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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 4136..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

The new legislative system will provide the commissioner with the power to make formal determinations under programs established through the act. It will also provide the ability to issue operational guidelines to assist staff to interpret and implement provisions of the act or its programs. This places current practices on a much clearer legislative footing.

The bill provides the commissioner with the power to seek information from the people receiving or applying for housing assistance and requires this information to be provided. This will ensure an enhanced ability to effectively provide ongoing assistance to individuals and manage the housing system as a whole. This provision will, for example, allow the commissioner to seek information from market renters regarding their circumstances in order to assess what options may be available to them in terms of their future housing choices.

The legislation includes new provisions for the protection of the personal information of entities receiving housing assistance. As the largest single landlord in the territory, the ACT government has a particular responsibility to ensure that the personal details of its tenants are not inappropriately released into the public arena or misused in any way that could adversely affect their lives. Importantly, this provision will protect information on the location of individual tenants and community organisations providing refuge services, community housing or disability accommodation.

Mr Speaker, members will notice that the language in this bill has been significantly refined compared with the 1987 legislation. Many provisions have been updated, including the functions of the commissioner, the process for approving housing assistance programs and the provisions relating to unleased territory land.

In relation to the bill's new policy aspects, there is included for the first time the provision of a definition of housing assistance. This definition is necessary in order to put some boundaries around the delivery of housing assistance and to ensure that the commissioner's role is clearly defined. The chief executive of the agency responsible for housing assistance legislation will now hold the position of Commissioner for Social Housing, as outlined in the administrative arrangements orders.

The provisions for the commissioner to enter into joint ventures have been updated to ensure consistency with the already agreed process for government entities, as outlined in the Financial Management Act 1996. This requires the agreement of the Treasurer and minister to table in this place, within two weeks, a written statement in relation to a joint venture.

The bill also seeks to clarify that debts owed to the Commissioner for Social Housing are debts owed to the territory, even though the commissioner maintains a separate legal identity.

The remainder of the provisions contained in the bill are consistent with those contained in the old act, with the language and drafting style updated to reflect contemporary standards. Members will note that the housing assistance programs will have to be re-made under the new legislation. On this matter we will have further

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