Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1347 ..
MRS BURKE (continuing):
from their public housing rental home in Holt tomorrow, Friday 4 April. Mr Wood, the tenant I am referring to has indicated that the government has shown little or no compassion towards her case to date. Why are this woman and her family being evicted, what, if any, assistance has been offered to her, and under what circumstances?
MR WOOD: Yes, Mrs Burke advised me of this, but it is also the case that, when there are evictions that are more than usually unfortunate, as this one is, I am always well informed by my department, and I keep in touch with these things, as I have on this matter. The procedures we put in place are simply the ones we inherited when we came to government. I think they are very extensive. We have no wish to evict anyone. We do not set out to do that and, indeed, we do everything we can to avoid evictions. We know how distressing it is for people in that circumstance. I can tell you-and I am sure some of your ex-ministers over there can tell you, too-it is very distressing to people in ACT Housing when this happens.
We all know the very great impacts on people in those circumstances. I am not happy about it. Mrs Burke quoted extensively yesterday. I was happy to hear her reading of Labor Party policy, which stressed the importance of a secure home as the basis for much of what we do. That is our view, and yet circumstances arise when evictions will occur.
It doesn't happen suddenly, and I think we all realise that. When I became minister, one of the very first things I did was to circulate to every member a very large sheet of the actions that are taken before someone actually gets down the crunch point of an eviction. When I was in opposition I often used to raise it with ministers, so when someone came to me I felt the need to keep everybody apprised of the arrangements. I have a summary of that here today, covering two pages. I will table that.
It is a long process. It starts early, because ACT Housing has learned that you do have to get in early. You do your very best not to let a debt accumulate, because it becomes increasingly difficult to pay. There is a very long process, during which there are many contacts, and people are invited to talk further with specialist housing managers so they can try to sort things out. We know that, for the greater part, when someone has a housing debt, they are probably associated with other debts as well, and that it is not just housing.
We know the danger of falling further into debt. However, we do work from the basis that, in the end, tenants have to commit to paying rent. Bear in mind that most rents are concessional rents, so we do not think that paying them it is too much to ask. If there are very special circumstances, we will do our best to accommodate. We will extend, we will allow people to pay a little bit back to try to recover their debt-a miniscule amount I might say.
Mrs Burke: This woman has offered to do that, I understand, Minister. How has it gone this far? This is a desperate situation.
MR WOOD: Yes, I know, okay.
Mrs Burke: I am glad you know. What are you going to do about it?