Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1618 ..
MR WOOD: I will take a look at what you said in your speech. You said three out of five, so make up your mind on that.
Having been shadow spokesman on housing for three years, developing a very deep interest in the subject in the process, and the minister for a year and a half, I am well aware of all the very good things about ACT Housing. (Extension of time granted.) I have to say that ACT Housing is a well-managed body. It is well managed, the people there are keen on their job and concerned about their assets. Their prime assets, of course, are people. I do compliment them. Mrs Burke said that I should give them more support. I believe that I am in there with them all the way as we carry on this important task of providing a most necessary asset and support to people in the ACT.
MS TUCKER (11.29): This motion calls on the minister to ensure that the rights and obligations of ACT Housing tenants are protected, upheld and enforced in relation to their tenancy agreements. I do not have a problem with that. However, I do want to distance myself from some of the comments by Mrs Burke. By supporting this motion, I am not necessarily agreeing with everything that Mrs Burke has said, although the issue that she has raised is not one that I think any member of this place would be unfamiliar with in that there are some problems in public housing complexes.
I agree with Mr Wood's concern about the language used. We have to understand that under the Liberal government in particular public housing has been targeted and the provision of it has been reduced basically to welfare housing. That means that you have a higher concentration of people with complex needs. Also, as the inequities in our society increase, conflict and antisocial behaviour are on the rise. That is the social environment in which we live and public housing has changed, in particular under the Liberal government.
To a large extent, this debate is about the language used. Mrs Burke referred to people being troublesome, an unsavoury element and problem tenants and spoke of the need to clean up public housing-the opposite of that is that it is fouled in some way-and a reign of terror. These unsavoury tenants, problem tenants or whatever are people with complex needs. The use of that sort of language might be offensive to some people because they believe that by saying that I am in some way not being sympathetic to the situation they are in when they are living next to people who are difficult neighbours. I want to put on the record quite clearly that I am sympathetic to their situation as well. I have taken calls over the years-not many, but certainly some calls-about particular situations in which people have not felt safe.
It can be just because persons upstairs play music loudly in public housing buildings and complexes that were not built or designed properly for crowded living. There may be complaints about drugs, but I have also had complaints about racism. We are dealing with social issues. I am concerned that Mrs Burke is just talking about drugs. Drugs are a problem, but there are other problems as well. I believe that we need to look at how we can enable people to live safely in their houses, but we also have to look at our responsibility to ensure housing for people who are very troubled.