we will be forced to consider, interestingly, these amendments that I described earlier that we have only had for a matter of a couple of days, in a very unreasonable amount of time. I know that the Greens, through the Hon. Mark Parnell, have drafted some drafting instructions, but we have not seen them. I suspect the government are still in negotiation with some of the industry groups: the UDIA, Master Builders, HIA and the Property Council, so I am not sure whether the amendments that were provided to us last week are the same amendments we will see next week, or whether there will be further amendments to the government bill.
It is interesting that we now have almost a panic rush towards the final finishing line when, as I said, it is a 30-year piece of legislation. It almost seems a bit of an arrogant and inconsiderate approach, reminiscent of many of the problems our planning system has faced. I would suggest the problem is as much to do with the culture and the attitude of the government, rather than that it is in times when it is policy and legislation that we are attempting to fix.
It is interesting to note that in last Sunday's Sunday Mail, there was a lift-out with a survey that The Advertiser had done called 'SA SPEAKS'. It is interesting that one of the reforms the minister wants out of all of this legislation is an urban growth boundary. It is also interesting to note that on page 9 of SA SPEAKS, under the subheading of 'Housing mix the perfect solution', it reads:
N EW housing should be built on Adelaide's outski rts and within existing inner suburbs , according to the survey respondents .
Almost two-thirds of the respondents want to see a mix of infill and greenfield development while the remainder w ere split on the merits of housing on the metropolitan fringe or redeveloping the inner suburbs.
Planning M inister John Rau has championed the push for increased infill because of the high , long-term infrastructure costs of a sprawling suburbia.
Mr Rau wants to legislate a boundary around g reater Adelaide which would stop land outside that which was not currently marked for residential being rezoned.
He said there was already more than 20 years' supply of undeveloped land on the su burban fringe zoned for housing and a move towards community preference for higher- density living.
Modelling shows taxpayers have to contribute up to $89 million for infrastructure to service every 1,000 houses built on greenfield s sites , on the urban fringe, almost double the $35 million per infill 1,000 houses. Housing Industry Association South Australia B ranch executive o fficer, Brenton Gardner, said, 'The survey reflected the a ssociation's positio n that a mix of housing styles was important.
'We believe the public need to have choice , they need to have options in terms of housing , ' he said.
I think that is something where the opposition entirely agrees with the survey, that we should have a mix of housing solutions. It is fine to say that we have a 20-year supply of undeveloped land inside the area inside the proposed urban growth boundary but, of course, that urban growth boundary is likely, if adopted, to not be able to be changed other than by parliament.
Given their track record and given that Mr Stuart Moseley from Planning SA has said, 'You'll still be able to jump over the urban growth boundary if you chose to,' it is interesting to look at the expert panel's report. The urban growth boundary is hardly mentioned at all. There are just a couple of brief mentions, and I will refer quickly to a couple of them. The first is:
The s tate planning directions will include high-level target s and policies and may be supported by guidelines. In the metropolitan area , this could include a statutory urban growth boundary.
I emphasise the word 'could'. Further on, the same document states:
In the metropolitan area, this could—
include the ability to specify a statutory urban growth boundary.
And it is interesting to note that the document quotes Fred Hansen, who said:
An urban growth boundary would provide for and enable the redevelopment of lands within the current greater city footprint.
Mr Fred Hansen, former thinker in residence, as we all know, was somewhat embroiled in the Gillman debacle, where an employee of Renewal SA had had maladministration attributed to him or it was indicated that he had participated in maladministration.
Of course, former thinker in residence Mr Fred Hansen is no longer in South Australia. I am not sure he really understood the culture of South Australia. When I had a couple of briefings with him around urban infill, I did not think he actually understood the nature of our state's finances—or perhaps he did.
Where he comes from, which I think was Portland, Oregon in the US, they do not really care how much the state borrows. If you are going to have high-level infrastructure and trams and trains running around the city, they come at a very high cost. I am not sure about Mr Hansen's quote, but in fairness, I did think when I looked through the expert panel's report that, while there were only two or three references, one was from Mr Fred Hansen.
My intention initially was not to go through the bill clause by clause at this point but to make some lengthy contribution around the bill, and I will in relation to the Property Council's submission, because that has come to me and our shadow minister Steven Griffiths after the committee stage of the bill in the House of Assembly.
I will indicate that the opposition will be tabling some amendments probably later this week. They will be around the urban growth boundary and also some changes to allow adaptive re-use of heritage buildings. It is a particular passion of our leader, Steven Marshall, that we have these buildings that are either underutilised or not utilised at all because as soon as you happen to do anything you trigger the Building Code of Australia and a whole range of issues.
I will move those amendments probably next week when we go to the committee stage. I know that minister Rau has had some discussions with Steven Marshall in relation to those and he has indicated that the government is likely to support them, but I just put on the radar for other members that we are likely to have an amendment in relation to the urban growth boundary and some amendments around adaptive re-use.
Maybe I will leave the Property Council's comments until towards the end, but among the industry groups, of course, we have the Local Government Association, the Urban Development Institute, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders and the Property Council, who are the practitioners who deliver product to the consumer. I note that we are in a jobs crisis. We have the Minister for Employment in this chamber and, every question time, we ask questions about unemployment and it seems to be going up and up and up.
The Hon. G.E. Gago: It's not: it's going down!
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: No, it's going up. There is a trend line of it going up. Her leader and premier, Mike Rann, said he was going to create 100,000 jobs, and it has not even made it to 10,000: it is about 6,000 jobs. While the first focus of this bill should be about having an open, robust and transparent system, it should also be about making sure we get strong economic growth that provides some level of comfort for the community that it is going to be quality economic growth that is going to sustain this community and this society for many decades, if not centuries, to come. It is interesting to note that all of these bodies are the ones that are somewhat concerned. I will read some of their concerns into Hansard. This is from the Master Builders Association and it states:
Master Builders SA believes there are s ignificant shortcomings in the B ill as it stands.
This was dated 27 November at 5pm. That was last Friday after, I think, they may have seen the amendments that are still perhaps in the mix. I know that there are negotiations or conversations between these groups and the minister's office as we speak. It goes on:
The proposed amendments ( to date ) —
which they have put in brackets which I expect means they see more—
go some way to rectifying those issues by introducing two forms of infrastructure levy. We are als o heartened by the assurances from Deputy Premie r John Rau that he will work with industry groups to improve any shortcomings over time. We are more inclined to work with the State G overnment on th is issue because the underlying B ill promises to cut red tape for our industry . At the end of the day , this means job s .
Which is, I think, what we are all here for. It continues:
The following issue s remain significant impediment s to o ur unqualified support for the Bill. The Environment and Food Production A reas /U nban Growth B oundary : t he Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure has indicated that infill development is occurring faster than expected. We therefore believe there i s no need to create a new boundary that may significantly increase prices, industry costs and create an artificial barrier that faces signi ficant challenges to move in future— even when needed to sustain jobs. Excising t he se provisions would, together with reducing penalties suc h as discussed below, allow Master Builders SA to provide st rong qualified support for the B ill. Failing their excision , the removal of the P arliamentary entrenchment provisions would be significantly supported by industry.
They go on with regard to penalties and state:
The Government has increased penalties five - fold without reason. In its least charitable light , this is a cash grab on an industry that is facing significant challenges. These must be reduced for our support.
We continue to be concerned about the powers relating to the infrastructure levy — although the amendments reduce some of those concerns — and the P lanning and D evelopment C ode. The Deputy Premier has promised to consult industry over these matters , and we take him on face value.
Of course, he may not be the minister next year when this is being dealt with. That may be a cop-out for the next minister to say, 'Well, I didn't give you that undertaking.' This will be an interesting question for the minister to answer so I will put it on the record: can the minister guarantee that the Deputy Premier, minister Rau, will be the minister for planning beyond February of next year so that he can honour his commitment to industry to consult with them, or will they have to deal with another minister? The Master Builders' statement goes on:
On this basis, we would urge the Liberal Party to support South Austral ian industry by supporting the B ill only where provisions relating to the Food Production A reas /Urban Growth Boundary are removed (or entrenchment re moved ) and where the penalties are reduced in the interests of jobs.
We will forward a copy of the letter we send to Mr Rau to all parties in the interests of being clear.
I now move on to the Housing Industry Association. It is probably no surprise to the Hon. Mark Parnell that he gets mentioned in this letter, but the Deputy Premier has referred to him in a scathing way. I will not quote it, but it is fair to say that notwithstanding that I have mentioned this and reminded the Hon. Mark Parnell on dozens of occasions that the Greens continually preference the government—and I think we have a list of about eight or 10 marginal Labor members of parliament who were elected at the last election on Greens' preferences—yet we have been encouraged by the government to guillotine this debate and cut him off from his opportunity.
We have resisted and will always do so. We have always believed that there should be a chance for anybody in this particular place, but especially somebody like the Hon. Mark Parnell who has been a planning lawyer in his professional career, to have every right to explore this bill on behalf of his party but also the people he represents in this parliament. I am sure that at the end of the day his party will make its decisions on preferences, as it always does, but I also like to remind the Hon. Mark Parnell that his friends in the Labor Party are not that friendly towards him at the moment.
This statement is from the Housing Industry Association on the urban growth boundary:
N o further amendments were proposed, just re - iteration that the process for review would be 5 years, not be discretionary as was the case previously, and would be a transparent process. This still does not address HIA's opposition to a fixed boundary , requiring both houses of parliament needing to amend the boundary. The minister himself expre ssed the difficulty of getting his B ill through the upper house; ironically we share that same concern in relation to futu re UGB changes!
Of course, infrastructure levies are a big concern:
The latest levy amendment s introducing different classification s of inf rastructure does not address HIA's opposition to infrastructure levies, and introduces complexities with likely unintended consequences. Al l the more reason to delay the B ill until February to give everyone time to digest , consult and discuss without rushing such impo rtant legislation. For example the introduced Charges on land section ( 163B ) appear s complex and concerning.
HIA will examine the amendments and provide further comment to you , but as advised to the Minister, will not consider altering our position until adequate time and consultation has taken place.
That is from the HIA. Perhaps I will go to the UDIA next. I met with the UDIA yesterday. I had a quick meeting with them, and again I have a briefing, just a quick note, from them to Steven Griffiths, again dated on Friday, after they had received those amendments. In terms of the UDIA response, we have a scheduled meeting on Monday, which was the earliest opportunity for us to convene, which is their sort of policy committee, to go through these, after which time I will be in a position to say whether we support or otherwise the infrastructure components. I met with Pat Gerace and John Stimson yesterday and they said they were meeting with their policy subcommittee. I have contacted them today and they have not finalised their position. This is their position as of last Friday, about midday:
We support the separation of schemes—
this is for infrastructure levy—
into two distinct categories and have predicted a limiting of the types of infrastructure that can apply to scheme 1 . We remain concerned about scheme triggers for payments. Under section 158(1)(b), the trigger for payment under scheme one can be a change of planning and design code, i.e. rezoning. The UDIA model—
which is one that they provided—
has always been that if there is no change to anyone's current activity, and they do not seek to have any subdivision of development application approved, they should not be subject to an infrastructure charge. Any changes imposed under those circumstances are likely to hinder or impede the success of any infrastructure scheme.
My understanding of that is that if you have some land rezoned and you still have a farm in the middle of that land and you do not wish to rezone it, you wish to continue farming, a new infrastructure levy should not be charged on your land. Yet, I think the UDIA is saying that in this particular amendment that has been recently proposed by the government, if you have a parcel of land, you may still be subject to an infrastructure levy, even if you do not wish to rezone it. I think that is where the UDIA is concerned. They also remain concerned that:
In relation to scheme 2, in particular section 161(6)(a), a scheme can be initiated through a practice direction issued by the commission and approved by the minister. This is an alternative to having a 75 per cent threshold. Given the breadth of infrastructure and the capacity for any such scheme so significant in nature, we believe there needs to be much more rigour and scrutiny than currently exists.
As I said, I was going to go through the whole bill clause by clause, but—
The Hon. M.C. Parnell: Do it; do it.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: No, I don't think I will. My colleague in the other chamber, the member for Goyder, Steven Griffiths, shadow minister for planning, has gone through it line by line and raised a whole range of questions, which we may come back and address next week at the committee stage of the bill rather than go through it line by line here. The second reading speech is not the place for that.
My understanding of the 75 per cent threshold is it is for an upgrade—let's say to put a tram down Unley Road—and that if you get 75 per cent agreement of the landowners who are impacted by that development (i.e. it will probably give them an increase in land value), then you can levy an infrastructure levy on them. Again, I have asked the question about minister Rau being the minister to honour his commitment to negotiate with stakeholders, and also this question. For example, it is probably $100 million or $200 million to put a tram down Unley Road to the Torrens Arms Hotel or Cross Road, or wherever the government may see fit to take it. How will that cost be apportioned? Under their model, 75 per cent of people agree, 100 per cent of people have to pay, but do they have to pay for it all? Do they pay for a portion of it? What portion do they pay for? Over what time frame do they pay for it? There is a whole range of questions under the infrastructure levy.
If you go into a new subdivision with all brand-new houses and you need a connector to the freeway, I thing you can perhaps sort of understand that there are 10,000 new homes, and you get a nice new connector onto the Northern Expressway or the South Eastern Freeway. But where you have, in existing suburbs, existing residences and businesses, the opposition would like to know exactly how that will be apportioned. Is it, as I understand, that if 75 per cent of land owners agree, 100 per cent will pay?
Let's say it is a tram line. I think, in the early days of the 30-year plan, there was some discussion. It used to be 400 metres or 800 metres that people would walk. There was a sort of threshold as to how far people would walk to a tram station.
The Hon. M.C. Parnell: 800.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The Hon. Mark Parnell reminds me it is 800 metres that, notionally, is the distance that people will walk to catch a train, tram or bus and, beyond that, they will drive. I will use the hypothetical example of Unley Road. If we put a tram down Unley Road, under this model, and 75 per cent of land owners agree, is that 75 per cent in the 800-metre circle around each tram stop? Is it 75 per cent of those who just front Unley Road? We do not know what it will be. What portion do they pay? Is it the whole cost or part of the cost? Over what time frame do they pay that cost?
You could arguably say that, over these last 14 years, our state debt has gone up, so we have not actually paid anything off. If you had entered into a scheme over 14 years ago under this government, the debt has just got bigger. If it was a piece of infrastructure that was clearly defined, and a scheme on its own that the residents knew had a debt of X and every year it was being paid down, they would know when the payment was finished. I think we need a lot more information. I notice the two diligent advisers sitting over there making some notes, so hopefully that is something they will bring back some answers on for minister Gago's summing up, if that happens this week. Going back to the UDIA's comments, they stated:
In relation to other parts of the bill, on Wednesday this week, our executive reaffirmed its opposition to the urban growth boundary.
In terms of the development assessment panels, they remain firmly resolute that the changes should be made and local government should participate in policy formation and engagement, and not in assessment. So, I am just looking at the time; we have still got plenty of time, so I do not need to rush myself—
The Hon. M.C. Parnell: Don’t rush.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The Hon. Mark Parnell says I do not need to rush. The UDIA have provided me with just a couple of pages. I will not read their whole matrix on each clause, but I will just go through some comments they made around infrastructure schemes and some of the other comments they have made. This was on 18/11, so it was just at the conclusion of the committee stage of the bill.
Infrastructure S chemes
1. The UDIA support s in principle the inclusion of provisions enabling the establishment of a particular form of infrastructure scheme.
2. The current provisions are not however supported by the UDIA in the ir original form ( including the Amendments moved by the Minister for Planning on the 16 November 2015 ) because —
a. The range of infrastructure capable of inclusion in the scheme s is too broad and particularly includes items that are traditionally provided by State or Local G overnment or (n otwithstanding how desirable th ey may be) they are not generally necessary ( or ' essential ') to support or facilitate development of infill, brown field or greenfield areas;
b. The schemes are exposed to the risk of political pressure by having the relevant M inister of the day responsible for initiating schemes, determining their scope , approving s chemes and funding arrangements;
c. The triggers for initiation of schemes are very broad and uncertain, leaving open the risk that poor infrastructure choices will be made without proper regard for need or commercial prudence;
d. The rating method to fund schemes , at present, is itself broad and again open to the risk that it [ seem s to be ] a new tax or levy , bu t this time on infrastructure.
e. The rating method is plagued by the complication of determining questions such as who will benefit, the relevant proportion of the ir benefit and the period over which the benefit may accrue.
3. While these identified concerns might be capable of resolution, the UDIA maintains that considerable detailed analysis and consultation will be necessary to do so. We maintain that an identifiable scheme type exists which can provide much of the benefit , but with [ much ] less of the potential risk.
The next title, 'Indexed charge type scheme supported' states:
4. The form of scheme that the UD I A supports is an indexed charge imposed on a scheme area which is payable only after a development trigger event . We suggest that the B ill be altered so it expressly provides for this limited scheme type ( for the sake of this submission ' scheme type 1 ') .
5. Whether it may also provide for other scheme type s is not yet something which we can support without seeing further detail .
6. T he essential elements of the index ed scheme type 1 are described below.
Scope of infrastructure —Scheme type 1
7. The items of infrastructure should be limited.
8. W e suggest a separate definition to deal with infrastructure subject to these schemes (f or the purpose of this submission we will adopt the term 'prescribed infrastructure' ) . The list of infrastructure should be the core items necessary to enable development ( infill or greenfield ) such as t hose currently contemplated in P art 9 of the regulations namely —
a. E nergy
b. W ater supply
c. S ewer
d. R oads
e. S tormwater
f. Te lecommunications
9. A broad range of infrastructure ( such as trams, railways, recreation areas etc. ) might be appropriate for other schemes, but the essence of this scheme is to limit the imposition of a charge to core infrastructure only.
Their next heading is 'Scheme initiation and purpose', and states:
10. An independent expert entity ( such as the S tate P lanning C ommission ) should initiate and approve a scheme and determine the scope , applying legislat ed criteria.
11. The Act should specify (and M inister's A mendment No.1 [ Planning—2 ] of 16 .11.15 is a partial and imperfect attempt at this ) that t he purpose of a scheme is limited to circumstances where it is required (necessary or desirable ) to coordinate , provide or facilitate —
a . the orderly and timely provision of necessary prescribed infrastructure ( or investment in such infrastructure ); or
b . funding for prescribed infrastructure;
It goes on to say:
a nd that infrastructure —
c . will enable the development or redevelopment of land and which cannot be provided or funded by other means;
d . is for the rezoning of land for increased development potential;
e . will support , service or promote the significant development; or
f. requires the cooperation or coordination in the design , construction and funding because of its scale and the range or nature of parties whose agreement is required.
