Page 2677 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008
now, so that they can be further looked at in those detailed briefings and when we come back in August.
It is quite appropriate that, where public moneys are used to fund community housing and affordable housing services through non-government sector providers, there should be some accountability of how that public money is used. It is fair that entities which rely in part on public funding are subject to some scrutiny and that taxpayers have assurance that money has been used effectively to deliver on the promised purpose for which the money was given.
It is also very important that there are protections in place for housing clients who are vulnerable. It is helpful if there are some standards or guidance for providers on service quality. It is also useful if organisations that operate in part with volunteer resources have some guidance on governance matters, although, as I will outline later, governance is an issue that these days can be over-regulated and overcooked.
The new regulatory framework is consistent with the agreement by the housing ministers conference held on 14 March this year to establish a registration system for not-for-profit housing providers. However, we are very conscious that the new arrangements do have potential flaws. For instance, they leave open a vast amount of detail to be developed by the Commissioner for Social Housing. I will discuss shortly the breadth of powers given to the commissioner.
We will be paying close attention to the regime during its implementation and in the early stages of its evolution and, indeed, when we come to the detail stage we will be paying close attention there as well. In particular, we will expect a review of the operation of this regime early in its operation. We will be interested to obtain the feedback of providers, after they have been registered under the scheme, to gauge their views on flaws in the regulatory framework.
We do appreciate that, where parliament regulates in a field where it has not previously applied close scrutiny, parliaments do not have perfect foresight. There will need to be some adjustments down the track as the framework rubs up against reality. That said, I think some potential shortcomings in this legislation are evident from day one.
I wish to outline three areas of concern that I would ask the minister and the commissioner to have regard to as they put flesh on the bones of this new regulatory framework. First, there are contradictions between some of the objectives and the approaches set out in the legislation. Second, there are parts of the legislation that miss the point in relation to the risks that are inherent in the operation of affordable housing and community organisations. And third, there are elements in the legislation that are overly bureaucratic and do not have regard to the practicalities of running a non-government organisation.
The opposition does support the objectives of this legislation, but there is some tension between the ends sought by the government and the means proposed in the legislation to get us there. To be specific, the explanatory memorandum states: