Lawyers cry foul on building legislation

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ACT Law Society president Chris Donohue.

IN a submission by the ACT Law Society on the “Building and Construction Legislation Amendment Bill 2019”, the society has taken the opportunity to criticise the “extremely short timeframe” of the submission process.

“It is of continuing concern that the legal profession is provided with such limited opportunity to comment on draft legislation,” the submission by ACT Law Society president Chris Donohue, on behalf of the society, read.

“The society believes that the input of experienced members of the profession contributes greatly to improved legislative outcomes.”

The Legislative Assembly referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism on October 24, with a requirement to report back to the Assembly on November 26, which meant submissions needed to be in by November 13, giving the community and organisations only three weeks to make a submission.

Master Builders ACT echoed the concerns of the ACT Law Society saying: “Due to the lack of consultation and engagement, and the short timeframe in which submissions to this inquiry are due, Master Builders has limited the content of these submissions to the sections which will impose personal liability on directors and executive officers of licensed building companies.

“In order to achieve genuine and optimal reform, significant and lengthy engagement, including a formal consultation period… is required on this lengthy and complex bill.

“A minimum of three months is recommended to allow industry and legal experts to review the laws and address the issues raised in this, and other, submissions to the Legislative Assembly Committee.”

In a submission written by the Property Council of Australia, similar concerns were again raised, with the council calling on the bill to be delayed by three months.

“Given the Governments seems to intent to proceed with reforms outside of the nationally recommended approach and with little input from the building and construction sector, the key areas of concern with these amendments and our rational is contained within the attached submission,” the submission read.

“In order to have these concerns adequately addressed and to ensure genuine engagement with the sector on these issues, like the Master Builders Association of the ACT, the Property Council is calling for debate of the Bill to be delayed by three months.”

Housing Industry Australia also used the submission to make the same concerns about a lack of consultation, saying: “It is disappointing that while the government has clearly been considering the measures outlined in this Bill for some time – the Minister first foreshadowed these laws at the Legislative Assembly Economics and Tourism Committee inquiry into building quality some months ago – there was no discussion with industry or the community prior to the Bills introduction in the Assembly.”

Following the submissions, the committee has made seven recommendations, one of which is for the ACT government to continue to consult with stakeholders and the wider community.

 

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