Page 3104 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008

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Housing Assistance Amendment Bill 2008

Detail stage

Clause 1.

Debate resumed from 3 July 2008.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.29): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 3113].

This amendment changes the commencement period of the bill so that it is not required to start by February. My concern is that there are a number of disallowable guidelines and standards in this bill. I am delighted that they are disallowable, as it provides for much better scrutiny and accountability. The key instruments in this context are the intervention guidelines. These guidelines are to be developed in consultation with community partners and tenants, I understand, or at least tenant representative groups.

Consultation embraces a range of sins. I would be concerned if the pressure of getting this legislation up and running led to a truncated consultation process. In this context, a better word should be “negotiation”, as I believe the community sector needs to be behind the intervention guidelines if they are going to work. I was somewhat reassured when advised by the government that the consultation will commence in September 2008 and will continue through the caretaker period. The registration process will not commence until the necessary subordinate legislation has been developed. What I have not heard is any reassurance that the consultation process will be respectful and even-handed.

Of course, the months of December and January are pretty well useless when it comes to negotiation, so starting in September and running through to November is about the least we could expect. I know that extending the default commencement period does not do much to provide for that respect, but it would make the point that, if more time to sort out details is needed, then the default commencement date could not be used to rush the process. I commend my amendment to the Assembly.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (6.31): The opposition will be supporting this amendment. The regime is new and, therefore, untested. We support the principle that Dr Foskey has expressed. The government needs time to develop some of the complex new rules, for example, standards, monitoring guidelines and intervention guidelines. As Dr Foskey has mentioned, a six-month start-up time will straddle Christmas and the holiday season, therefore limiting time to get the details right and consult the sector. Government officials have said there will be no exposure draft of the subordinate instruments before the end of the August sitting, so a six-month start-up would see the scheme take full effect before parliament comes back to sit again.

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