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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 986 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

market. We all know very well that the private rental market is a very difficult market in the ACT. There are already serious problems for people in this market, particularly for people who are not perfect tenants-for people who are not white; for single people; for people with children and animals; and for people with mental illness, et cetera.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Tucker, order! I am sure that what you want to talk about is extremely important, but I think you are wandering off the subject matter of the motion. I ask you to take into account the relevant standing order regarding relevance.

MS TUCKER: Thanks, Mr Speaker. I was wondering whether you were going to point that out. I was straying, and I will not continue to do so now that you have pointed that out to me.

I just want to make the point really quickly that the issues for private tenants are huge. I was going to amend this motion-but I thought you would rule that out of order as well-in order to get the Minister to take a strong interest in what is happening in the private rental market and to see whether we can have stability and control by capping rents.

MS DUNDAS (6.33): This has been a very interesting and complex debate and a number of concerns have been raised. The major question is whether the motion moved today by Mrs Burke addresses these concerns. I have read a number of times the housing assistance program part of the Housing Assistance Act 1987 to try and comprehend what it is that Mrs Burke is trying to achieve.

Mrs Burke has made some good points. People have lost their possessions and their houses. Although they are eligible for a payment of $5,000 if they did not have contents insurance, $5,000 does not necessarily replace everything. It does not go very far when you are trying to replace school uniforms, school books and incidentals. Affected tenants would have access to the pool of donations that have been pouring in from across the community, but I do not think it is reasonable to conclude that every family has been able to find from that pool most of what they need.

It is quite easy to understand how a family could fall into rental arrears if they had to replace lost items, which in any case had been a financial drain, or if something else happened, such as a trip to the dentist. When you are living on a low income, tackling debt is next to impossible. I have spoken a number of times to people from the department of housing and I understand that they work incredibly hard to try and help people who fall into arrears stay in public housing and manage that debt. I congratulate them on the quite commendable effort they put into that. I note that they do recognise the need. They deal with people who might not be able to manage debt and these cases need to be handled quite sensitively.

There are a number of questions about whether this is the right way to go about tackling the problem. A number of people who were living in public housing lost everything as a result of the natural disaster. They were put back to the top of the reallocation list and the government has worked to find them housing. Of course, not everybody is going to find that arrangement suitable and there are going to be problems. Some people will be paying more rent. I have heard the government say that they have paid relocation costs and that they are trying to accommodate everybody as much as possible.

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