12. A scheme must not be initiated to displace the obligations to provide, maintain or operate infrastructure which apply to the C rown or L ocal G overnment.
13. The SPC should be obliged to take into account any relevant S tate or R egional P lanning P olic ies in making decisions about schemes and should consider any necessary amendments …to give effect to a scheme.
14. A scheme should be capable of initiation by the SPC on any proposal by any person (the M inister , a land owner, a ' developer ', a council etc .). We suggest this so that the decisions about infrastructure are free from any criticism of political interference .
15. As an alternative ( but not preferred ) approach , the M inister might initiate a scheme, but only on advice from the SPC or another independent expert entity.
16. The M inister ought not to be empowered to approve a ny scheme. The power ought always to rest with an independent expert entity ( subject always to P arliamentary scrutiny ) .
The next heading is 'Charge against land, not a rate':
17. The charge is a figure representing a particular unit cost ($ / hectare, $ / dwelling, $ /m ² floor area etc.) of contribution to the prescribed infrastructure under the scheme. The charge is noted against the title to the land and is secured against the land by the Act.
18. Payment is not tri ggered by any land transaction.
19. The obligation to pay is linked only to a trigger event in the nature of the development of the relevant land. The Act should define the trigger of the event as lodging of a plan or of a division or obtaining Development Appro val to commence a development (building or change in use);
20. The charge is indexed ( because it might be paid by a trigger event in 10 years time ) by some appropriate index ( for instance CPI, a flat rate or some other index etc.) to be determined by an independent expert entity ( such as ESCOSA ) .
21. The charge and the index is reviewed on a regular basis ( such as 5 year intervals ) and when circumstances req uire by an independent entity ( such as ESCOSA ) .
22. Once paid, the charge is lifted from the title.
They were the points I was making before about any particular charges on landowners for, if you like, the hypothetical tram down Unley Road: who would pay, for how long would they pay and, at the end of the scheme, would they then not have to pay it anymore? In this document, at point 23:
23. The scheme can be 'imposed' on the scheme area (e.g. it is not voluntary thus captures 'rogue' landowners). Owners who don't want to develop and don't want to pay are 'protected' because if they never develop, they never pay. The trigger is critical to this scheme. It is not triggered by re-zoning alone, only by the action of undertaking development.
24. The Act should protect certain development against liability to pay the charge. This should include:
a. balance allotments or 'super lots' (larger parcels carved out for future division and development at a later stage or by a later developer;
b. the continuation of existing uses at the same scale or intensity (within reasonable flexible constraints);
c. potentially some specific uses (such as community recreation facilities, parklands, a single dwelling on an existing allotment etc.).
25. The Act should provide for the option of payment once (a lump sum) after the trigger event, or by some other means (such as by regular quarterly or annual payments, even by converting the payment to a rate collected by the Local Government mechanism etc.).
26. The Act should enable 'in kind' contributions (such as a developer undertaking some of the works or providing land to accommodate the infrastructure required by the scheme) and a rebate mechanism (e.g. to rebate other rates and taxes to adjust for in kind contributions above the charge value etc.). Such contributions could be provided in advance of a trigger event, but would require agreement or some codification about how the in kind works are costed in order to count towards the payment of the indexed charge.
Determining the charge value/amount
27. The charge ought to be set out by an independent expert entity. It should probably be independent of the infrastructure providers and government. ESCOSA is probably as well placed as any entity to form this function.
28. It is critical that the charge is set at an amount that will enable development. Otherwise, if it is too high, there will be no development triggers to generate payment. The act must include principles about setting the charge. The principles should include the following:
a. The scope of the infrastructure subject to the charge must comply with the principles (see below) limiting it to that which is required.
b. A charge should be limited to recover the reasonable capital costs of the prescribed infrastructure (less any contributions of funds from sources other than the charge);
c. The area subject to the charge should be set having regard to:
i. the direct and indirect benefit the land or occupants thereof will derive from the prescribed infrastructure;
ii. any potential negative effect of the charge on the development of the area, housing affordability or incentives for investment and economic development;
iii. achieving sufficient area to generate the necessary funds over time for the prescribed infrastructure;
iv. the extent to which the contribution area may overlap another contribution area under another scheme (or proposed scheme); and
d. Any charge should be set taking into account any existing arrangements for the funding of the same or similar infrastructure within the area to be subject to the scheme.
There is only a page or so to go:
Scope of works
29. The works themselves must be designed, constructed and procured in a manner which avoids unnecessary infrastructure and 'gold-plating' of infrastructure.
I will just break here for a minute. This is not in the UDIA's comments, but I remember some discussions around providing wastewater treatment for the Mount Barker area and SA Water. I do not remember the exact figures but it was a horrendous amount of money that SA Water wanted to charge to do that when I think there were a whole range of other options on the table that would have been at a much lower cost.
I think point 29 of the UDIA's submission that 'the works must be designed, constructed and procured in a manner which avoids unnecessary infrastructure and gold-plating of infrastructure' is an important one. If people are going to have to pay, they should only pay for what is adequate to do the fit-for-purpose job that they require. It continues:
30. The UDIA maintains that one of the most effective mechanisms to achieve this is to ensure that whoever pays for the work has a considerable say in what the work will be and how it will be procured. Where government dictates the required work but obliges others to pay, we have seen a consistent tendency for large contingency costs to be included, for the wish list of works to be extensive and for the standard of works to be far greater than on comparable infrastructure provided by the public sector. T hat is not to seek the cheapest solution possible however. A balance must be struck.
31. The mechanisms to achieve this include principles in the act about the nature of works and the purpose of schemes as well as a contestable and transparent process for determining the scope and the nature of works and designing, procuring and constructing the relevant infrastructure.
32. The act should include principles about the scope of infrastructure in a scheme such that the infrastructure must be—
a. fit for purpose;
b. capable of adaptation to changes in standards or technology over time (to the extent possible);
c. where possible, capable of augmentation or modular extension to accommodate growth over time;
d. where appropriate, designed to build capacity to allow connections or augmentation by others to leverage the initial investment in infrastructure;
e. to a standard or 'design life' appropriate to the nature and lifespan of the development it will service and any investment or cost recovery measures associated with the infrastructure;
f. capable of being procured and delivered in a timely manner to facilitate and promote orderly and economic development.
