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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (1 March) . . Page.. 443 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I will indicate very briefly what each of the provisions we propose to be deleted is about. We propose to delete provision 8 because it allows segmentation of the priority list. It details the fact that there will now be priority categories but does not detail the category definitions. Provision 10 is related to provision 8. Provision 11 should be deleted because it enhances the commissioner's discretion in refusing assistance. Provision 13 relates to the eligibility review and we are most concerned about the loss of security of tenure attached to that. Provision 15 is proposed to be deleted because it raises contributions from residents other than the tenant in a house from 10 to 25 per cent. Provision 17 should be deleted because it allows the commissioner to force transfers due to changes in household composition.

There is quite a long history to this debate. These measures were first proposed by the government in the 1999-2000 budget and they have been resisted by quite a large number of people since that time. But the minister, as he is entitled to do by instrument, has now sought finally to implement the policies the government proposed all that time ago. But the procedures of this Assembly, the right given to this Assembly, are that we have the final say and there will be the final say today. Therefore, it is a matter of considerable importance to all members of the Assembly.

Mr Speaker, when I first looked at this instrument my immediate inclination was to disallow all of it and to ask the government to bring in an entirely new instrument. Various subtle changes have been made to the wording which give the commissioner more discretionary power than he or she has ever had before. For example, the old definition of "assets" has been removed and the new definition states:

"Assets" means all assets owned by the person including those in which the person has a contingent or beneficial interest but does not include any assets of a kind which the commissioner has determined should be disregarded for the purposes of this program.

What are they? They used to be defined in the program as clothes, household equipment, tools of trade and so on; but who knows what they are now? There are more examples of that nature, yet this is supposed to be the definitive statement of the public rental housing assistance program. Not only that but the minister, when he brought down his response to the report of the select committee that had been established, indicated initially that he was agreeing with much of it. Of course, when you read it, that was not the case. If this Assembly disallowed the whole instrument, it would be ignoring the few beneficial changes, such as the raising of the assets limit from $20,000 to $40,000, so it is better to concentrate on those items of major concern.

Labor believes that, through its changes to ACT housing policy, the Liberal-Moore government is now targeting the very people it should be helping. Since the 1999 budget, tenants have felt under threat. Policy changes announced then caused a strong reaction. I know; I received many calls. As a consequence of my concern and the concern of Kerrie Tucker and other members of this Assembly, a select committee was established and looked very exhaustively at all the issues.

The select committee reported in March 2000 and it recommended against most changes. The government's response was not received until December 2000, nine months after the committee had reported on all its research and consultation. By then the tenants had had 18 months of uncertainty. That was followed by a change in minister. Mr Moore became

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