Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3252..
Far from being a technicality, the rules set out in the Building Code are there to protect occupants. The Building Act requires that the Construction Occupations Registrar ensures that buildings are fit for the purpose for which they are used.
I do not think we can downplay the importance of this. Imagine if there was a fire in a building that was not permitted to be used, for example, for overnight accommodation, and was not fit for that purpose. Imagine if there was a fire, if there was smoke in the building, if there were people sleeping in that building and if there was no lighting, no clear emergency exit and no smoke detector. It would be a tragedy, and the government would have to accept the responsibility for allowing that to occur.
It is important that we make sure that these issues are addressed. It is not to say that it cannot be done. It is not to say that the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate is not willing to assist—because it is. But the Building Code is there for a reason: to protect lives.
There are obviously potential issues around this, other issues around this, in terms of the care and the supervision of people who may be using such an arrangement. Minister Burch has outlined those. But from a practical building safety perspective, if there are issues, for example, with people smoking, and if that causes a fire, we have to make sure that these issues can be managed in an emergency. We do not want people to be trapped; we do not want people to be overcome by smoke inhalation if the worst happens. That is what the Building Code is all about.
I reiterate my directorate's willingness to work with the organisations involved to resolve these issues and to make sure that what is absolutely a well-intentioned and charitable proposal is able to be progressed, but progressed in a manner that also has regard to ensuring safety in the event that there is an emergency in a building.
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (8.14), in reply: I thank members for their contributions. I think everyone is agreeing, although I am a little uncertain after everyone's speeches.
I will just go to a few of the points I made earlier. I note, and agree with Ms Burch, that there is a range of services that can be provided to people who are homeless. That includes shelters and it includes proposals like Common Ground; there is a range of things that can be provided. But, as I said, providing a shelter is not admitting defeat in providing people with stable accommodation; it is recognising that that is actually a part of providing homelessness services, and in many cases providing people with a transitional readiness to be able to go into housing.
As I said, there is a range of reasons why people sometimes are not ready to go into housing. From speaking to the group behind safe shelter—Ms Le Couteur and I visited them—I realise that they recognise this, because they see it every day. People, for whatever reason, in whatever circumstances they have in their life, are not always ready—whether it is about taking responsibility or dealing with other issues in life—to go into stable accommodation. Shelter is one way of going towards that. And no, it is not permanent; I do not think anyone is saying that.