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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (16 August) . . Page.. 2238..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

matters, pursues with vigour-pursues it to a point at which the expenditure of resources and time, we believe, is appropriate and, beyond that point, is simply not cost-effective.

It behoves governments to ensure that the law is enforced and respected, and we need to pursue with a certain level of vigour those that do not meet or pay their dues or debts and seriously do it to a point. But what is the point at which we actually fail to meet a public good or fail to effectively use government resources in the pursuit of a debt or fine without receiving an appropriate return or response either in terms of community good or the cost as against the benefit? These are always difficult issues. I know that those in this place who have been pursued through the Small Claims Court for the non-payment of debts would have a fine understanding of the issues on the level of resources required to pursue a particular debt as against other methods in relation to those particular issues.

Treasury has done significant work on its responsibilities in pursuing debtors. I believe that the approaches in place-and this is an issue that I have taken advice from Treasury on-are appropriate, that the balance is right and that we are prepared to commit a certain level of resource, energy, activity and personnel to pursue debts and debtors, as is done by territory and municipal services, but to a point where the expenditure or pursuit needs to be justified in terms of an outcome, a possibility or a balancing of the cost to us versus the potential receipt, both in terms of debt due and the greater community good.

Public housing-rental assistance program

MS PORTER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Housing. Minister, what is the ACT government doing to help our public housing tenants avoid the potential poverty trap set by the Howard government's harsh welfare-to-work changes?

Mr Pratt: Are we going to indulge in a bit of Howard bashing?

MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Hargreaves has the call. He will direct his comments through the chair.

MR HARGREAVES: It is enough to try the patience of St Peter. The government, through Housing ACT, has put in place processes to provide appropriate support to tenants in need to help them maintain their tenancies satisfactorily. Consistent with these arrangements I am proud to announce that I recently agreed to a relaxation of the arrangements under which low-income tenants on rent rebates can be deemed to be receiving Centrelink payments. The federal Liberal government is doing little to help people in need. All it is doing is hurting people with its new welfare-to-work changes.

The ACT government will do all it can to relieve some of the pain. Under the Howard government's welfare-to-work compliance framework, some Centrelink payments may be withdrawn for a period of eight weeks after a third breach of Centrelink rules by a recipient. Imagine how difficult that burden would be. Imagine how difficult it would be for a family receiving no income. Is it a child's fault if his or her parents are unable to find work, or if they have misunderstood the rules? It is cruel to make the entire family suffer.

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