Bills Digest No. 92  1999-2000 Albury-Wodonga Development Amendment Bill 1999


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Endnotes
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

Albury-Wodonga Development Amendment Bill 1999

Date Introduced: 24 November 1999

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Transport and Regional Services

Commencement: The provisions relating to the Albury-Wodonga Development winding-up agreement and the repeal of the Albury-Wodonga Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1973(1) commence on Royal Assent.

The remaining provisions commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation,(2) or failing that, six months after the completion of the last of the following three events:

  • The day on which the NSW Repeal Act(3) receives Royal Assent
  • The day on which the Victorian Repeal Act(4) receives Royal Assent
  • The day on which the Albury-Wodonga Development winding-up agreement is signed on behalf of the NSW, Victorian and Commonwealth governments

Purpose

To put in place arrangements to facilitate the winding up of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation.

Background

The Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation (the Corporation) was established in 1973 under an agreement between the Commonwealth, Victoria and NSW. This agreement was ratified by Commonwealth Parliament through the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973 (the 1973 Act). For constitutional reasons, Victoria and NSW also passed similar legislation(5) which established State authorities to operate in conjunction with the Corporation.(6)

The Commonwealth's purpose behind the agreement and the 1973 Act was to develop a regional growth centre as part of its urban and regional development strategy.(7) At the time, the intention was to build up a population of 300,000 by the year 2000.(8) Under the scheme, the Corporation was to be responsible for the development of new areas, while local government was to remain generally responsible for their existing urban areas. A Ministerial Council comprising the three relevant Governments retained oversight of the Corporation, including approval of the strategic development plans.

Following a review of the Corporation in 1989, the Ministerial Council announced significant changes to its role. At the Commonwealth level, these were implemented by the Albury-Wodonga Development Amendment Act 1991. Under this Act and associated administrative changes, the Corporation was to

concentrate on the profitable development and marketing of its land holdings...[and while continuing to] play an important role in land use, social planning and economic development of the area...primary responsibility for these functions [would now] reside with local government.(9)

The changes to the operation of the Corporation also required it to provide financial returns to the Commonwealth.(10) The preferred position of the then Commonwealth Opposition was that Corporation should be phased out as soon as practical.(11)

In 1995, the Ministerial Council decided to wind up the Corporation entirely. Since then, the Corporation has progressively sold off many of its assets, including commercial and residential real estate. In order to protect real estate values in the region, this sell off has been subject to minimum prices set by the respective State Valuers- General.(12)

The Albury-Wodonga Development Amendment Bill 1999 (The Bill) is being introduced in parallel with similar legislation in the Victorian and NSW Parliaments. The Bill and its State counterparts restructures the Corporation, abolishes the two State corporations, and transfers their assets, rights, obligations and liabilities to the Corporation. The Corporation will then become solely responsible for the disposal of the remaining assets. The Bill also provides for the development of a winding up agreement at some future point to complete the process, which is projected to be around 2005.(13)

Main Provisions

Item 2 of Schedule 1 inserts new sections 5A-5D into the Act. The key elements are section 5A and section 5B. Section 5A provides that the Minister(14) may make a written determination that a particular form of agreement is an 'approved form' of a winding up agreement. That determination must be tabled in both House of Parliament and is subject to disallowance by a resolution passed within 15 days of tabling. Section 5B provides that if a winding-up agreement 'substantially in accordance' with the form tabled under section 5A is signed by the three Governments, it is taken to have been approved by the Parliament. This would appear to be a questionable delegation of Parliamentary power to the Executive.

Item 16 of Schedule 1 repeals the existing functions of the Corporation and replaces those with functions that are focused on preparing the Corporation for winding up.

Item 21 of Schedule 1 makes the Commonwealth Minister solely responsible for issuing directions to the Corporation. The Ministerial Council no longer has any role in this regard.

Item 24 of Schedule 1 eliminates the positions of the Wodonga and Albury representatives plus 2 deputy Chairpersons from the Corporation, thus reducing its membership to a Chairperson, the Chief Executive Officer plus two other members.(15)

Item 25 of Schedule 1 introduces new criteria for appointment to the Corporation. A new paragraph 10(3) provides that the Chairperson and the two other members must not be appointed unless 'he or she appears to the Minister to be qualified for appointment because of his or her knowledge and understanding of issues relating to the development of the Albury-Wodonga region'.

Item 51 of Schedule 1 inserts sections 20A-20H dealing with the development of plans and the transfer of assets etc from the State corporations to the (Commonwealth) Corporation.

Section 20A provides that the Corporation must draw up a plan ('a winding up plan') setting out how it proposes to perform its functions. This Plan must be provided to the Minister within 90 days of the commencement of this section (that is, Royal Assent). The Minister may direct the Corporation to vary the Plan.

Section 20B provides that the Corporation must draw up an annual operational plan designed to give effect to the winding up plan. The operational plan must be provided to the Minister and the Minister may direct the Corporation to vary the Plan.

Sections 20D-20F provides that Victoria and/or NSW may pass legislation to transfer assets, contractual rights, obligations and liabilities from their respective State Corporations to the Corporation. As a safeguard for the Commonwealth, the legislation purporting to effect any transfer is not effective until the Commonwealth Minister publishes a notice in the Gazette consenting to the transfer.

Section 20G provides that the transfers enabled by new sections 20D-F cannot be used by the Commonwealth to levy any tax as defined by s.55 of the Constitution.

The effect of section 20H is to ensure that any the acquisition by the Commonwealth of property from a person resulting from the section 20D-F transfers must be on just terms as required by s.51(xxxi) of the Constitution. Should a person and the Commonwealth not be able to reach agreement on the amount of compensation for the acquisition, the person may take action in the Federal Court.

Endnotes

  1. This Act allowed financial assistance to be provided to NSW and Victoria for the purposes of development of the Albury-Wodonga area.
  2. But note that proclamation must not proceed the signing of the winding up agreement.
  3. That is, the NSW Act that repeals the Albury-Wodonga Development Act (NSW) 1974
  4. That is, the Victorian Act that repeals the Albury-Wodonga Agreement Act (NSW) 1974
  5. See endnotes 3 and 4 above.
  6. Board members of the State corporations are also Board members of the Commonwealth Corporation.
  7. Second reading speech, The Hon Tom Uren MP, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 20 November 1973, p. 3534.
  8. Following a change of Government in 1975, the 'growth centre' program was curtailed. As a result the population target was cut back to 150,000. Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, Annual Report 1988-99.
  9. Second reading speech, The Hon Wendy Fatin MP, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 13 March 1991, p. 1910.
  10. A total of $72.237 million has been returned to the Commonwealth over the last eleven years. Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, Annual Report 1998-99, p. 13.
  11. Ewen Cameron (Member for Indi), House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 10 April 1991, p. 2255.
  12. Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, Annual Report 1998-99, p. 12.
  13. Second reading speech, The Hon Larry Anthony MP, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 24 November 1999, p. 9300.
  14. Currently the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government.
  15. Note that although the membership of the Corporation under the current Act is theoretically eight, apparently only the Chairperson and the CEO positions are presently filled.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Angus Martyn
6 December 1999
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1999

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1999.

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