Page 3160 - Week 10 - Thursday, 15 August 2013
Proposed expenditure—Part 1.15—Housing ACT—$43,075,000 (net cost of outputs) and $22,501,000 (capital injection), totalling $65,576,000.
MR COE (Ginninderra) (5.06): The Housing portfolio, I am the first to admit, is a particularly tricky one for both the directorate and the housing minister. It is a very diverse area of government whereby you have people who are property managers, people who are counsellors and people who are in effect community nursing. They really are the front line for many people that are often vulnerable and are often in need of assistance, whether it be from the government or from other community groups. So it is a tricky area of government, but it is of course vital that the policy settings are correct, such that the money that is spent in this space is spent appropriately.
We had an interesting discussion during the estimates debate about tenure, and the government’s position on tenure. For quite a few years the Labor government had maintained their position that tenants of Housing ACT did in fact have a house for life. However, last year, when Ms Burch had the portfolio, the government seemed to change their approach. Letters were sent to some tenants who were earning a large sum of money. Initially it was a letter requesting that they consider moving out, but relatively recently we have actually seen eviction notices issued for tenants who are earning well in excess of the entry-level amounts that are accepted for new housing applications.
Those eviction notices were for six months, and I think that many of those will be coming up shortly. It is going to be interesting to see whether the government does in fact go through with those eviction notices or whether the government does back down from this.
I do not think there is any doubt whatsoever that public housing should be for the most vulnerable in the community, and the opposition is by no means going to get in the way of the government exercising their will to ensure that the most vulnerable people are in public housing. However, it still has to be managed properly, and we have to make sure that it is handled correctly in terms of the notifications.
Also it would be interesting to know what the government’s ongoing intentions are. If it is simply one round of evictions, that will be totally inconsistent with past and future policies. What is the government’s actual policy in this space? They really need to invest some time in nutting that out and making it very clear to public housing tenants at the time of applying for public housing as well as to those tenants that have been there for some time. So there is still work to be done there and we would like to see the rationale for it.
The minister, Mr Rattenbury, is, of course, walking a policy tightrope on this issue because his party has traditionally favoured tenure; so it is going to be somewhat fascinating, from a shadow minister’s point of view, to see how the minister carries out what was initiated by the previous housing minister.
We have seen the average cost per dwelling in social housing reach $11,314 a year. It really is a huge amount of money—a huge, huge amount of money. I call upon