The next heading is 'Delivery and Procurement'.
33. The procurement of infrastructure can provide an opportunity to limit costs. The process and principles ought to ensure that it can be procured and delivered in a timely manner at a reasonable cost. The relevant principles to be embedded in the act should be—
a. infrastructure shall be provided at a competitive cost which avoids unnecessary expense;
b. procurement processes ought to be contestable (that is not limited to one government agency or semi - governmental authority with monopoly control over the infrastructure and access to it);
c. costings for infrastructure (for the purposes of the charge to be imposed) ought to be open and transparent (including all calculations and assumptions);
d. infrastructure should be procured and delivered in a timely manner to facilitate and promote orderly and economic development;
e. the design of and procurement process for infrastructure should be dynamic, flexible and adaptable to the changes in circumstances in the area that it will serve.
34. The works should be done on a timetable to facilitate and enable development, investment, economic growth and employment.
Again, Mr President, you see that word 'employment'; it is very much about jobs, and the UDIA is a good driver of jobs in our economy. It continues:
Deployment timetable principles should allow for infrastructure such as head-works up front where appropriate or staged and following development where appropriate.
The next heading is 'Consultation'.
35. Consultation on infrastructure schemes is important on all issues from the area for any contribution to the nature and extent of infrastructure to be provided.
36. The [State Planning Commission] should be obliged to consult with owners of land within the area of the scheme and any contribution area and undertake public consultation on the proposed scheme in accordance with the Community Engagement Charter.
37. Consultation does not end after the scheme is devised. The scheme coordinator or SPC should develop a public engagement plan to inform and consult with landowners, councils and infrastructure entities within the area of or concerned with the scheme over the course of the scheme and thereafter to inform and consult with those persons and the public generally in accordance with that plan.
The next heading is 'The Scheme Coordinator'.
38. The scheme coordinator should be properly qualified and experienced and should be independent. The scheme coordinator should be answerable to the SPC, not just the department or the minister.
39. The scheme coordinator's tasks should include:
a. to search for and secure funds for the scheme from sources other than the charge on land within the scheme area;
b. development of a procurement and delivery plan for the scheme that aligns with the principles set out above;
c. to oversee the expeditious and timely delivery of any infrastructure or works that form part of the scheme ;
d. to amend the Planning and Design Code to incorporate such overlays or other policies as are necessary to give effect to the scheme;
e. to provide advice to the SPC on any works, measures or actions or other persons or entities which are not subject to the scheme which are necessary or desirable to give effect to the scheme;
f. to coordinate and apply money to deliver the scheme (initially from the state treasury, which over time is reimbursed by payment of the indexed charge following trigger events).
The next heading is 'Delivery and participation by others a fundamental weakness'.
40. Other entities, particularly government agencies, will be critical of the delivery of successful schemes. The bill does not oblige other government agencies such as SA Water, the Commissioner of Highways, local government, etc., to cooperatively participate in schemes.
41. This will be a fundamental weakness in the effectiveness of the schemes.
42. The funding schemes should be more than just a charge mechanism over land within the scheme area. Other sources of funds should be exploited to the extent possible.
43. Funding schemes should be based on the following principles:
(a) T o innovate voluntary, flexible arrangements are preferred over the imposition of mandatory contributions;
(b) A rrangements that seek to provide incentives for investment of capital (including where appropriate return on investments) which will promote the expansion and improvement of infrastructure;
(c) F unds raised within a particular contribution area should be spent on the prescribed infrastructure within that contribution area or on a prescribed infrastructure outside the contribution area which will be of benefit to the serviced land within the contribution area;
(d) A n arrangement should equitably apply the costs and benefits of prescribed infrastructure both spatially and temporarily to as broad a selection of participants in the development and land use, including councils and state agencies, as reasonably practicable;
(e) T he leverage and security of government back funding and index charge should be used to attract, source and secure funds from other sources.
44. Schemes should be subject to the parliamentary scrutiny provisions of the bill and reviewed by the ERD committee and disallowance by either house.
45. The UDIA is not opposed in principle to other schemes. It is conceivable that schemes of broader types of infrastructure, even as broad as essential infrastructure, as previously described, which are subject to an agreed charge or rate, may be acceptable. It is even possible that schemes where a rate is imposed without consent (but subject to other important protections) might at least conceivably be appropriate.
46. While the UDIA has not ruled out entirely that there is a possibility of supporting other schemes, we maintain that considerable further draft legislation, consultation and consideration is required to ensure such schemes are fair and deliver effective outcomes for the people of the state.
47. The UDIA would welcome the opportunity to engage further consultation and deliberation over such possible schemes but does not presently support their inclusion in the bill at this stage.
That is reasonably long-winded, but I think it demonstrates that the actual infrastructure levy is something that the property sector I think generally now is quite supportive of in principle, but you can see by the UDIA's concerns that there is a whole range of issues that they raise.
I am not sure whether we will get a response from the minister, but I would I guess have made those statements on behalf of the UDIA. I will be interested to see if there is some response from the minister or the minister's office. I am getting a bit of a nod from the adviser's chair, so hopefully they will, because I think it is important. Especially next week when we are looking at the committee stage of the bill, that will be something that we will need to look at quite closely.
I do have some further notes here from the LGA. I will not go through all of it, because some of it is just background and they have some issues which have been settled through draft amendments, but there are a number of outstanding issues in relation to the proposed infrastructure funding scheme. They refer to a briefing paper done by their lawyers, Wallmans. Again, I think it is worth putting these comments on the record so that at least the government can respond to those:
2. There are a number of outstanding issues in relation to the proposed infrastructure funding scheme.
Why is this important?
The proposed scheme exposes councils to significant exposure to financial liability to fund the infrastructure that is currently provided by the developer or the state.
I make these dot points—I will not pose them as questions, but I would actually like the minister to respond to these points (the UDIA ones I have just put on the record) and I think there are about three pages of points that the LGA make about this particular bill. The first one was about significant exposure to financial liability. They go on to say:
While upfront contributions are theoretically recoverable over time, Councils may be required to borrow considerable capital and carry significant debt.
I think that is a concern for local government. They continue:
There are no guarantees provided that the levy will recover the level of debt funding secured by the council to pay the upfront contribution.
