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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2379 ..


(Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Heritage and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.22): I thank Mrs Burke for her comments. She said we need to listen to the voice of the community, and indeed we do. I re-formed the disbanded Housing Advisory Committee, which is one mechanism for doing that. The homelessness strategy is being drawn up with much input by the community. I accept that.

It was a theme of Mrs Burke's, as of Ms Dundas', that tenants are doing it hard, and that non-tenants-people without homes-are doing it very hard. Ms Dundas spoke about acute housing stress. I think we all know the extent of that, because we are contacted repeatedly about it. My office certainly is, and I note from the mail I get from you people that you also experience that.

I pray every night that interest rates do not go up. I shudder to think what would happen if interest rates went up by a point-or two or three-because there would be dire circumstances for many people.

In talking to a real estate agent this morning, he assessed that, in order to get into the lowest part of the housing market, the family income needs to be $80,000. For many families, that negates the chance of getting into the housing market. Everybody talks about affordability, and I certainly do. Ms Dundas was talking about that, as was Mrs Burke.

It is interesting that, when I became minister 20 months ago, the public housing asset in the ACT was $1.2 billion and it is now assessed at $2.2 billion. That reflects what is happening in the market in Canberra-it has just about doubled in 20 months. All the other figures we get indicate the same story.

Mrs Burke commented on the excellent aims laid out in the documents. She wants to know if we are meeting those aims. Well, we certainly set out to do so. Mrs Burke wanted to know if we are putting in enough money to back up what we are saying. I do not think we will ever have enough money, because it is a difficult area. With the asset we have, finding sufficient money is difficult indeed. I will not claim that we have enough money.

I was interested to hear Mrs Burke say I should not take a back seat-that I should show leadership. Well, let me show you some leadership-modestly, if I can. I believe I am the first housing minister in a long time to give top priority to public housing.

Mrs Burke said that some of the tenants feel like second-class citizens. That is not coming from me. I promote good stories about public housing tenants. I promote strong stories, as I should, as there are many good stories about public housing tenants. I repeat that, as minister, I believe I have given a priority to housing that has not been given for a long time. I am doing everything possible to promote the need for public housing.

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