Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1622 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I will not sit here in this Assembly and find, because of a lack of a bit of homework or the use of unjudicial wording, that these people and their efforts are slighted. I want the record to show that I think that the minister is doing the best job that I could possibly imagine and his department is following his example and doing a brilliant job, and they are indeed protecting, upholding and enforcing people's rights in relation to tenancy agreements. We will not oppose the motion, Mr Speaker.
MR STEFANIAK (11.46): It is good to hear the government supporting, grudgingly, this eminently sensible motion by Mrs Burke. Basically, Mrs Burke's motion asks the minister to ensure that the legal obligations in relation to Housing tenants are met by the department.
I turn to a couple of the points raised by other members. Mr Hargreaves went off at a bit of a tangent in relation to the Real Estate Institute. I do not quite see what he was trying to get to there. They do not have a contractual relationship with private tenants, unless they happen to be the landlord. Yes, you do get very difficult tenants. You get people who own houses causing all sorts of problems within our community. The problem is not just with public housing tenants; far from it.
In the private sector, difficult tenants are often evicted by the landlords for a plethora of reasons and problems. Some difficult people who own their own homes can cause problems. Occasionally, some of us live next door to them. It is a very significant problem. But with Housing, which is in a very difficult situation, the vast majority of tenants do the right thing. The vast majority of tenants are really wonderful people. Many of them, because they are in the lower income strata, often do it very tough, but they abide by their obligations, be they to pay rent or to ensure peace and enjoyment for others around them and do so with consideration.
That is why back in, I think, April 1995 I introduced the tenant of the month scheme when I was minister. It came about after a particularly shocking example of someone trashing a house in which they lived in Macgregor and then bolting. The media was very interested in the negatives there. I think we ultimately got the money back from that wayward tenant, but it certainly led me to take steps to try to show to the public that the vast majority of the tenants were good and some, in fact, were excellent. I am very pleased that the current government is continuing the tenant of the month scheme.
I make no bones about the fact that we inherited some significant problems in terms of debt and people simply not paying rent. That annoyed the vast majority of tenants who did pay their rent and did not expect to live rent free. Yes, we took stern steps: we evicted people. The evictions went up quite considerably, as did the assistance to people to prevent them from getting into that situation to start with through improvements to procedures within the department. I am very pleased that successive ministers, including the current one, have been continuing those measures.
From time to time-and it always distressed me somewhat when it happened-there were instances within public housing, as there will be for a landlord with about 12,000