That is the point I was making earlier for the advisers, as to exactly how these schemes might work. The next point states:
Such a scheme could be imposed on councils with very little consultation.
I think that is also important. Again, the point I made is that the current minister says he is happy to consult and deal with people, but we do need some assurances from the government that he will be the minister the industry will be dealing with, and the LGA will be dealing with, over the next couple of years. The next two years will be the most critical because that will be the drafting of a lot of the regulations and all of the policies that will underpin this new planning framework. The LGA goes on to say at point three:
3. No further detail has been provided about the operation of the private certification scheme. The LGA remains concerned about the lack of oversight and accountability of private certifiers (Clause 90 ) .
'Why is this important?' they ask, and they list some points that I think I would like a response to:
Giving private companies the ability to undertake statutory function for profit requires a significant amount of oversight. This is not currently occurring, and there has been no genuine evidence-based evaluation of the operation of the existing private certification scheme (despite the government committing to a 12-month review process).
The LGA sought feedback from councils and has collected numerous examples of errors being made.
From a study of some 145 privately certified Res Code applications, 64 errors were reported. Errors included Res Code not applying within that area, application not meeting Res Code criteria or insufficient information being provided.
When an error is made by a certifier, it often falls upon the council to remedy the issues—which takes time and resources. Certifiers have no accountability to the community and no responsibility for ensuring compliance with their decisions/conditions.
Their fourth point is that:
4. Council's role in the care, control and management of public land has been diminished relating to development occurring over fo ot paths and roadways. (Clause 95)(introduced via amendment) & Schedule 6 Part 7, 21&22.
In instances where a development approval has been given in accordance with the Planning & Design Code, a Council would no longer be able to use the provisions of the Local Government Act to regulate an encroachment onto council land, an alteration to the road, or the use of council land for business purposes (as it relates to that approved development).
Again, it is certainly some concerns that the LGA have raised. It continues:
This may be a reasonable amendment if, indeed, the council was the authority issuing the planning consent. An internal consultation process could be undertaken to ensure all relevant matters were considered as part of a single assessment process.
However, the expansion of private certification and state assessment authorities means that there are likely to be circumstances where the council would have no say in how the public land is used (only an ability to set a fee once a decision has been made).
Issues of risk and liability need to be considered for encroachments that threaten public safety or result in property damage. Current approval processes consider public liability insurance.
As a compromise, these clauses should be excluded from applying in instances where a council appointed body/person is not relevant authority.
The fifth point they make is:
5. The LGA is still seeking appropriate limits to be placed upon the early commencement of rezoning/policy amendments.
And they make the following points:
The use of interim operation has traditionally been used in circumstances where a higher level of protection is proposed to be applied to an area (heritage & environmental protections etc.) The interim operation is applied as a safeguard.
In recent years, interim operation has been applied as a way of fast tracking investment, such as the Wind Farms DPA in 2011/12.
It may well be answered at some point by others, but I might just ask the question: ministerial interim DPAs have been used a number of times—and this is not an LGA question, this is me putting in my own question—the wind farm was one, and we know that developments are assessed in the current system, and under the DPA at the time. The interim DPA is the one where they are assessed if the application is lodged when that is in place. This is a broader question, but I am intrigued as to how the new scheme will work for interim DPAs.
We saw that the wind farm DPA was used almost in reverse. Often, interim DPAs are put in place to stop opportunistic development until something is rezoned, whereas I think the wind farm DPA actually allowed opportunistic development applications. I am not sure any of them have been built; nonetheless, there was significant community concern about those and concern among landowners, especially in some of our farming areas.
I note that we still endure the highest electricity prices in the nation. I am not sure it is all attributable to wind farms, but we certainly have not seen prices going down because we have been using renewable energy here in South Australia. Anyway, I digress: we are talking about the LGA's comments here around interim operation. I will repeat those words:
In recent years, interim operation has been applied [by way of] fast tracking investment, such as the Wind Farms DPA 2011/12.
While it's recognised that there are significant economic advantages in this approach, it is disruptive to genuine public consultation processes and undermines community faith in the system.
If this practice is overused or used unnecessarily, it will be counterproductive to the effort of bringing community engagement to the front end of the system.
An 'early commencement' clause would be unnecessary if the government had faith in its ability to process zoning and policy amendments efficiently.
That reminds me that I know from some of the other literature I have read and comments on the bill that the minister wants to have an early engagement of the community in that whole rezoning development process. I think that comes back to the point I made about the example in Western Australia where they actually had a very large, all-embracing process so that everyone was on the same page.
As I mentioned, at that point, a local radio, a TV station and a newspaper were involved. I am not sure that they actually produced a lifestyle program, but I know that Channel 7 in WA did some sort of documentary and the newspaper followed it, so that people were engaged very much at the front end at a very broad level. I would encourage the government to look at that and to make sure that you do have some sort of community buy-in early.
I also think, in relation to this particular point, often people are not interested until it actually affects their backyard, until something is actually happening in their very neighbourhood. I also think there is an opportunity for the government—and perhaps all of us—to encourage people to be involved and understand what is going on at a much earlier stage of the process, although everybody these days has busy lives, so to find the time for all of us to be involved is probably quite difficult.
The sixth point they make is that councils have not been specifically consulted on the proposed environment and food production areas—which, of course, is the urban growth boundary—and that the bill makes no provision for this to occur. They say:
Despite industry groups having been closely consulted on Clause 7 of the Bill, the affected Councils have not been consulted on the draft map.
The minister says he wants early buy-in and early engagement but, at the time this was printed, which was last Friday 27 November 12:15pm, the LGA had not been consulted on the actual draft map of the urban growth boundary. It goes on:
Township boundaries are likely to be of significant interest.
I am reminded of the Barossa and McLaren Vale protection zones. I think the boundary was put around the township of Eden Valley, whereas the locals actually wanted a bigger boundary because they had a little community store that was on the edge of not being viable. Some extra houses in their town and some more families would have meant that the little store would be viable and able to stay open for those things we all take for granted when you live in a bigger place like the city. You can get a carton of milk or some eggs and bacon on a Sunday morning if you have forgotten to get any, a newspaper and some essentials for community life.
