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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (1 March) . . Page.. 452 ..

MR SPEAKER (continuing):

Notwithstanding subsections (7A) and (11), an amendment of a subordinate law, other than a regulation, rule or by-law made, or to be deemed to have been made, under this section is of no effect.

The question is not that this Assembly has to reject the amendment. The Assembly can accept or reject the amendment, as it wishes, but it is not out of order to have the amendment, Mr Wood. However, it may, under the subordinate law, be challenged somewhere else. That is the only advice that I can give you.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to speak again, and I will address that matter as well.

Leave granted.

MR MOORE: Obviously, Mr Wood was caught up when I did address the matter while speaking. The Clerk did draw my attention to that. He had only just seen the amendments and drew my attention to that in case it was to cause a problem. In fact, I have already had legal advice to say that the relevant amendment is valid and is not likely to cause the problem raised by you, Mr Speaker. I have not had time to go through that legal advice in great detail.

I would propose, as I said before, that we still should pass this amendment. If I get further legal advice which says that it will have no effect, I will draw up a new instrument and repeat it, but in doing so I will draw up an instrument that backdates, as we have here, to 1 January to make sure that nobody is disadvantaged. As I pointed out, the Assembly is always reluctant to backdate anything that adversely affects somebody's rights. In this case, proactively, it actually assists the eight or so people involved that we know of so far. Therefore, we are prepared to do that.

Having dealt with the issues that Mr Wood raised, I rise primarily to deal with the issues that Ms Tucker raised. I think that what we heard from Ms Tucker was simply her broad philosophy about how you deal with poverty and other issues. She began by referring to an article in a Sunday newspaper in which Mr Hutchison was quoted as saying, to paraphrase, that we have to take a firmer stand in terms of people who have not paid their rent. Remember, we have a rebate that takes into account that these people have a very limited income and the figure is 25 per cent of their salary.

Ms Tucker, I have to emphasise that we do not provide free housing. We are not there to provide free housing. This system is not a free housing system, nor should it be a free housing system. There are other systems that are designed to support people in need. I have discussed with Mr Hutchison the matter of being firm. He is not saying that being firm means that if you have not paid your rent you will be booted out.

What we have to do is to make sure that we intervene very early when we are aware that somebody is not paying their rent and make sure that the housing manager of that area speaks to them and does the sorts of things that Housing already does, such as provide counselling and assistance. But in the end, if somebody is not prepared to use housing under the conditions that we provide it, we have to be firmer with them. Primarily, "firmer" means insisting that they pay their rental, taking into account the rebate of 25 per cent of their salary.

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