Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Mortgage Crisis Support
In my first six months as a member of parliament I have felt the frustration of seeing a lot of people suffering and not knowing how to help in a real, practical way—not making speeches or voting for legislation but something at a local level that has a real impact. And there are real problems in Blaxland. Blaxland is the mortgage stress capital of Australia. More families are losing their homes in my electorate than anywhere else in the country. Last year 300 families lost their homes. On current predictions, three families lose their homes every day in my electorate. How can I help in a real, practical way? How can I help people in my electorate save their homes?
The solutions are so macro in nature: building more homes, the reform of financial services and the prudent adjustment of fiscal and monetary policy levers. And this is made more difficult by external factors like the price of oil and food and the commodities boom, which was described by the Governor of the Reserve Bank two weeks ago as ‘the most expansionary external shock to the economy in 50 years or more’. How can a backbencher help in a real, practical way?
In the last few weeks I have been speaking to a lot of financial counsellors. They all say the same thing: people wait until it is too late to seek help. They leave it until the bank is about to foreclose or the sheriff comes knocking at the door. That is when I realised that there is something practical that I can do. I can help local residents get the information that they need in time to save their homes and save their families.
That is why I am holding an information night at my local town hall two weeks from tonight, not to talk about inflation or housing policy or the government’s plans but to give real, practical advice, such as: how to extend the terms of a loan; how to get access to the hardship provisions of the Consumer Credit Code; how to get financial and legal advice; independent dispute resolution options; access to government support, including short-term interest-free loans; whether you should try and access your superannuation or apply for bankruptcy; and, if you have to sell your house, how to make sure you get the best deal.
Next, I needed some experts to provide this advice. So I called the best in the business, financial expert Paul Clitheroe. I asked him if he would act as a facilitator, interviewing panellists and taking questions from the floor. I am glad to say that he has agreed, and I am very grateful that he has. The information night will be held at Bankstown Town Hall on Tuesday 8 July at 7 pm. Panellists will include: Greg Mowle from The Smith Family; Philip Field, the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman; Karen Cox, from the Consumer Credit Legal Centre; John Moratelli, from Legal Aid; Jenny Reid, from Creating Links, a local NGO; and Tanya Plibersek, the federal Minister for Housing. The Smith Family, the Consumer Credit Legal Centre, Creating Links and Centrelink will also staff information stalls in the lobby on the night.
It is not every day that you get the chance to ask questions of Paul Clitheroe or other experts. This is a great way for people to get some important tips to help pay the mortgage and keep their head above water. It is a great opportunity for my local residents to get the help that they need to save their homes. I encourage anyone in my electorate and anyone in Sydney who is having problems keeping their head above water to come along. To this end, I have sent invitations to every home in the electorate—all 50,000 of them.
My office has also put together a debt relief information kit that gives local residents the information they need to help themselves. The information kit provides easy-to-read information and a tool for people to get help. People struggling with debt often feel overwhelmed, frustrated or embarrassed. This kit is designed to link people to local services and organisations that can help them, including local financial counsellors, government agencies, local charities and legal and dispute resolution services. It also gives people the information they need to seek help themselves. The aim of both the housing stress information night and the debt relief information kit is pretty simple: to provide real, practical help, and hopefully we can save a few homes and save a few families.
Question agreed to.