Page 2675 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008
thing, it indicates that their opinion is not really of importance. Whatever the agreed need for oversights such as this, we should not dodge the issue that community housing providers have been rather shaken up by this government in the past few years. There may be some greater efficiencies as a result of the upheaval but, in the process, some services have been compromised or lost. Trust has been lost.
Consequently, I am concerned about the introduction of an overarching regulatory regime which gives the commissioner draconian powers over any organisation registered as a provider of community housing, allowing the commissioner to step in and make appointments to the board, appoint an administrator or wind up the organisation where the commissioner finds the provider fails to adequately manage risk or fails to comply with an instruction. I wonder what would happen if a community housing provider which ran a number of other projects or a large charity that also provides community housing ended up offside with the housing commissioner or staff.
Enough concerns have been raised with me over the past few years about how government has worked with community housing providers and associated organisations, which the minister would undoubtedly describe as resulting in improved efficiency but which I believe has resulted in some loss of quality and outcome and a breakdown in relationships.
When my adviser raised a specific concern with the department that there were no appeal rights to decisions made by the commissioner to remove providers from the register, the ultimate sanction, I was advised that intervention guidelines are going to be developed in consultation with the community sector; these guidelines will adhere to administrative decision-making requirements, as you would expect; and in giving notice to agencies of decisions that affect them, the agencies would have scope for a response.
While all that is well and good, I am still concerned that the intervention guidelines will only be notifiable and that developing the guidelines in consultation with the community sector is clearly no guarantee that the sector will be satisfied with the outcomes. Furthermore, there is too much power in the hand of the commissioner and there is no guarantee that it will not be used arbitrarily.
I would like to talk briefly about respectful consultation. The same department, that is, community services and housing, has been heavily engaged in a major project, just completed, to develop the new Children and Young People legislation. Obviously that was driven by a number of profound concerns and inquiries, and the total remaking of such a major body of legislation would undoubtedly require a mammoth consultation and management process.
At the draft legislation stage, for example, over 200 organisations were invited to consider it and to make comments. Feedback forums were conducted after being advertised in the media.
In the case of this bill, the one we are talking about today, there was considerable consultation at the pre-legislation stage—and I am not critical of that; of course I am