Follow this site by email:

Planning controls over schools and hospitals handed back to local councils

Cr Paul Tully - Strong opponent
of the repealed legislation
Queensland's 73 councils have been handed back town planning controls over local schools and hospitals.

In a rare move, parliament has voted to disallow a controversial regulation introduced in February during the dying days of the Bligh Labor government which removed the power of local councils to oversee the normal town planning processes for existing schools and hospitals.

The Assistant Minister for Planning Reform Ian Walker told Parliament the Bligh government had not undertaken any consultation with local governments, the Local Government Association or other stake holders before the exemptions became law.

"Disallowing this regulation will reinstate local government and community involvement in the planning and approval process for existing schools and public hospitals and reinstate a public consultation process," he said.

The Labor Party opposed the move to repeal the regulation which was carried by 77 votes to 7.

One of the strongest opponents of the repealed law was Ipswich City Council planning and development spokesman Paul Tully who hailed its overturning this week "as a victory for all communities across Queensland".

Cr Tully, Queensland's longest-serving city councillor of 33 years, was strongly critical of the normal town planning powers being removed from local government by the former government.

"It meant existing private schools and hospitals could self-assess their own applications, give themselves their own approvals and ignore the legitimate wishes of local councils and residents.

"They didn't even have to lodge a town planning application for major extensions on their site which might have seriously affected local residents.

"They didn't have to provide any off-street parking and there were no height limits and no headworks contributions payable even for massive redevelopments.

"This was one of the most-abhorrent and anti-democratic pieces of legislation ever introduced by any government in Australia," Cr Tully said.

Cr Tully urged the 7 Opposition Labor members to talk to Queensland's 73 local governments about local concerns rather than defend unpopular measures introduced by the previous government.

"Local councils and local residents have the right to be consulted over all town planning applications and the Labor Party should be defending that right at all costs," Cr Tully said.


Disallowance of Statutory Instrument

Mr WALKER (Mansfield—LNP) (9.09 pm): I move—

That the Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 2) of 2012, Subordinate Legislation No. 42 of 2012, tabled in the House on 17 February 2012, be disallowed.

Tonight I move to disallow the Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 2) 2012. The
disallowance of this regulation will give local governments and communities a say in developments in their areas and put an end to uncertainty. The Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 2)
2012 was made, tabled and commenced on 17 February 2012, amending the Sustainable Planning
Regulation 2009. This regulation was quietly announced just days before the caretaker provisions
commenced. The regulation exempted existing schools and public hospitals in Queensland from
development assessment against local planning schemes. No consultation occurred with local
governments, the Local Government Association of Queensland or other stakeholders during the
development of this regulation. In the Mackay Daily Mercury on 24 February 2012 a Bligh government spokesperson was quoted to have said—

Local governments’ compulsive need to control every minute detail is strangling the ability for core community infrastructure to be developed.

Local governments and the Local Government Association of Queensland have been strongly
critical of the former Bligh government’s decision to exclude local governments and the community from the planning and approval process. One of the fundamental tenets of this government is to give back powers to local governments that have been eroded over time by the former Labor government.

The previous Labor government did not undertake any investigations of unintended consequences and no information was provided to local governments or other stakeholders on the effects or commencement.

There is a lack of clarity amongst stakeholders about the regulation, including its commencement date and whether it is currently in effect. Consequently, there is also a lack of clarity about local government’s ability to issue infrastructure charges notices.

Disallowing this regulation will reinstate local government and community involvement in the
planning and approval process for existing schools and public hospitals and reinstate a public
consultation process.

Disallowing this regulation will prevent inconsistent approaches between existing
schools and public hospitals, which are covered by the exemption, and new schools and public
hospitals, which are not covered. In disallowing this regulation, we are delivering on yet another election commitment. I commend the motion to the House.

Mr MULHERIN (Mackay—ALP) (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (9.12 pm): The opposition will be opposing this disallowance motion because it increases the red-tape and cost burden on schools and hospitals in Queensland, particularly Catholic and independent schools and private hospitals. At a time when the LNP talks constantly about the cost of living and reducing red tape, it is moving in this House a motion that will add to the cost and time taken to upgrade schools and hospitals. Disallowing this regulation will make it more expensive and more difficult for schools and hospitals to expand or modify the facilities on their existing premises.

I must emphasise that this regulation applies to existing schools and hospitals, not greenfield
sites. I emphasise this point to allay any concerns that could exist in some members’ minds that schools and hospitals are no longer subject to council oversight. That is not true. If a school buys an adjoining house to expand its facility, it will still have to go through a relevant council approval process, but this regulation allows existing schools and hospitals to avoid the unnecessary costs and delays associated with capital works on sites that already provide either education or medical services and that will enhance the services available. I should point out that the exemptions contained in this regulation were used successfully during the Building the Education Revolution program to streamline approvals at Queensland schools.

