Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 June 2008) . . Page.. 1989 ..
I mentioned before a reference group and that I would feel happier if it was giving the government some advice. Some of the organisations I could see represented on that might be the Tenants Union, CARE Financial Counselling, ACTCOSS, perhaps Shelter, community housing associations and ACT Housing, because they are the people who know what the housing reality is in the ACT and it is very important that we do not just have money crunchers in this group. Markets do not always, and especially of themselves, deliver the goods. Setting up this scheme and then leaving it to the market is not a thoughtful or a careful enough approach.
I look forward to hearing the Treasurer address some of these concerns and advising me how, if the scheme goes pear-shaped for some of the homebuyers, the government would ensure that the people it had, through this process, encouraged into the market, would also be helped to get out if need be.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (8.44): The government provided me with a most useful briefing on this bill a couple of weeks ago and I thank the government for that briefing. However, as a consequence of that briefing, I, too, echo the concerns raised by Mr Seselja and Dr Foskey. It strikes me that this may well be an initiative that sounded good at the time but, as one delves into the detail and the protections that are not necessarily in the bill, one wonders, as Dr Foskey put so eloquently, if the scheme goes pear-shaped what will happen. Unfortunately for the Canberra community, I think the objectives for this policy remain questionable.
I would like to spend a few moments looking at the broader parameters of the project as far as we can discern them, because there is precious little information in the budget papers that the government has made available on the land rent scheme. Indeed, for what has been touted as a major component of the Stanhope government’s affordability housing action plan, it is most surprising that it is hard to find any details on this policy. If one digs into budget paper 4 and turns to page 60, one will find a reference to the affordable housing action plan land rent scheme.
Of course, it does not tell us very much about the scheme, but what it does tell us is that the Stanhope government is proposing to spend more than $85 million over the next four years to buy land for this land rent scheme. Let me repeat that: $85 million over four years to buy land for this scheme.
Perhaps this was why the proposal was indeed launched in the social pages of the Canberra Times after a senior bureaucrat was the guest speaker at, I think it is called, a food and grog lunch. I do not know whether it is food and grog or grog and food, but the results were that it was announced in the social pages of the Canberra Times rather than anywhere else. Again, you have to wonder about that as well.
Then you have to wonder, in this period of claimed economic and financial stringency that the Chief Minister used to make his savage cuts in 2006, that we now have the Stanhope government proposing to spend $85 million of taxpayers’ funds to buy land for this land rent scheme. But it will assist fewer than 500 buyers, based on the assumption of the government. They are assuming, as they told me in the briefing, approximately 120 people a year will be helped by this scheme.