Page 2692 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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I understand that the bill will amend the act to allow the Residential Tenancies Tribunal to exercise an explicit power to make a termination and possession order should there be a breach of a specific performance order made under the relevant section. This amendment will give parties to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal additional options to an application for eviction.

With this amendment, where a tenant breaches an order for specific performance, the lessor would be obliged to return to court but would only need to prove the breach in order to get relief. A lower standard of proof than for a standard eviction order was sought. This will give the Residential Tenancies Tribunal greater flexibility in dealing with problem tenants and will, I am informed, restore the recourses that were available prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.

I have no problem in supporting this measure. I would, however, take the opportunity to stress that I do not believe that we yet have a system that adequately ensures that bad behaviour from public housing tenants, for example, is not tolerated. I accept that eviction should not be the first recourse available to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal but I also believe it is an option that has to be considered. Problem tenants in public housing complexes disturb the amenity of not just their immediate neighbours but also the wider community. I have spoken before about issues related particularly to public housing in Griffith, Red Hill and Garran; I have had a range of complaints that I have raised publicly. The system needs to be able to deal with these people and ensure that, if orders are not complied with, the tenants do face disciplinary action.

I note the government’s additional amendment that relates to the Residential Tenancies Act that was circulated in the last sittings. I will support the further amendment and do not agree with Mr Stefaniak’s opposition to it. Mr Stefaniak says in his media release of 8 April that he is concerned about the Residential Tenancies Tribunal exercising a subjective interpretation. I would contend that a tribunal, an independent judicial body, is more qualified than Mr Stefaniak to exercise subjective interpretation. As stated, I believe that eviction should be a genuine option in tenancy matters. However, I do not believe that the government’s amendment will make it any less likely that problem tenants will face eviction.

The other major area of this bill relates to the Human Rights Commission Act. I welcome the amendment to the act that will allow the commission to not consider complaints in circumstances where it would be inappropriate because the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or not made honestly. One of my major concerns with the exercise of the Human Rights Act in the ACT is the possibility that it can be exploited on these grounds and be used to disrupt the local community rather than assist it. I welcome these provisions, which will make it harder for people to use the act for vexatious reasons.

Other changes to the Human Rights Commission Act are largely technical and will, I believe, simplify the reporting processes of that organisation. Again, I will support measures that are designed to improve efficiency in government and believe it is the duty and responsibility of those in power to constantly search for these efficiencies. I thank the minister, his staff and advisers for providing me with a briefing. I am

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