Mr Seeney: It doesn’t change that.

Mr MULHERIN: When LNP representatives have turned up to schools in my area they have
never criticised the school halls and school libraries that came from the Building the Education
Revolution program. The hypocrisy of it! That program allowed buildings to get off the ground and it
created the jobs that were necessary during the GFC. Members of the government should know that,
when they vote to support this motion, upgrades to schools and hospitals in their electorates will cost
more and take longer. Those are the consequences of their action and they will not be able to shy away from that. They will be voting for increased costs and project delays. They claim to be the party of cutting waste and red tape, but tonight they are creating it.

I am concerned that the government has not given due regard to the financial impacts of this
motion on the state’s budget. Each year hundreds and possibly even thousands of capital works
projects are conducted at state schools and government hospitals. My understanding is that some
schools and many hospitals will be subjected to council fees for capital works if this motion is
successful. Therefore, I ask the minister and the assistant minister to answer a number of important
queries: how many capital works projects were conducted in state schools and the public health system last financial year; how many of those would have incurred fees for council planning approvals with the rescinding of this regulation; and what is the total amount of extra fees the Queensland government would have been subject to if fees had applied to those projects?

I hope that the government has done this level of analysis and modelling. Surely the government
would have taken the time to quantify the impacts this change will have on state agencies, so the figures should be readily accessible. The Minister for Health and the Minister for Education, Training and Employment should know and be able to tell us those figures. If they cannot produce the figures, it means the LNP government has not conducted the more basic analysis of its policy position. It shows the inexperience and cavalier attitude the LNP takes to government. They do not believe they should have to account for their actions or face proper scrutiny.

For every council approval required to be lodged, an application fee will be payable. This is an
expense that the Labor policy would have avoided. Of course, it is not just the application fee for council approvals that the state government will now have to pay. There is the time and expense in preparing council planning applications that again will have to be borne by education and health departments. For large capital works projects, this could be a very significant expense. Unfortunately, we do not know how much unless the government releases some information about the impacts the disallowance of this regulation would have.

Tonight the LNP is creating more work for public servants by requiring them to once again prepare
and lodge applications for planning approvals for schools and hospitals, but at the same time they are
gutting the Public Service and cutting about 20,000 jobs. How will the increased demand on smaller
workforces affect the timelines for projects in our state schools and public hospitals? Unfortunately,
applications will take longer to prepare with fewer staff and resources, and important projects that would benefit the community will be delayed. For once, the LNP government will not be able to blame Labor for those delays. They will have to take the responsibility because the delays will be directly related to the decision made tonight.

Of course, it is not just the state government that will be adversely affected by the changes.
Private hospitals and Catholic and independent schools will also be required to once again submit
planning applications to councils for projects on their existing sites. In relation to schools, there are only two possible impacts of this decision: increased school fees or reduced services. For a government that continually talks about the cost-of-living pressures on families, this policy will do nothing to help. In fact, it will hurt all the families that send their children to Catholic and independent schools, which cater for about one-third of all students in Queensland. Those families now face the real prospect of fee increases, particularly if their school is planning building works over the next few years. The same goes for private hospitals. The extra costs will be passed on to patients, adding further to medical bills and cost-of-living pressures. The change also means more expenses for those institutions and delays for their worthwhile projects. We will be opposing the disallowance motion because it increases the costs and red-tape burden for public and private schools and hospitals, and it is likely to add to the cost-of living pressures for many families.

Hon. JW SEENEY (Callide—LNP) (Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development,
Infrastructure and Planning) (9.19 pm):
The government will be supporting the disallowance motion moved by the member for Mansfield. The member for Mansfield demonstrated an understanding of what this issue was about in the short address that he gave to the parliament. I congratulate the member for Mansfield on the insight that he brought to what is a fairly basic planning issue. I commend the member for Mansfield for the comments he made about returning proper authority to local government because that is what this is about. It is about returning the authority to local government that the former Labor government totally ignored.

The contribution that was made by the member for Mansfield stands in stark contrast to the
contribution that was made by the member for Mackay. If anybody in Queensland wants to understand why the former Labor government ended up in such a mess, why Queensland ended up in such a mess and why Queensland ended up with $100 billion worth of debt, they only need to listen to the contribution that the member for Mackay made tonight. This man was a minister in the former
government for a considerable period of time and yet he has no ability to understand the basic argument that the member for Mansfield put to this House tonight.

