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MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training and Minister for Housing and Family Services): I ask for leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement on housing in the ACT.
MR STEFANIAK: I recently attended the Ministerial Council on Housing, and I believe that it is appropriate that I report to the Assembly on that meeting and the directions in which Commonwealth and State relations are proceeding in the area of housing. I am also taking the opportunity of placing before the Assembly some of our Government's objectives in relation to housing in the ACT.
Firstly, turning to the ministerial meeting: The major discussion item was progress on the development of the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and the reform of housing assistance arrangements in that context. The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement is the agreement under which the Commonwealth contributes to the provision of public housing assistance within the States and Territories. In general, the funds provided by the Commonwealth to the States pursuant to the agreement are isolated and used for the provision of housing assistance within each State and Territory. The role of providing that assistance is undertaken by the State and Territory housing authorities.
This year is the fiftieth year of the agreement, it having commenced in 1945. The current agreement will expire in June 1996, and work is being undertaken by Commonwealth and State Ministers to renegotiate the agreement. This renegotiation is occurring in the context of fundamental changes to housing assistance which have been agreed to by Housing Ministers in line with key recommendations of the Industry Commission report on public housing. These reforms, which are also part of the Council of Australian Governments agenda, will fundamentally change the roles and the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in the provision of housing services. The new agreement is designed to focus on people achieving better housing outcomes. As part of achieving these outcomes, the agreement will give greater flexibility to States and Territories to establish their own priorities and to manage and deliver services at the State and Territory level within agreed State, Territory and Commonwealth policy outcomes. The directions of these changes have been approved by the Council of Australian Governments. Housing Ministers at their recent meeting agreed on a timetable for the development of the new agreement. It is proposed that the new agreement will be for a six-year period and will be supported by reciprocal legislation in both the Commonwealth and the Territory. The Commonwealth legislation is seen as an enabling Act rather than proscriptive as in the past.
The responsibilities of the Commonwealth and those of the Territory will be defined in housing plans which will be agreed between the Commonwealth and the Territory. The Territory will be required to report annually against nominated performance criteria established in the legislation and in the plans. The Ministers have endorsed the proposal that the agreement be outcome based, with the Territory having much greater flexibility about how we will meet those outcomes than has been the position in the past.