1 March 2007

Government avoiding Epicentre court case?

| Kerces
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Zed Seselja has been on his soapbox today letting Canberrans know about their government’s latest sneaky move.

Very late on Wednesday night the Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the Land (Planning and Environment) Act, which takes away third party appeal rights in planning matters. Although Zed doesn’t explicitly state it in his press release, this was obviously aimed at quashing Terry Snow’s appeals against the controversial Epicentre development. It is quite peculiar that Zed was so indirect and it does make one question who he thinks he’s protecting by dancing around the issue.

The main point of Zed’s release is that the government avoided scrutiny by pushing this amendment through so late at night, and after the majority of the day had been taken up debating the no confidence motion against Jon Stanhope, with the backdrop of the astonishing storm.

Deb Foskey has also got on to the case. She seems, sensibly, less concerned about the effect on the appeal against the Epicentre and rather more about the lack of scrutiny.

“The behaviour of this majority Government now more closely echoes that of the Howard Government on the hill than it does the first Stanhope Government with its apparent commitment to accountability and transparency.”

So the government, having by dint of its numbers defeated a no confidence motion which questioned the competence of its leader, then used those same numbers to push through a retrospective amendment which will effectively stop a court action against it.

It’ll be interesting to see if Terry Snow takes this to the High Court as, being citizens of a liberal democracy, we are supposed to be protected against retrospective legislation.

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Change the boundaries, you alter the agreement.

Flamewars intended, but retrospective legislation is a very bad thing. If I were convicted of a crime, and doing my time, I would not tolerate a backhanded attempt to increase my dues because it suited society. In my own cranky kind of way, I feel the same about the ‘double demerits’ system – surely they could normalise the system after a decade or so of ‘double demerits’ applying to only when the police are under increased media scrutiny ? – oh that’s right, they’d be then admitting that they only do it because they are in the spotlight.

Back to my original rant, changing the goalposts effectively changes the game. If I had ‘agreed’ to a jailterm, to have it changed by an external action, I’d be renegotiating the terms from my end of the deal as well.

The High Court has upheld retrospective legislation, so although it is widely considered to be unfair, it is apparently legal.

Retrospective legislation was used against the promoters and adopters of “Bottom of the Harbour” tax schemes in the early 80s.

I would also really like to hear an explanation for how a government can legally make restrospective legislation.

Clearly we no longer live in a democracy governed by rule of law, and that is a bit of a concern.

so we can have a human rights act, but when a citizwn of the territory attempts to get the courts to review an alleged wrong – the gummint quashes it.


can you see the little piggies…

This law stinks: Anything that reduces accountability and scrutiny in this way is a bad law.

There is a common law presumption against retrospective legislation but (unless there’s something in the Self Govt Act limiting the Assembly’s legislative powers) there’s nothing to stop the Assembly passing such laws.

But I’d love to be corrected.

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