Page 1351 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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lead his department in delivering better outcomes for housing tenants by empowering his staff who are designated to the most important role in the department: frontline service delivery to clients. It is evident that they are simply not coping under the pressure. We have many people off on stress leave—people in key jobs—which has meant a greater load being passed on to housing managers. This simply is not good enough and it is not helping people out there to get the service that they need.

I have recently seen evidence of the negative way, sadly, that the minister is responding to tenants and non-tenants in relation to their concerns. Many have indicated to me that the minister, in response to representations made to him, has advised them that any approach to the media will have little or no impact on their case. This would seem a sad indictment of and reflection on all members of this Assembly. It sends the wrong message to the community about the role of its local government and one that I and my Liberal colleagues are not prepared to wear. It is at the minister’s own peril that he continues to treat his constituents in such a dismissive manner.

It is important not only to deal with an individual constituent’s concerns with compassion and empathy but also to look at the wider implications of matters being brought to light. I know Mr Hargreaves has openly said that he does not speak about individual cases or speak to individual people, but I suggest he needs to start doing that. He should give himself 12 cases, like I have done, to see the broad range of things that are brought to light. This is why we do it. If we do not look at single cases, we can often miss the wider implications of matters being brought to light. Often, individual cases can expose broader discrepancies in service delivery and can provide real solutions to problems faced by departmental staff. It is the direct feedback that is of most value to management, and it should be taken seriously and put to greater use to assist staff tasked with service delivery to improve working practices.

I have held meetings with Housing ACT tenants who are reaching the point where they have exhausted just about all avenues available to them to resolve issues relating to the level of service they are or are not receiving from Housing ACT. Sadly, they now feel that this is exactly what the government wants: that they get so downhearted, so dejected and run out of energy, that they will simply go away without their concerns ever being addressed. Isn’t it awful that people would say this to me? Worse still is that we allow to continue a system that is going to let down society’s most vulnerable people. Is that what we at the ACT Assembly want? I do not think so. I do not want to be remembered and known for that.

The feeling emanating from many consultations is that tenants are expecting to receive real value for money. We have talked about the millions of dollars going into housing. I am perplexed, and I am sure the minister must be, at why, then, we are still getting this feedback about the number of problems, and things not being dealt with for months on end. I am confused, and I need the minister to explain why, when we put money in, the service delivery is still not meeting the target. We are paying more and we are getting less.

Housing tenants deserve to be treated with the same level of respect when dealing with Housing ACT as they would receive in the private rental market. I know this minister and the minister before him have said that the public housing system should parallel the private market and that they should be giving the same service. But clearly they are not.

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