Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 980 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
their household income, whichever is the lowest. I bet you every darn tenant in private tenancies wishes they had this arrangement. So you do not pay more than 25 per cent of your household income in rent. I think that is fair. We should bear in mind that it was the Liberal Party-I will not pursue this today-that said a year or two ago that we should get rid of the market renters; get rid of the close to 20 per cent of people who fit into the category I just mentioned.
I am pleased to see that there has been a change of mind and that now we have a more sympathetic view in respect of market renters. If rent has gone up it is because of changed circumstances; because someone has moved to a rental base where the amenity they are now in is deemed to be of a higher value, and the balance between that higher value of accommodation and their income has changed. In fact, of the 56 housing tenants that we have relocated, 32 are paying the same or less rent than previously. They are paying the same or less. A further eight are paying under $20 a week more, and then a number of the others are paying higher than that. But they are in different circumstances. I think the principle is fine.
Let us go back a bit further and look at what we should do in these circumstances. This was a natural disaster. In times of natural disaster-I think we have only ever had the one in Canberra-the government and the community turn to the disaster plan, which is a very comprehensive document that covers every contingency after a disaster. The process of putting this plan into action after the bushfires went smoothly. Evacuation centres were opened and staffed and everybody in the government and community groups had a role. Although we have been on alert before, this was the first time the full provisions of the disaster plan were used, and the first time that financial assistance was made available. This was a response to the problem of people losing their houses.
What was that assistance? Well, I think you know, but let me repeat: cash grants of $75 a day were available from the evacuation centres for several days. This was provided so that people who had lost everything or who were unable to return to their homes for a while could buy essential necessities. A grant of $5,000 was made available to people whose homes were destroyed or were uninhabitable. Those who lost their homes and were also uninsured were eligible for a further $5,000 a household, and that applied to ACT Housing tenants as well.
Applications for further grants can be made to the bushfire recovery appeal, which I think is around about $51/2 million at the moment. On top of that there have been significant donations, thankfully accepted, of furniture, household goods, TVs, beds, electrical goods and the like. So there has been a very significant measure of assistance for these people. Public housing tenants whose properties were destroyed or badly damaged were provided with alternative accommodation in motels at government cost, and this was done for others, too. So I think Housing has been very generous. We have accommodated 56 people-we have bent over backwards to do that-plus 13 others who became eligible, and we are continuing to work to find accommodation for everybody.
I said at the outset and I will say it again: Mrs Burke did not make her case today. Mrs Burke put forward one case as evidence of the need to make a significant change to what we do. I am sorry but she has not supported her argument. She has presented only one case. To the best of my knowledge, the figures that she referred to do not add up. She