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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 11 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3297 ..

Public Housing

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Stefaniak as Minister for Housing, and I think it is an appropriate question for today. I refer to your press release, Minister, of 20 September when you argued that good progress was made with the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. At no point in your press release did you distinguish between welfare housing and public housing. Will you explain to the Assembly the difference between welfare housing and public housing, as you see it, and will you assure the Assembly that your Government will retain a commitment to public housing in the ACT?

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I think this Government has said on numerous occasions that there will always be public and welfare housing in the ACT. Obviously, a significant portion of the Housing Trust stock is for people who are not as well off as others in the community, for people who are on pensions or part pensions, for people who have disabilities, and in many cases extreme disabilities, and for people who need special arrangements for them. Indeed, those are some of the points that were dealt with at the Housing Ministers Conference in Darwin, Mr Moore. It was a most useful conference and it was excellent to hear Senator Newman reaffirm two principles. They were that the Federal Government was committed to the principle that existing public housing tenants are protected and not disadvantaged by the reforms, and that new public housing tenants should not pay more than 25 per cent of their income in rent.

A lot of work needs to be done. There is a lot of concern in terms of a lack of complete detail, a lack of some draft papers in relation to the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I think that was unfortunate, and I and my Territory and State counterparts had some significant problems with that particularly. Accordingly, Mr Speaker, a working group of relevant officials from housing trusts and also treasuries has been set up. It is to develop further the Commonwealth proposals which have to be laid on the table. They have to be worked through because there is, naturally, considerable concern in the sector as a result, really, of a lack of detail.

Also, Mr Moore, I think some people in the media Australia-wide are going off on a lot of tangents. There is probably a lot of misinformation out there at present. I think it is very important, not only in the ACT but Australia-wide, for this issue to be progressed as quickly as possible; for the working party to develop and bring back further proposals to the next meeting of Housing Ministers and, further, to COAG. The next meeting of Housing Ministers is on 1 November. I would hope that at that meeting, Mr Moore, there will be some detail on the table, some meatier stuff which we can get our teeth into. However, that being said, I was pleased, and my counterparts were pleased, to see Jocelyn Newman reiterate those two very important principles which, I think, should go some way to alleviating some of the concerns that have been whipped up in parts of the community.

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