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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2212 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

anyway before he can proceed. So we will have the opportunity to have reasonable consultation and input to anything this Government might want to do to public housing in the ACT before they do it.

It is totally unacceptable for the Minister to say that no consultation was necessary because it was a budget issue, which is the answer that he gave to the Estimates Committee. It is not a budget issue. It is an issue of social policy to which the community has not had an opportunity to have any input. The Assembly put that right yesterday and I hope to hear the Minister acknowledge now that he acted totally inappropriately, as has his Government, in the way he tried to link it to the budget, which it is clearly not about. We will now move into a process where we can have considered discussion and recommendations to the Government on this very important social issue. I remind members that the reason it was given to a select committee is that it is a broad social policy issue. It cannot be just put into housing under Urban Services which, as I said yesterday, is often described by the current Minister as just bricks and mortar responsibilities.

I will close by saying that we will have the opportunity now for further and detailed discussion with the ACT community. I would just say that I think Mr Wood, in addressing some of those issues, really did encapsulate why people in the ACT community are so incredibly offended by this Government's process in this matter. Having safe housing is a fundamental requirement of secure living in a society. The situation should not be changed with just one sweep of the brush, as has been done. Mr Wood expressed why so many people are outraged with his description of home as the place people go for security. I will not go into detail about why the people should be outraged because, as I said, we will have another opportunity to do that.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (8.08): Mr Speaker, I thank members for their comments. I would just like to correct something that Ms Tucker said. I am not sure that I have ever said that the houses are just bricks and mortar. I understand perfectly well that they are people's homes, that they provide a roof over their head, that they are the place that they go home to at night. I would have to say that I was disappointed to hear Ms Tucker say that. It is a very glib and easy line to accuse people of treating these houses only as an asset. I understand full well the implications and I have to say that I take my responsibilities as housing Minister very seriously.

It is interesting that Ms Tucker should continue to say that these issues are not budget related. In a full year, these reforms will yield some $2m to ACT Housing, allowing that money to go back into ACT Housing stock. The big problem we have is that, for the youngest capital city in the country, we have the oldest standard of housing in the country. The average age of the housing stock in all the other jurisdictions is 20 years; ours is 25. We have the oldest stock. We have inadequate stock and we need to change that stock. I have said since starting in this part of my ministry that that is something that I would be very proud to achieve by the end of this term of government and we have started down the road to making sure that we have stock to meet the needs of our tenants where they want to be.

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