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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 507 ..

MR HIRD: I am directing my question through you, as always, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Urban Services, Mr Brendan Smyth. They are a lot of rabble over there, Mr Speaker. In its report on government services the Productivity Commission compared the performances of the States and Territories in providing certain services. In particular, the commission made certain comparisons about public housing which make very interesting reading. Does the result of the commission's report have any bearing on the way the Government delivers housing services in the ACT?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I thank the member for his question, and I would thank all those in this place who have a concern with housing. I think we all do. Mr Speaker, members will know that the Productivity Commission report was released and that a particular part of that report refers to public housing. Members will know that the commission's report followed a positive report from the Auditor-General on the delivery of housing assistance in the ACT. In case it has slipped anybody's mind, I might mention what our Auditor-General found. I quote:

The delivery of assistance through public housing has been very effective.

Of course, Mr Speaker, the Auditor-General also found that the provision of public housing was inefficient. The findings of the Productivity Commission tend to support both of these findings, although they do suggest that our efficiency is certainly moving in the right direction.

So, what were these key findings? Well, waiting times for public housing applications are the lowest in the country, with 46.5 per cent of applicants waiting less than six months to receive public housing, compared with a national average of only 15 per cent. Three-quarters of applicants in the ACT wait less than one year, while across the nation almost three-quarters of applicants are guaranteed a wait of more than one year. While nationally more than half of the applicants for public housing will wait more than two years, in the ACT only 7.4 per cent of applicants have to wait this long. Waiting times are drastically shorter than in any other State or Territory. Waiting times are not even in the same league really as in the rest of Australia. At the same time, according to the Productivity Commission, we are moving ACT Housing's efficiency in the right direction.

Ms Carnell: That entity often quoted by Mr Quinlan.

MR SMYTH: That wonderful document, yes. The cost of administering each dwelling has dropped by some $390 between the years 1996-97 and 1997-98, from almost $1,300 to just over $900. Our expenditure on public housing is well in excess of the national average on a per capita basis. Indeed, the Grants Commission estimated that the ACT spends above the national average by some $5.2m. The average turnaround time for normally vacated stock is well below the national average. We turn a house around in about an average of 22 days, whereas the national average is 31 days.

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