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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4448 ..

Leave granted.

MS DUNDAS: I thank members very much for their indulgence. I am sorry for not getting in before the minister was able to respond.

I would like firstly to draw the attention of the house to pages 23 and 24 of the paper, which talks about performance monitoring and evaluation being a key component of the asset management strategy. As this strategy is to last us through to 2008, I hope that this will not be the only time that we will have the strategy being debated in the Assembly. I hope that we will get progress reports.

I know that the minister will be getting monthly reports, as indicated on page 23, but I hope that the Assembly will have an opportunity perhaps once a year to see how the asset management strategy is going and whether the goals set down in the government's plan are being met, because this Assembly, along with the entire community, is strongly committed to public housing.

The Democrats believe that housing is a fundamental right and that health and education hinge on it. The private rental market has never adequately housed our poor, which is why the federal government introduced public housing early last century. The ACT has experienced a steady decline over many years in the number of public dwellings per thousand head of population. Much of this decline has resulted from the unsustainable financial state of ACT Housing. ACT Housing has been forced to cannibalise itself by selling stock to undertake vital upgrades. Unfortunately, that depressing trend continues.

The community expects that public housing will be suitable for ageing and disabled tenants and that it will meet modern standards of environmental sustainability. Little or none of the older stock actually meets these expectations and creating adaptable energy-efficient housing usually costs more than building standard housing to minimum standards.

ACT Housing has been expected to fund new construction largely from the sale of existing stock. Fortunately, they have been able to justify the sale of higher value stock in the inner north and inner south to fund new housing in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin and to a lesser extent in Belconnen, where demand has increased. However, we will reach the end of that road soon and a stronger commitment to ongoing capital injections from the government inevitably will be required if our stock of public housing is not to be run down to nothing.

Although this government is committed to slightly increasing the overall number of public dwellings, but not the number of dwellings per capita, which continues to decline, it has not been quite able to reach its target. Obviously, the January bushfires set back the time line. I will be incredibly disappointed if we are not seeing a positive trend in dwelling numbers by the middle of next year.

I appreciate that the minister has demonstrated far greater commitment to public housing than has previously been the case, and I commend him for that. I know that he understands the fundamental role of public housing in the safety net for low income

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