The guest speaker at the 5 August UDIA lunch was Robert Clark MP. The flyer said he’s been a Member of Parliament since 1988. That’s a good innings for any politician, so I had high expectations.

Robert Clark is the Minister for Finance. Of more relevance is the fact that he is also Attorney General. The AG is in charge of VCAT. Ahh, this will be interesting….

Alas, the audience was left deflated. The Minister spoke and spoke and spoke about his various responsibilities in the Finance ministry and barely acknowledged his links to VCAT. Whilst we noted his diverse portfolio, a development industry forum wants to talk about (and hear about) things that are relevant to them. Did he not get it? We wanted to hear about VCAT!

The major cases list has been a big talking point of late. As the VCAT web site announced on 18 March 2011:

“The MCL was a separately funded pilot program which commenced in May 2010. As at 31 December 2010, the median time for finalising cases in the MCL was 12 weeks, and 93% were decided within the 16 week benchmark. The trial of compulsory mediations within the MCL has also been very successful, with a 30% settlement rate for the cases referred to mediation, and the disputed issues reduced in many other instances.

Regrettably, the funding provided to run the pilot has now been exhausted and as a consequence the operation of the List has been suspended.

The tribunal is working with the Government to find ways to fund the continued operation of the MCL. The introduction of a user pays MCL is one option, with a higher application fee and daily hearing fees payable by a permit applicant in a major case. If implemented, this self-funding arrangement would enable hearing priority for major cases to be restored without adversely impacting on the time within which other cases in the Planning and Environment List are heard.”

So, where is the MCL at? We were left none the wiser. He reluctantly responded to a question on the topic by stating that an announcement would be “soon”.

The occasion was a missed opportunity. The Minister had the chance to tell us something of the road ahead – but instead all we got was a list of his responsibilities. If we wanted to know that we would have checked his web site.

At least the food was good.