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There are a number of issues that were raised by the Minister in his speech that I think it is important to take up. The Minister gave me the impression that he is very keen to be what he termed a fair but firm landlord. I think that is perfectly reasonable. However, I think it is important for us to remember that the Housing Trust, like any other landlord, has certain responsibilities in certain ways, but does not have responsibilities in other ways. I refer to page 7, for example, where the Minister stated:
It is ... unacceptable for tenants to damage public housing -
I think that is a perfectly reasonable statement -
or to act in a way that causes a nuisance to their neighbours.
Mr Speaker, it is unacceptable for any person in Canberra to act in a way that causes a nuisance to their neighbours. When we are talking about somebody's home, it is not my role as a private landlord - I am not now, but I have been - to deal with the nuisance that somebody causes their neighbours. It is the role of society in general. It is probably the responsibility of the Minister sitting next to Mr Stefaniak to ensure that, in a range of ways, people do not cause nuisance to their neighbours. Whether it be through the police or whether it be through, for example, the noise or environmental legislation that Mr Humphries is responsible for, he has that general responsibility. It is not a specific responsibility, and we must be careful that the Housing Minister does not take on paternalistic responsibility that is inappropriate. The difficulty with taking on an inappropriate paternalistic role is that there will be overinterference with people who are normally living very well. I think Mr Stefaniak would agree with me, and I am sure that the previous Housing Ministers would agree with me - Mr Connolly was one of those - that the vast majority of tenants in our public housing system are very good tenants. We have to be careful that we do not move towards a draconian system - I am not suggesting that that is what it is - which puts an impost on the 98 per cent of our public housing tenants who are very good tenants who look after their houses.
Mr Speaker, when a public house has been damaged severely it is a matter of great concern. I understand how the Minister must feel and how the rest of the community feels. As a landlord, one house that I had let out was trashed. It is most disconcerting when it costs us thousands and thousands of dollars. I recently assisted somebody else to repair a house that went through exactly the same situation. It is unacceptable and it has to be dealt with appropriately. Perhaps it has been dealt with too softly in the past. If the Minister takes this on and wishes to deal with specific situations where people have damaged housing, that is entirely appropriate; but do not put an impost on everybody else because a few people are abusing the system.
Mr Speaker, there are a series of other issues about the reviews going on that Ms McRae responded to, and I must say that I endorse her comments. They are particularly sensible comments about that. I think there is no point in my reiterating those comments that I endorse. I will say that encouragement for people to take up home ownership is also a very important part of what should be achieved by the Minister. I encourage him to continue with that, but also to remember the caveat that I referred to in those discussions with that person in America - that we have to be very careful to ensure that our public housing stock does remain fairly evenly distributed throughout all of our suburbs.