Legislative Council

GOVERNMENT BILL: Planning, Development & Infrastructure

December 1st, 2016

On the 1st of December, Mark spoke to the Statutes Amendment (Planning, Development and Infrastructure) Bill 2016.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I can feel a chill wind blow through the chamber when the Leader of the Greens rises to speak to a planning bill. No doubt members fondly remember the discussions that we had at this very time last year. In fact, the optional sitting week was taken last year for the sole purpose of continuing debate on the planning bill. It is with some pride that I think we accomplished about 50 clauses in that week. Clearly, the Legislative Council was hard at work.

I will disappoint members today because my contribution on this planning bill will be relatively brief. As much as I know members want to revisit the glory days of December 2015, I am going to disappoint. I mainly want to speak about one aspect of this bill, and that is the part of the bill that relates to the preparation of state planning policies. In relation to the rest of the bill, it is mostly of an implementation nature. We always knew that once the planning, development and infrastructure bill passed, there would need to be a number of other pieces of legislation to give effect to, and to implement, what we had passed, and that is what most of this bill does.

I am as keen as anyone to see the new system take shape. We need to get the planning commission appointed so they can get down to work. The parts of the bill that I am not happy with, as I said, relate to state planning policies. As members would recall, these are high-level documents that deal with overarching principles to which subordinate planning documents must comply or be consistent. Those planning policies include things like the design quality policy, policies that relate to special legislative schemes, and also some policies that the upper house inserted into the legislation.

One of them is a Liberal Party policy, which I think was a good idea, to ensure that, as far as possible, buildings are adaptively re-used. In other words, rather than demolishing buildings, if it is possible to fix them up for a more modern use then that should be embraced—a good policy. The Greens put forward the idea of a policy to make sure that climate change was taken into account in the preparation of planning documents. So, we have a number of these high-level documents.

The idea always was that those state planning policies would be the responsibility of the planning commission. They were going to be the planning commission's job, to write these policies and present them to the minister, but ultimately the planning commission would have control. That is the model that was proposed by the expert panel. Deputy Premier John Rau, in his capacity as planning minister, commissioned Brian Hayes QC to lead an expert panel to look at planning reforms. They recommended that we have this planning commission. They recommended that the planning commission be responsible for state planning policies.

So, what do we see in this bill? We see the government striking out the words 'planning commission' and reinserting the word 'minister'. In other words, they have gone back to the bad old days where these policies are purely political documents controlled by the minister. That is not what the expert panel suggested. It is also not what the Western Australian government implemented. If I had a dollar for every time the Hon. David Ridgway referred, in glowing terms, to the Western Australian model, I would be rich. If you look at how the Western Australians do it, their planning commission has responsibility for these planning policies, but under this bill, that power is taken away from them and put back into the hands of the minister.

My amendments, which I will speak to in more detail when we get into the committee stage, and that will not be today, are basically to return control to the planning commission. The government does make a good point, in one sense. I will refer to one paragraph from the minister's second reading speech and then explain why I think they have a good point, but I will propose an alternative way of dealing with it to that the government has chosen in the bill. In the second reading speech, the minister said:

It is also important to note that a substantive amendment to the Act  is proposed through this  Bill. That amendment is to clarify that the responsibility for and ownership of State Planning Policies rests ultimately with the Minister for Planning and Government of the day, notwithstanding that their policies will be informed by the Commission and its consultations.  This amendment corrects an inconsistency between different State Planning Policies and the responsibilities for the same, which occurred due to an amendment of the Planning, Development Infrastructure Bill in the Legislative Council. 

In other words, the government is saying, 'There is an inconsistency. The inconsistency is brought about by the Legislative Council and we need to fix it.' He has a point.

When the Liberal Party and the Greens put forward our amendments to create these new state planning policies, the Liberals' were to do with adaptive re-use, the Greens' were to do with climate change and we actually gave that responsibility to the minister, but the rest of the planning policies were the responsibility of the commission. So, the government makes a point: it is inconsistent. Two policies are the minister's responsibility and all the rest are the commission's responsibility. There are two ways to solve that inconsistency. Either you give everything to the minister or, as my amendments propose, you put it all in the hands of the commission.

That is how you solve the inconsistency. That is the approach I have taken. All the state planning policies will be under the firm and independent hand of the Planning Commission. It is consistent with the government's expert panel recommendations. It is consistent with the Western Australian model that the Liberal Party championed right through the debate. I look forward to debating that when we get to it. Whilst I know I am disappointing members by not speaking at greater length on this important topic, I will leave my remarks there and look forward to the committee stage in February, when I expect we will be resuming debate on this bill.

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