Confusion over the Gunner Government’s controversial pet laws continues as legislation the government said would be delayed was given assent by the Administrator last week, while no commencement date has been announced.
More than 8000 people – mostly landlords and investors – have signed a petition against the Northern Territory’s new rental laws, which presume tenants have the right to keep pets on a property.
It’s unclear whether the petition will have any consequence after the legislation has already passed Parliament, been given assent by the Administrator and is awaiting a final commencement date to be brought into law.
Real Estate Institute NT chief executive Quentin Kilian presented the petition, containing 8385 signatures, to Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro at Parliament today.
The Gunner Government passed the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 in February, but it was then delayed before commencing.
Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said last week that the government would defer the legislation as the federal and NT governments investigated implementing changes to protect renters who may have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Details around protecting renters are expected to be made public on Friday.
“Our decision to defer the commencement of Residential Tenancies Act 2019 allows us to accommodate the COVID-19 public health emergency provisions in these unprecedented times, all while ensuring our local legislation needs are met,” she said in a statement last week.
The legislation received assent from the Administrator on April 16, and was Gazetted on April 20. But it has not been brought into effect as of yet, the NT Independent understands.
It’s expected the issue will come under the microscope when Parliament sits on Friday.
When asked on Tuesday if he would consider scrapping the legislation, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was “prioritising other work”.
Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro called for the legislation to be scrapped now.
“The Chief Minister and the Attorney General have admitted that this clause creates uncertainty and in a time when the Territory is going to be so reliant going forward in private investment, when our economy is so depressed, we need to ensure that we have a regulatory environment that means people are attracted to come and spend and invest in the Territory,” she said.
“We are going into Parliament to amend the legislation on Friday and it is an appropriate opportunity for this government to right the wrong and scrap the pets clause.”
Legislation needs to be “taken out back, shot, buried and cremated”: REINT
Mr Kilian said the legislation removed the rights of landlords and investors to make decisions over their own properties.
“I’ve had quite a number of calls from angry investors telling me that they were actually taking their properties off the market. We’ve also seen landlords deciding not to re-lease their properties until this is resolved,” he said.
“If investors are worried about legislation that takes away their rights then they are not going to come here and invest. They are going to go to the Gold Coast or Melbourne or Sydney. We don’t want them to go there, we want them to come here and invest.”
Mr Gunner said on Tuesday that it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind when Parliament resumes, despite earlier saying it would be deferred.
“It’s been put on the absolute back-burner, so for me it’s not an issue right now for us to deal with,” he said.
“We’re not in that ballpark, we’re not doing that work, we’re concentrating on simply fixing coronavirus.”
Mr Kilian said the issue needed to be dealt with now.
“The Chief Minister by his own admission has said he’s not interested in it anymore, he’s put it on the back-burner,” he said.
“Well the back-burner is not the place for it – it needs to be taken out the back, shot, buried and cremated, never to be seen again, ever. If it sits on the back-burner, it means it can be revived again at some stage.
“We want it to be taken away entirely.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected. An earlier version stated the pet laws had come into effect, and while the legislation has been given assent by the Administrator, there is no commencement date as of yet.