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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2041 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

and ultimately the Assembly, if we understand fully the reasons for the Government's policies. It may be that we will be convinced by them, but let us go into them carefully and thoroughly, listen to what the community has to say, and make a considered report to the Assembly.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (4.01): Mr Speaker, the Government is always willing to have consultation. We already have a standing committee well able to look after this issue. That is the Urban Services Committee. This is the job of the Urban Services Committee. I do not understand the need for this plethora of select committees suddenly coming on the scene.

The purpose of aligning committees with portfolios was to ensure that we worked better together and to reduce the need for select committees. Having members with a knowledge of the issues, across the issues and aware of ongoing issues is a better utilisation of resources. There is a lot to be said for following that precedent, so I foreshadow that I will be moving amendments to the motion.

Mr Speaker, the housing reforms announced in the budget will better target housing assistance and will ensure that limited resources are directed to the people most in need. That is the purpose of these reforms. The package of housing reforms has been developed to minimise poverty traps and disincentives to work, and many safeguards for the public tenants are integral to the package.

Further information was supplied to the Estimates Committee when they asked questions. We have given them the list of the exemptions. Mr Wood said that we are removing tenure from existing tenants. In the majority of cases - - -

Mr Wood: No, I did not say that - not from existing tenants. I can read.

MR SMYTH: I will concede that. The assistance that is provided through public housing should be first and foremost targeted at those most in need. Liberal and Labor will perhaps have differing views on what public housing's role should be and on the need for social housing, as some would call it. In this time of tight resources I am quite proud of the diminishing waiting list, but we still have a waiting list and it is important that we ensure that those most in need get the assistance they deserve.

Mr Speaker, Canberra has an interesting situation in regard to its public housing. It is like no other part of the nation. Some 12 per cent of the stock is given over to public housing. We have the largest amount of public housing. Oddly, for the youngest capital city of the country, we have the oldest stock, with an average age of some 25 years. We have problems in that that stock does not meet the needs. We have problems in that that stock does not meet the location requirements of the tenants. We have problems in that a percentage of that stock is underutilised. These reforms are aimed at ensuring that we get maximum effect from the stock for as much of the time as we can to assist those most in need.

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