Page 204 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2012

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Residential Tenancies (Minimum Housing Standards) Amendment Bill 2011

Debate resumed.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (3.40), in reply: I rise to close the debate on this legislation and remark on some of the comments that have been made about it. Let me start by simply reminding the chamber of why this bill is important. We know that around 30 per cent of houses in the ACT are rental properties. There are certainly a proportion of them that are poor quality. The data that is contained in the so-called modelling that was provided by Minister Joy Burch demonstrates that, for example, around one in five government houses in the ACT are zero-star rated. The estimate—bear in mind that no-one actually knows because most of the properties are not rated—is that around 2,500 government properties are zero-star rated. That is an issue in itself. It raises a whole set of questions as you go through this document about the actual quality of the government housing stock in the ACT.

We have got another 3,500 properties estimated to have an energy star rating of one. So there we have 6,000 properties that are at the absolute bottom of the heap when it comes to their energy efficiency. That raises a whole lot of questions about the quality of housing that people are actually living in. It has an impact on their quality of life, on their health and on their energy bills. But that is a discussion for another day—about the state of the government’s housing stock.

This bill is about improving the quality of life of Canberrans who rent a property in this city. It is also about reducing their energy bills. This came up in the earlier debate. I have mentioned this before: the information supplied by the home energy audit team in 2005 indicates that lifting an EER from zero to three, which is the intent of this bill, can halve a home’s energy bills, which is significant in the context of electricity price rises that we have seen in the ACT in recent years, and undoubtedly will continue to see as the cost of electricity rises, particularly as we need to upgrade the grid infrastructure, as we are going to need to do in coming years.

And the intent of this bill is to reduce the ACT’s greenhouse emissions. We know that a very significant portion of the territory’s emissions comes from stationary energy use, which is essentially buildings. With 30 per cent of ACT houses being rentals, this is a significant proportion of that set of greenhouse emissions.

As Ms Bresnan mentioned in her remarks earlier today, this proposal has significant support. Certainly the intent of it has significant support from a range of community organisations across Australia who have been talking about the need to create minimum standards for rental properties—organisations such as the ACT Council of Social Service, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre and the Victorian Council of Social Service.

We have also seen positive comments about this legislation from the Tenants Union. That is a particularly telling observation in the context of the comments that have been made by the other two groups in this chamber about what a negative impact this

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