Not only did the member for Mackay not try to understand the issue; he came in here with a
speech that was written by a junior geek down at ALP headquarters and read it without understanding it. He made no attempt to understand the speech and no attempt to understand the issue and came in
here and sprouted nonsense gobbledegook. I say to the members who were not here for all those years, ‘The member for Mackay and his ministerial colleagues did that day after day after day in this chamber.’

That is why the state is in such a mess, my honourable friend. You and your colleagues never thought
about the nonsense that you came in here and repeated and you never understood the implications of it.
Let me go through the issues one at a time. For the benefit of the member for Mackay I will go
through the issues one at a time, if he can remember what he actually read. He made some comment
about public servants having to do more work because they now have to go through planning
processes. Wrong. That is not what this disallowance will bring about. There is nothing in what the
member for Mansfield said that would indicate that. There was nothing in this regulation that would
indicate that. He is completely wrong. There is no basis for that nonsense. That is a complete
misunderstanding of what the regulation does.

The member for Mackay talked about the BER projects suddenly costing more or being more
difficult. Wrong. They are not affected by the regulation. That has nothing to do with it. It is completely irrelevant nonsense, like the irrelevant nonsense that the member and his colleagues sprouted in here year after year after year as the state went further and further and further into debt and we ended up with that shameful legacy that the member for Mackay and his colleagues will live with for the rest of their days and that generations of Queenslanders will struggle to repay because of the incompetence that we saw demonstrated again tonight.

This has nothing to do with the BER building. It has nothing to do with delivering the buildings that
are necessary for year 7 to move into high school. It is all about returning a level of control to local
governments; recognising the autonomy of local governments and returning a level of control to those duly elected local governments. If honourable members followed the logic that somebody wrote into the speech for the member for Mackay to read to its obvious conclusion, we would not have a planning scheme at all. We would not have planning applications for anything. We would not have any planning schemes, no control for councils.

Mr Crisafulli: That’s how they plan.

Mr SEENEY: Exactly. That is how they plan. I take the interjection from the minister. That is how
the former Labor government planned. They had no planning. They had no control. It was just what was convenient on the day. It was just what they could fit into their allocated time in this House. They would read nonsense that they did not understand.

This is a sensible reversal of an action that was taken by the previous government that they did
not understand. They did not understand the consequences of it. They did not know what it was going to do. They did not know the effect that it would have in local communities. Of course, we are going to reverse it. Over a period of time we will reverse a lot of other similar decisions that were taken by the inept member for Mackay and his inept colleagues who sat around the cabinet table for so long.

The disallowance motion that has been moved tonight is just one small step in returning to local
government the recognition that they should have—the ability that they should have to control their
communities. It is relevant to remember that this was introduced without any consultation—no
consultation at all. I heard the Minister for Local Government in an earlier debate tonight talk about
consultation being like a blunt brick, I think he said.

The Minister for Local Government knows full well the level of consultation with local government
in those days by a government that did not care about local government. They did not understand the
role of local government. But worse than that, they did not care about the decisions that they made in
this place. They did not even care or think about the effects of their decisions. They did not try to
understand, just as the member for Mackay did not try to understand what the member for Mansfield
said tonight and did not try to understand the nonsense that was written for him that he was sent in here to regurgitate. It was an absolutely shameful performance. This House should support the member for Mansfield and support this disallowance motion.

Division: Question put—That the motion be agreed to.

AYES, 77—Barton, Bates, Bennett, Berry, Bleijie, Boothman, Cavallucci, Choat, Costigan, Cox, Crandon, Cripps, Crisafulli, Davies, C Davis, T Davis, Dempsey, Dickson, Dillaway, Douglas, Dowling, Driscoll, Elmes, Emerson, Flegg, France, Frecklington, Gibson, Grant, Grimwade, Gulley, Hart, Hathaway, Hobbs, Holswich, Hopper, Johnson, Judge, Katter, Kaye, Kempton, King,
Knuth, Krause, Latter, Maddern, Malone, Mander, McArdle, McVeigh, Millard, Minnikin, Molhoek, Newman, Nicholls, Ostapovitch, Powell, Rice, Rickuss, Ruthenberg, Seeney, Shorten, Shuttleworth, Sorensen, Springborg, Stevens, Stewart, Stuckey, Symes, Trout, Walker, Watts, Wellington, Woodforth, Young. Tellers: Menkens, Smith

NOES, 7—Mulherin, Palaszczuk, Pitt, Scott, Trad. Tellers: Byrne, Miller

Resolved in the affirmative.