Page 2723 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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Public housing

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services. Minister, further to your attempt on 666 ABC radio on 12 August 2005 to justify that it was necessary to use your “executive authority” to inform public housing tenants, via the departmental taxpayer funded newsletter, of government policy on the delivery of public housing assistance, will you continue to utilise government publications such as the department’s newsletter to inform public housing tenants of your political viewpoints and incorrect assumptions of Liberal policy?

MR HARGREAVES: I am delighted with the question, Mrs Burke.

Mrs Burke: I knew you would be!

MR HARGREAVES: I was so hoping you would ask me that.

Mrs Burke: Bet you won your $20.

MR HARGREAVES: I did, in fact. The response I had in that newsletter was to allay fears out there among the public tenants. Now you might say, “All right, prove it.” I have already indicated that Mrs Burke has said many times in this place that we should be finding ways to move market renters on—and that is a fact; I am not making something up. How can I retract something that Mrs Burke said on the public record? I am not that good. In fact, in 2001, the then Liberal government removed security of tenure. I am seeking to allay the fears of public tenants.

Mr Speaker, nine members of this Assembly voted to remove that security of tenure, and those nine included Mrs Burke, Mr Smyth and Mr Stefaniak. Do you reckon the public tenants are not a bit worried about this? These people are still here. The removal of security of tenure is Liberal Party policy. What has Mrs Burke, the opposition spokesperson on housing, had to say on this matter? On 6 April 2005 in this place—and just get this one straight—she said the “whole notion of security of tenure is an absolute nonsense”, and you wonder why I have to allay their fears. She went on to say that the government ought to “realign public policy in relation to housing”—and you wonder why I have to allay their fears. That is what was important. She said that the government “investigates the merit of income review of Housing ACT tenants”. What do her Liberal colleagues have to say on the matter? Back in May of 2002—and I like this one—Mr Stefaniak said, “No-one is suggesting that people who need public housing should not be able to have it.” That’s the good bit; I like that bit. But this is the bad bit. Mr Stefaniak also said, “That is what security of tenure is all about, but it should not be for life.” That is why I was allaying people’s fears in my communication with public tenants.

I acknowledge that public housing should be targeted to those most in need and that, if you are above the financial eligibility criteria, you should look seriously at your options around purchasing your property or moving into the private market. There is a considerable logic in that position and I recognise that. But I believe the stronger argument—the one that has to be taken into account at the end of the day—is that security of tenure is important. It is important because people should be able to see their

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