Page 2681 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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commissioner would rather that the organisation focus more exclusively on housing. I do not think it is wise policy for the commissioner to act as both regulator and de facto manager of governance decisions in the NGO entities which are being regulated.

I understand that the government envisages, under clause 25H, that NGOs will create subsidiaries for the purposes of their engagement in housing investment. But the government needs to understand that it can be expensive and time consuming for an entity to have separate constitutional arms registered under different regulatory regimes. That is a significant question of practicality. I suspect that some NGOs may think twice about bidding for Housing ACT funding on the basis of the intrusive powers given to the commissioner. They may find that, when they explore the costs of establishing subsidiary entities to handle housing projects, the costs cannot be easily absorbed.

Of course, the provisions to allow the commissioner to wind up organisations are very draconian. These provisions purport to displace sections of the Corporations Act under section 5G. I do not think it would be core business or within the competency of a commissioner to be making decisions on stacking boards, appointing administrators and managing the wind-up of housing providers. This might be practical for a housing commissioner in a very large state like New South Wales or Victoria, where there may be more cases of insolvency or mismanagement, so specialist staff can be appointed. I do not think it is a practical arrangement in the ACT.

I am concerned that there are no obligations or constrictions on the commission as to how the assets of a wound-up provider may be disposed of or split among different uses. It is not clear whether proceeds from asset sales may be directed to new housing expenditure or returned to parent organisations, or whether the proceeds would be returned to general government revenue. I would hope that there are no mischievous intentions here. I would suspect that this oversight is a matter of poorly thought out policy by the government rather than something sinister.

Clearly, parts of this bill have been poorly thought through. Just to give one example, I notice that in clause 25C (2) (c) there is no provision for communications via email and the internet. It is not clear why not. Instead, the bill requires that providers have fax machines. The fax is, of course, a piece of technology which is dying and is being superseded by scanners and emails.

Finally, there are some general issues of housing policy framework which I would like to touch on briefly. The parliament has not yet had any sense of vision from the government on what kind of market structure it envisages for the community housing sector and affordable housing providers. For instance, how many providers does it expect to register in the first year and how many providers is it aiming for once the scheme is fully operational? How will it aim to deliver some contestability for government grants and contracts? How will it avoid market dominance by a small number of providers and how will it attract new, innovative providers to service niche markets or to bring new types of housing product into the sector?

There is no indication of how the regulatory system will be used to ensure that investment in affordable housing and community housing is used in a way that puts

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