I am intrigued that local government has not been consulted. It is a significant failing of the process if the LGA are prepared to put their name to a document dated 27 November at 12.15pm—so, only last Friday—saying that they have not been consulted on the draft map and the township boundaries that are likely to be of significant interest. The document continues:
The LGA has not been provided with a copy of the draft map to facilitate feedback from councils.
It is recommended that the Minister hold an urgent briefing session for affected councils which will provide further information on the proposal and respond to any questions.
I am sure that every township, to my understanding, has a boundary around it now, the same as the McLaren Vale and Barossa protection zones, and every community should be consulted on where that boundary is. The minister will say, 'It's the existing township boundary and there's probably adequate land rezoned inside that boundary', but the community should be consulted about it because that is something the minister is proposing can only be changed by passage through both houses of parliament.
One of the comments made earlier was how difficult this piece of legislation has been to get through both houses of parliament and the contempt, effectively, that this place is being held in by being asked to deal with that within one day of it being put on the Notice Paper. I suspect the same will happen if the urban growth boundary becomes part of the statute and it is part of the parliamentary process to change it. I can see all sorts of horse trading and games and all sorts of things happening, but I can also see the House of Assembly making a decision and then the Legislative Council again being treated almost with contempt.
The opposition is not convinced that we need an urban growth boundary, but you would think that at the very least local councils would have been consulted. In reading this document, right at the very end, one of the most significant components of this reform is the urban growth boundary but the minister has not bothered to consult with the LGA. Their recommendation is a document they provided to the minister last Friday. Has the minister now provided the LGA with a copy of the map and has he consulted with all of the affected councils? Point 7 states:
No convincing argume nt has been made about why the M inister must have broad power to appoint a local or regional council panel.
This is the LGA's point of view. It goes on:
The Bill gives the Minister the power to step in and dismiss a council panel and appoint a new panel in its place.
The Minister explained the Lower House is necessary because a Council panel may go 'off the reservation' and the whole Council has become 'dysfunctional'.
There are no limits placed on the Minister in this regard.
Sometimes I would agree with the council. I have seen some ministers going off the reservation and occasionally some dysfunctional ones. The final point they make is:
The level of state government control emphasises concerns about local planning matters being recast as state political issues making them even more contentious.
A number of additional technical issues have been raised in discussions between the LGA and the Department and the LGA will be seeking assurances that these matters will be addressed through future instruments.
As you can see, the LGA has a significant number of concerns. We talked about the urban growth boundary and then, of course, the protection zones that exist and I am just reminded of the McLaren Vale Distillery. I will inform members that it is progressing but, in my understanding, it is in the Hills Face Zone. I do not know the exact address but I went to their construction site once and it is in McLaren Vale.
It is, if you like, a boutique distillery that will produce a couple of hundred bottles a day of whiskey. It is a long-term investment and it will add to our tourism and our food and beverage offerings as it is unique. The micro-distilling industry has taken off somewhat in other parts of the world. I see this as a really good opportunity, because we produce some of the world's greatest and best barley here in South Australia. It is often used by brewers around the world to make great beer and I am sure that it will make great whisky.
The McLaren Vale Distillery is being set up and it is in the Hills Face Zone. However, the distillery cannot bottle, because bottling is seen as an industrial activity. Even if they want to screw the lids on by hand and they only want to do 200 bottles a day (1,000 a week over five days) they are not allowed to bottle. Their whisky will be stored in barrels to age, as whisky often is, but they cannot bottle it; to do that they have to go out of their location and down the road to a bottling facility at McLaren Vale.
However, when you are a distillery the produce that is distilled on your property is in a bond store so that you do not pay any excise on it. The moment it leaves your property you are obliged to pay excise. The crazy thing is that they will load their whisky up and take it about four kilometres down the road and have to pay the commonwealth government excise; then have it bottled and then bring it back to their facility to store it; and then claim the excise back.
That is all because they are not allowed to even screw on 200 caps a day by hand. That is not just a product of the McLaren Vale protection zone. I wrote that quick note to myself earlier, because I think that is one of the things that I would like the minister to explain, particularly given that she was the Minister for Agriculture Food and Fisheries and the Minister for Forests and, I think, the minister who launched the government's initiative of premium food and wine from our clean environment.
We have the Hills Face Zone. I do not think anyone wants to see it developed, but we would like to see the encouragement of small boutique industries. Maybe there needs to be a limit of 50,000 bottles—which is 1,000 bottles a week, 200 a day—that you can screw the caps on by hand, or cork by hand. I would like the minister to come back to the chamber on how those sorts of developments could take place and whether this current bill allows those sorts of things to happen more easily. The government is talking about this urban growth boundary and the environmental and food protection areas. Surely those sorts of developments should be allowed to take place relatively easily, because they add from a tourism point of view and they add value.
I know we are not here to talk about whisky, but my understanding is that a $300 a ton barley crop would generate something over $20,000 in taxes, GST and excise, and the distillers are not complaining. You have an industry that is quite happy to pay its tax. There is obviously a revenue stream to government, but there is also the added benefit of some regional employment. You are not going to see these things set up in the middle of the city or the middle of big towns; they will quite often be in areas where you will add to that tourism, and that food and wine experience.
I would like to put that on the record, and get some response from the minister. These people are tearing their hair out. They tried to establish one in Mount Barker, up in the hills, and could not. They eventually got development approval down in McLaren Vale. I saw one of the proponents last weekend and he said, 'It's almost ready; we've laid the floor.' They were very well progressed, but it has been a nightmare for them to get this established. Yet, we are looking for economic growth and for jobs and we simply have not had that over the last few years. You just shake your head when they could not even screw the caps on their bottles by hand because it was deemed to be a bottling facility.
I know we are nearing the end of the first session, but I want to quickly refer to the Property Council's comments. I will not go through them all in detail. We are trying to get some more comments from them, and I may add them at the committee stage of the bill. But I will perhaps just read a couple of comments from them:
As publicly stated, the Property Council does not support the inclusion of a statutory urban growth boundary. This is a national position of the Property Council. Moreover, the requirement for both houses of parliament to amend planning boundaries is seen as far too inflexible, which would make it difficult for South Australia to react flexibly to demographic economic changes in the context of a transitioning economy.
