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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4810 ..

MR STEFANIAK: In relation to the committee, that is still being organised, Ms Reilly. I have asked Housing to put together a committee as soon as possible because I think it is absolutely essential that I have a formal structure in place as we go further down the track of this new agreement. However, Ms Reilly, as you are no doubt aware, I attend quite a few housing meetings with various people in the sector, from Shelter through to community housing and various SAAP programs. My door is always open, Ms Reilly. I have had a number of recent meetings with the sector. I have indicated to them, as recently, I think, as last week, that I wanted to have a meeting with anyone interested in the housing area prior to any new Commonwealth-State Housing Ministers conference, which might be as early as about March next year. So I want to see them in about February next year. I think it is very important that we consult as much as possible, Ms Reilly, in relation to the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.

As the Chief Minister interjected when you were asking your question, we are certainly not going to sign anything that we do not agree with. I think that could be true of all the States and Territories. This gives me an opportunity, Mr Speaker, to indicate to Ms Reilly that at the last meeting of the Commonwealth-State Housing Ministers we made a number of points. The States and Territories had a number of concerns and we issued a joint communique whereby we restated our commitment - all Ministers, State and Territory and the Commonwealth Minister, Jocelyn Newman - to better housing outcomes for Australians on low incomes.

We noted that the desire for better housing outcomes was the pre-eminent purpose in any reform. We reiterated the firm principle that any housing reform is not about achieving savings. We also supported the firm principle that reforms to housing assistance arrangements should achieve fiscal neutrality and be determined on the basis that neither the Commonwealth nor any State or Territory will be financially disadvantaged. I have said on a number of occasions that this is all about dollars, and if the Commonwealth is not going to provide sufficient dollars these reforms simply cannot go ahead. They will be impractical and will not work.

We also agreed, Ms Reilly, that the task force that is looking at this issue must address the following issues which are of concern to people in our housing sector. I think you might have been at the Shelter meeting I went to. Certainly, Ms Tucker and Mr Moore were. Prior to going off to that meeting I was given a whole series of concerns by various representatives of various groups in the housing area. The next day I sent those off to Jocelyn Newman so she had them in time for the meeting.

It was interesting that the concerns expressed by people involved with ACT Housing are common concerns throughout the country. The task force has to address the following issues: Protection of existing tenants; subsidy design; special needs; housing supply; private sector responses; home ownership policy; the form of intergovernmental agreement and the basis for adjustment to financial assistance grants; community housing and crisis accommodation. I think those issues are common right throughout housing in Australia. Those are the fundamental things that have to be addressed.

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