Thursday, 25 October 2018
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I will just pick up on what the member for Corangamite just said about helping victims of domestic violence. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017, as it stands today, could mean that a tenant who is experiencing family or domestic violence could actually be liable for the damage caused to a rented property by someone who is an abusive partner. We don't support this mandatory Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme for all public- and social-housing tenants. Only when we are aiming to prevent homelessness should we apply automatic rent deductions.
We on this side of the House will keep those opposite accountable, and we will ensure that we move amendments in the Senate to make sure that those who are the most vulnerable, who are most at risk, those individuals who are in arrears, are not at risk of being left on the streets without a place to live, left behind by this government. We will move an amendment to cap the maximum deduction to prevent the scheme forcing people into housing stress and to make sure that people have money to meet their other needs and pay their other bills—for essentials, like food.
We will also move amendments to require that compulsory deductions can only be made for rent and utilities and not for property damage. This is to protect people from being unfairly held responsible for another person's actions, including in the case of family and domestic violence.
Around 86 per cent of public- and social-housing tenants use the Rent Deduction Scheme currently. At the moment, some social-housing tenants are also income support recipients. They can choose to have the Department of Human Services withhold a portion of their fortnightly payment already. Fancy that! Giving people a little bit of choice and control over their own lives! Simply because they are on income support does not mean they need to be treated in this way or demonised.
It's an absolute shame and an outright disgrace to see young people and potential home buyers being locked out of our housing market in this country, with housing stress on the increase and only one per cent of private rentals actually being labelled as affordable. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government can't deliver a pizza—they'll probably deliver us another Prime Minister before their term ends—let alone deliver the housing affordability solutions that we need. They've been in government now for almost six years, and we are still waiting.