An 1100 signature petition was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly today by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson calling on the ACT Government to introduce a developer licensing scheme.
Mr Pettersson’s Assembly colleague, Greens MLA and ACT Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction, Rebecca Vassarotti, last year said a property licensing scheme would be announced by the end of 2022, but a discussion paper is yet to be tabled.
ACT property developers ‘vehemently opposed to licensing scheme’: CFMEU (25 July 2022)
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) ACT secretary Zach Smith said while it’s a complicated area, four years is more than enough time to have something in place by now.
In July this year, Mr Smith said ACT property developers are “vehemently opposed to a licensing scheme” and he had no doubt “Ms Vassarotti has been the target of intense pressure from the powerful developers lobby in Canberra. They want her to back off on licensing, but she should tell them to take a running jump.”
When asked today if the reason the Minister had been “dragging her feet” was due to pushback from developers, Mr Smith said it’s “hard to say” but that he’s had multiple constructive conversations with Ms Vassarotti along with her portfolio predecessor.
“What we know is the developer lobby is very powerful, it’s very well resourced, and it’s fair to say that they aren’t going to support the measures that we’re proposing and they’re not going to support developer licensing,” he said.
For the last three months, the CFMEU have been developing a best practice model for developer licensing in the ACT, which Mr Smith said “shows that it’s possible”.
“So, what we have here today, which comes on the back of our petition that was signed by over 1100 Canberrans, is a legal framework which shows that developer licensing is not only possible, it should be done, it can be done, and that, in fact, there’s no reason for any further delay on this issue,” he said.
“Every day that we wait, every month that we wait to initiate developer licence laws, bring forward legislation to license developers, is another day, another month, where developers are exercising unfettered power in the ACT, and it really is unfettered power.
“They have this ultimate say over the way Canberra is constructed, the places we live, the places we work, and they also take what is easily the largest share of the pie when it comes to the wealth allocation of these projects.”
Last month, two retaining walls collapsed at different development sites in Canberra and Mr Smith said a developer licensing scheme would reduce those types of events from occurring.
“We’ve had two excavation collapses here in the ACT. Both of those incidents could have been catastrophic, and it was good luck rather than good management which didn’t see further damage or even personal injury or loss of life,” he said.
While Mr Pettersson said he’s “very confident in the abilities of my colleagues”, he questions their priorities.
“Minister Vassarotti is an incredibly competent individual. I do, however, question her priorities, because I’m standing here halfway through this term and we’ve yet to see any movement on developer licensing,” he said.
“I think government has been dragging its feet. Since 2019, it’s been a Labor Party policy to implement property licensing and what are we seeing today? Nothing.
“I don’t think that’s right. I agree with most Canberrans that they want to see property developers appropriately licensed here in the ACT.”
Mr Pettersson said he has hasn’t yet begun working on his own Private Members Bill, but if he finds Minister Vassarotti’s discussion paper not fit for purpose, he will.
“I’m prepared to give the Minister the summer, as she’s alluded to, and I hope to see a fulsome proposal and a timeline,” he said.
In response, Ms Vassarotti said she welcomes Mr Pettersson’s petition.
The minister said it is her intention to say more on this “important issue” and the petition “as soon as possible”.
“We all agree that property developers should be held accountable for the work they do, so the ACT will introduce greater accountability measures for property developers, including a developer licensing scheme,” Ms Vassarotti said.
“The ACT Government will be releasing a discussion paper this summer, with consultation with key stakeholders.”