Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 19 August 2008) . . Page.. 3199 ..
amend section 25S to incorporate a mandatory process whereby the housing commissioner will give a registered provider notice and reasons of an intention to exercise intervention powers and the opportunity to respond.
It was never intended that the commissioner’s power to intervene would be exercised arbitrarily, which seems to have been suggested by some people who wished to deliberately misunderstand it. The commissioner and her staff are, I think, exemplary in the way they consult people affected by their decisions. However, this amendment will require the commissioner to engage a provider in discussion and negotiation and possible resolution of the issue with the commissioner prior to any formal intervention. Perhaps this requirement that they have to do it will satisfy those people who do not trust the Commissioner for Social Housing. They require this sort of stuff to be embodied in the legislation; perhaps it is an expression of their lack of trust. I do not share their lack of trust. This specific suggestion was made by CHC Affordable Housing, and I welcome their positive engagement with the bill.
It has been suggested that we should rely on the normal processes of the law and, if necessary, appoint an administrator to an organisation that we have concerns about. That process would not produce an outcome that the government would prefer—that is, we want the organisation to continue in its purpose of providing community housing to the target group but within the guidelines established by the commissioner. An administrator would have a different aim, and may simply wind the organisation up. That would, to some extent, protect the government’s assets, but it could also result in the termination of the provision of community housing. And that means termination of the lease that somebody has over a property. That means the thing is then vacated and they would have to be chucked out onto the street. There is no way on God’s earth that I will allow people to be thrown onto the street.
The section will be further amended to require the development of intervention guidelines, to include an overall reasonableness test for any proposed intervention. These intervention guidelines will be a disallowable instrument. There were a number of people in our consultation processes who sought a disallowable instrument. I think that was a most reasonable request, and I am very happy to oblige that request.
After the commissioner has made a decision to deregister a provider, she must make a statement of reasons at the same time that she provides written notice of the decision. This is in keeping with best practice and administrative procedures, and allows a provider to see why the commissioner has made her decision. It saves the providers some time in deciding whether to appeal to the AAT against the commissioner’s decision. I will finish off by saying thank you very much to those people who have brought this issue to our attention, and we are very happy to move these amendments.
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.05): We will be supporting this government amendment. This amendment adds procedural controls on government interventions. Reasons must be given, warning must be given of the method of intervention and an opportunity provided for providers to argue against it; intervention must be appropriate in the circumstances.
This amendment adds some limits to prevent trigger-happy interventions. This ensures that the commissioner must weigh up all factors and not just use a technical infraction