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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 May 2007) . . Page.. 775 ..

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Gentleman): Order! Discussion of the matter of public importance is concluded.

Housing Assistance Bill 2006

Debate resumed.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.15): This bill underpins and reflects substantial changes to this government’s commitment to public housing in the ACT. First of all, I thank the government for providing a briefing to us on this bill by the minister’s officers. It was also a briefing about the government’s social housing program, which Mr Hargreaves spoke to before. I want to say that I can only address some matters in this short time. I refer the Assembly to ACTCOSS’s comments on the Housing Assistance Bill, and I thank them for those.

The first steps in the changes to the government’s commitment to public housing became evident with the changes to public housing eligibility that were put in place in the middle of last year. This bill, when it was tabled last year, clearly laid the groundwork for more substantial changes which were made apparent with the policy announcements on 20 April. Every one of these changes can appear defensible when viewed in isolation but, when looked at more broadly, we see a step away from any commitment to a shared society, with the result being an absolute failure of vision.

Mr Hargreaves has made much of his status as a champion of the ACT Labor right. Perhaps a complete lack of vision is what the Labor right stands for. I am not alone in my view that it is a shame that the ACT Labor government has become so captured by the right. Orwell’s Animal Farm provides the metaphor. When the ACT Labor Party took over from the Liberals, many people had imagined that the vaunted social plan and the Labor Party platform were things that would shape and direct government policies. Bit by bit, however, under the cover of pragmatism, we have seen decisions, small and large, undermine the ambition and the promise of that first accession to power. Since the last election, just like in Animal Farm, we have seen dissent and opposition crushed or treated with contempt.

In this case, funding to ACT Shelter and the Coalition of Community Housing Organisations, CCHOACT, was slashed to avoid any deep analysis of housing policy. Whether or not there was a personal element to this budget decision, there is no denying that it serves a political agenda. I welcome the work that ACTCOSS does to try to fill that breach. These days, the ACT government only seems to want advice from those it trusts or pays to support it. The recent cabinet reshuffle appears to reflect that approach.

These latest changes to public housing policy have been welcomed by the Property Council, real estate agents and the Liberal Party. It is very nice to see the mutual admiration club that has developed in this Assembly, with evidence today of Mrs Burke purring at the Minister for Housing in approval of the changes that this bill envisages. Just as at the end of Animal Farm, we can no longer tell apart the people who used to be in charge of the farm from the pigs who promised so much more when they took over. It appears that the Greens stand alone in this house to oppose them.

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