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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 978 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

Let me refer members to the Housing Assistance (Form of Agreement) Determination 1999. The following statement is made in part C of the determination, under the heading "Recitals"in schedule 1-Form of Agreement:

The aim of this Agreement is therefore to provide appropriate, affordable and secure housing assistance for those who most need it, for the duration of their need.

Under the heading "Guiding Principles", section 1 (1) (b) of the determination states:

housing assistance arrangements should be sufficiently flexible to reflect the diversity of situations which currently exist in the States ...

Section 2 (6), under the heading "Roles and Responsibilities", states:

Under this Agreement the States will have responsibility to:

(a) develop housing assistance strategies that are consistent with Commonwealth and State objectives, and best meet the circumstances of each State;

Section 7 (1), under the heading "Agreement Variation", states:

The provisions of this Agreement may be varied by agreement in writing between the Minister and all State Ministers.

Indeed, Mr Speaker, I believe that the Minister has the power to make programs and change them, consistent with the overall objectives of the scheme. I therefore believe that his argument that his hands are tied is wrong. If he wants to provide support in special circumstances, he can.

Mr Speaker, this is not about setting a precedent, and I am sure that the minister will be concerned about this matter. It is about setting and establishing a program that, in times of natural disaster, will benefit and protect people who are accommodated in ACT Housing properties. The Minister does have flexibility and control over such matters. This is not a matter of authority; moreover, it is a failure of will if it does not go ahead.

This motion is about providing part of the solution to the problem. It is about ensuring that we do not run the risk of causing further disadvantage to those most vulnerable in our community. Let me give you a personal example. A family were moved from one ACT Housing property to another-and I should stress here that they were not residents of Uriarra or Stromlo-after the tragic bushfires. This move involved their having to sign a new 12-month tenancy agreement, with $700 up-front, I would presume, in advance rent, despite the family being in advance with their rent at that stage. On top of this, they also have to find another $100 per week in extra rent.

I have to say at this stage that the family were extremely complimentary about how quickly they had been relocated and were very quick to praise the Minister and the department, and so do I. They are extremely grateful to have a roof over their heads and be in a wonderful home. Also, they have been assured that, if they wish, they will have first refusal on their previous home once it is rebuilt.

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