The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club (CGRC) is seeing last Friday’s (23 February) decision by Chief Justice Helen Murrell as a moral victory despite her dismissal of its application seeking an order to compel the Planning and Land Authority to grant it a further lease.
Chief Justice Murrell upheld most of the club’s arguments that the Authority should not have delayed processing its application for a new lease until the Government had passed legislation banning greyhound racing in the Territory, but decided it would be futile to grant the application.
She found that:
- The Authority was under an implied statutory duty to decide the Clubs application;
- The Authority should have decided the application according to the law at the time and disregarding the possibility of legislative change;
- The Authority was required to decide the application ‘as soon as possible’ under section 151b of the Legislation Act 2001 (ACT), and it did not do so; and
- The Authorities’ deliberate delay in deciding the application amounted to a refusal to perform its statutory duty to make a decision.
CGRC spokesperson Kel Watt said the decision revealed damning findings against the Government, saying the Chief Justice found the Government had failed to follow proper legal processes.
The court case held on 9 February was brought on by the CGRC after it alleged the Government failed to fulfill its legal obligation to grant its request for a lease extension in April last year.
Today’s decision and the case’s evidence meant the integrity and honesty of the ACT lease management was badly compromised, Mr Watt said.
The CGRC welcomed the decision as a clear demonstration that its’ claims of unfair and unlawful treatment at the hands of the ACT Government were substantiated.
However, it rejected the finding that granting the lease extension would be “futile” and will appeal the decision in an effort to have its lease extended.
The CGRC will next face the ACT Government in court next month when it challenges the validity of the legislation to ban racing and a series of constitutional issues.
Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing Mark Parton said that for the second time in less than 24 hours, a respected independent voice had ruled that the Government had abandoned statutory process.
“Once again, the Government is changing the rules to suit its own agenda. The judge very clearly rules that the Labor-Greens Government and ACTPLA did the wrong thing again, but that they’re going to get away with it,” he said.
“Planning Minister [Mick] Gentleman has a lot to answer for. The FOI email trail associated with this case raises serious questions regarding the possibility of ministerial interference.”
However, Chief Justice Murrell found there was no evidence of ministerial interference in the Planning Authority’s decisions.
The club applied for another lease in April 2017. It took legal action in October to force the Authority to make a decision and the legislation banning greyhound racing from 30 April 2018 passed the Assembly on 28 November 2017.