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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5972

Mr SLIPPER (8:58 PM) —I am pleased to join the chairman of the committee in supporting the report which has been tabled by the committee. Once again, it is a unanimous report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We covered a very important area in relation to disability. This committee seems to work very well together. It is obviously a cross-party committee, but we put our politics aside when we consider terms of reference referred to us by responsible ministers.

With respect to the report being tabled today, the committee was asked by the Attorney-General to consider and report on the draft Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards covering a range of areas including:

the appropriateness and effectiveness of the proposed Premises Standards in achieving their objects;

the interaction between the Premises Standards and existing regulatory schemes operating in state and territory jurisdictions, including the appropriateness and effectiveness of the proposed Model Process to Administer Building Access for People with Disability;

whether the Premises Standards will have an unjustifiable impact on any particular sector or group within a sector; and

any related matters.

The committee received a substantial number of recommendations from across the country when we advertised for views, and we wanted to consult widely. In fact, we received 146 submissions. We held six public hearings and one roundtable hearing. The whole idea of following this process was to try to discern what the Australian community was telling the committee and the parliament.

As a result, following our deliberations the committee made 19 recommendations. The committee chairman outlined some of those recommendations but the first recommendation of the report is that Premises Standards should be introduced without delay. The Premises Standards has a protracted history and the committee considered that the benefits it will provide, such as certainty and accessibility, should not be delayed any further. That was particularly important.

One of the key recommendations relates to class 2 buildings, which are residential apartment buildings. At the moment the Premises Standards does not require these buildings to be accessible. The committee has recommended that the common areas of class 2 buildings should be within the scope of the Premises Standards—that is, they should be made accessible. There were a number of reasons for that and it was obvious to the committee that those reasons have veracity and that the recommendations ought to be implemented.

Class 1b buildings were also the subject of recommendation by the committee. Class 1b buildings include eco-lodges, bed and breakfasts and holiday cottages. At present, the Premises Standards only applies to class 1b buildings containing four or more bedrooms. This means that the accessibility requirements of the Premises Standards would not apply to these types of buildings that have fewer than four bedrooms. The committee recognises that many class 1b buildings are run by small businesses with limited resources. One of the things about disability and disability regulation is that there has to be a balance. On the one hand we have to give people access and we have to treat people with disability as being equal to other people in the community. On the other hand we are not really serving the interests of people with disability if we send small business to the wall in the process.

The committee found that it was clear that it is much less expensive to provide access when building a new bed and breakfast or holiday cottage. That is why the committee has recommended that the requirements for accessibility should be imposed on all new and purpose built class 1b buildings regardless of the number of bedrooms they contain but that the proposed four-bedroom threshold should be maintained for existing buildings.

There were a whole range of other matters in the report, and time will not allow me to cover them, but they include areas such as dignity, fit-out, and review. We also pointed out that lessons could be learnt from the review of the transport standards for which, seven years on, a final report has still not been released. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms JA Saffin)—Does the member for Isaacs wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?