They go on to say:
The Property Council notes the proposed environment improved protection areas can be drawn at the first instance by the minister but then any amendment requires the support of both houses of parliament. We don't see such an entrenchment provision is warranted for what is a matter of planning and development policy. We should have the flexibility to change as required. Moreover, if independence is the intention of the reform, the planning commission should be empowered to have a greater role, along with a regime of parliamentary scrutiny.
Such a mechanism can also constrain the supply and limit choice. For example, families who value extra place or who work outside the metropolitan areas should have the ability to choose a house and a lifestyle which sits their needs. We also see the entrenchment provision as potentially impeding mature and considered development of future industry for the state for the instance of development of residential housing needed to support new industries or for the expansion of existing industries, for example entering the food export market in regional areas close to agricultural zones.
They go on to say:
We recognise the need to protect the state's food production areas, especially in the context of South Australia's focus on growing its food exports. However, we do not support the mechanism that is currently drafted, as it is too inflexible, which could lock South Australia into a planning zoning system which does not keep up with changing circumstances in the state, as it is too difficult to pass any amendments through both houses of parliament.
So, that is from the Property Council. As I said, they make a whole range of comments about the bill itself, which I will probably save for the committee stage, but I just want to touch also on the infrastructure levies. The Property Council has a concern about the infrastructure levies. They say, in their response to some amendments that were introduced in the House of Assembly:
The Government included some amendments that are aimed at addressing the industry's concerns with the originally drafted provisions. It is our view that these provisions are an improvement on the original Bill, however, they need further work to ensure that property owners are not the subject of punitive taxation and that there are no unintended consequences associated with the infrastructure framework.
Concerns raised to date include:
- A scheme should only be triggered on an area of land when development actually occurs.
- A pproval of all affected property owners should be required.
- The need for cost - benefit analysis and rigour around infrastructure planning and delivery.
- The importance of de politicising infrastructure provision.
- N eed to ensure that any funds raised through such a scheme are guaranteed to be spent on delivery of the infrastructure and not rolled into general government revenue.
The Property Council has voiced these concerns with the government and is advised that more amendments are being prepared to these provisions. We would welcome further opportunit ies to brief M embers of the Legislative Council on these amendments as they become available.
Interestingly, we have just seen these amendments late last week. We have not had feedback from the Property Council in writing. I have had some verbal feedback that it is sort of okay but, on the 75 per cent buy-in from people on, if you like, the potential for a tramway down Unley Road, their internal policy group are still discussing that. We will certainly have something by the end of the week, and I have spoken to them this morning. They then make a point about clause 185, entitled Off-setting contributions:
This new section enables the establishment of a scheme by the Minister, a joint planning board or a Council (the latter with the Minister ' s approval) to require the person undertaking development or who has the benefit of an approval to make an contribution to a fund, to undertake in kind works or a combination thereof into a scheme to address a particular issue.
There is a risk in this provision that car parking is never actually provided or the rate or price for car parking is not commercially viable. With some modification we see this clause as potentially beneficial, but only if sufficient safeguards are inserted to prevent it simply being a further means of taxing developers.
They also go on to say, similarly to the UDIA, a little bit about the actual amendment itself, but I will just quickly read the end point:
Sub-section (3)(a)— delete the word 'requirement' leaving it to read 'an ability for a person who is proposing to undertake development…' In the alternative if the requirement component is to be retained then the amount of any contribution should be approved by an independent entity such as ESCOSA.
I will not go into all the details the Property Council is making because we are approaching lunchtime and, probably, a lot of those issues were raised by the UDIA in their comments, but I think it is important to note that they saw that, if you have an infrastructure scheme, then it is important to have some independent umpire—ESCOSA has been mentioned by other industry groups in this particular debate—to make sure that those charges are fair and equitable.
You can see that this bill, as I said in my opening remarks, is probably the largest reform of planning in some 30 years. It is a particularly large bill. We have seen the government now with 80 or 85 amendments in the lower house and 40-something here. I suspect, given the track record of the government, we will beat the lower house and probably have another 30 or 40 more amendments that will come out of the debate over the next two weeks.
The way it has progressed is somewhat frustrating, and I think it is a good example and a good lesson maybe for the minister to perhaps have learnt, and for future ministers to learn. He did not actually ever consult on this bill. The consultation was done by tabling it in parliament and getting a front-page headline in The Advertiser.
Had he actually gone out and consulted on a draft bill two or three months before, I suspect that all of the issues that have been raised could have been dealt with by negotiation and probably dealt with, so that when it was introduced in the parliament it would have had a much speedier pathway through it.
When you look at the point the LGA made that councils, as of last Friday, had not been consulted on the urban growth boundary and the boundaries around their townships, yet this is something the minister has been quite passionate about, you would have to ask why, given that there was only passing reference to the urban growth boundary in the expert panel's report, when they did introduce it they did not actually go on and consult with local councils.
In my final remarks I am reminded of when Ian Henschke interviewed Brian Hayes QC and they were talking about the expert panel findings. To his credit (and I certainly did not prompt him) Brian Hayes made some comments about an independent planning commission, regional panels and regional activities. Ian Henschke said, 'This is exactly what the Liberals introduced or proposed some three years ago' and Brian Hayes said, 'No, I don't think so.'
To his credit, Ian Henschke said, 'No, that's exactly what they proposed, modelled on the Western Australian system, independent planning commission, regional panels', etc. etc., and Brian Hayes' comment was, 'Well, okay, if that's what the Liberals introduced that's good, because that's what we're going to do'.
I am pleased to say that in the broad context of what we are looking at in the next couple of weeks we have something that the Liberal Party had considered in the broader sense as being a sensible way to go. I am not sure the government has it right, and certainly the urban growth boundary is something we are very concerned about. We are concerned with not so much the infrastructure levy but the way it will be apportioned and exactly the mechanisms of how that will work.
We are still somewhat concerned about that, but I indicate that in a broad sense the opposition will be moving some amendments around the urban growth boundary and some around adaptive reuse. I think there is an opportunity to reactivate some of those properties in the city that are underutilised or not utilised at all.
Certainly we are interested in getting some answers from the minister on questions that I have asked her today. The key one is: given that minister Rau has looked all the stakeholders in the eye and said he will negotiate in good faith, will he be the minister who will be negotiating post the passage of this bill? I look forward to a response from the government on the other questions I have proposed, and I look forward to the committee stages of the bill.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.
Sitting suspended from 12:58 to 14:15.