Planning and Development (Community Concessional Leases) Amendment Bill 2019
Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Mr Parton for his words earlier. As he has made clear, supporting this bill requires trusting the Barr Government, and the simple reality, Madam Speaker, is that fewer and fewer Canberrans have that level of trust in this government.
In many ways, this seems only fair since this bill makes it equally clear how little trust those opposite have in the people of Canberra. For decades, Madam Speaker, community concessional land has been available to community organisations on a first-in/first-served basis for purposes that they have determined are important to the community. This has been a classic grassroots process, where people with common interests have created vibrant community associations and then sought access to a parcel of land in order to pursue their goals. These are the kinds of associations, Madam Speaker, that those who understand community would go out of their way to support.
But the Barr Government don’t get community. They talk about it, certainly. It’s apparently a word that they know based on how many times that they use it. But it’s a concept they clearly don’t comprehend. This is evident from a whole raft of policies that this government has introduced that make it more difficult for community organisations and volunteer groups and community clubs to operate. Some of these policies, as former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has recently pointed out, seem not so much wrongheaded as designed to punish community organisations that dare disagree with the Barr Government in any way.
Many in our multicultural communities have come to expect disregard if not downright disrespect. And when it comes to securing help of any kind, they often feel like beggars before this out-of-touch government, spending years asking for the simplest things and having to satisfy themselves with the few crumbs that accompany a ministerial photo-op.
And now, Madam Speaker, if there was any doubt before, this bill makes it blindingly clear that the Barr Government don’t trust ordinary Canberrans. Because instead of community groups deciding for themselves what their needs are, this bill will completely replace the grassroots approach with a characteristically heavy-handed, top-down decree from this government. As section 253D of the bill clearly states, the Planning and Land Authority will now be, quote, ‘setting out the government’s priorities in relation to community use for land’.
If one were to summarise this bill in a single statement, Madam Speaker, that might be it. Community land in this territory is no longer about the community’s priorities. The Barr Government clearly don’t trust communities to know what their priorities should be. No, that’s a task that this government wants to take entirely to itself. Assured that the handful of them are somehow the brightest, most aware people in this entire territory, they will determine what the government’s priorities are, and then they will decree that their priorities are now the community’s priorities too – whether, of course, they really are or not.
The message could not be clearer, Madam Speaker. In this territory, the Barr Government tell people what is important. And if a community organisation wants to come begging for a parcel of land on which to build a community facility, well that facility had better line up exactly with this government’s priorities. Because, if it doesn’t, that expression of interest will be promptly screened out. Never mind if a community group has the numbers. Never mind if they have raised funds for years to build their community facility. If that facility is not on the government’s list of priorities, too bad! In this territory, Madam Speaker, community groups must get with the Barr agenda or go looking elsewhere. It’s not really community land anymore, anyway; this bill makes it clear that it’s the Barr Government’s land.
Of course, passing muster on the first cut doesn’t mean that a community group will secure a parcel of land either. No, the total mismanagement of planning in this territory has resulted in a completely predictable and therefore clearly intentional scarcity of community land, Madam Speaker – and this in the face of a swelling population. And so community groups are now to be pitted against each other in the Barr Government’s version of the Hunger Games, each trying to outcompete the other in demonstrating whose priorities most align with what this government has told them is important.
What an ugly situation, Madam Speaker. What a slap in the face to every single community organisation in this territory. But wait! It gets better. In a briefing arranged by Minister Ramsay and Minister Steel, the question was asked what kind of consultation this government had engaged in with community groups before tabling this bill. Answer? None.
I genuinely want to be surprised by this, Madam Speaker, but I’m not. The Barr Government don’t need to stoop to consulting with community groups before completely altering the process by which such groups can access community land at concessional rates. That would require trusting such groups to have sensible opinions and important input. No, in this territory, Mr Barr and his government know best. That is the inescapable message in this piece of proposed legislation, and I assure those opposite that our community organisations are hearing that message.
Needless to say, I and the Canberra Liberals cannot support this bill as drafted, Madam Speaker. We trust ordinary Canberrans. We trust them to form associations that meet their needs. We trust them to know what their needs really are. We want to see them empowered to pursue their own agendas, free from unjust obstacles or artificial scarcity. We believe in a genuinely diverse society where people and community organisations can actively pursue a plurality of priorities without having to beg for this government’s blessing. This is the Canberra that the Canberra Liberals believe in. These are the Canberrans whom the Canberra Liberals represent.