April 6, 2011  |  Second Reading

Residential Tenancies Amendment (Public Housing) Bill 2011 Part 2

I am pleased to rise to continue my contribution on the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Public Housing) Bill 2011. In relation to indictable offences power will be given to the director of housing to evict people from their properties. In the broader context, some of these matters go to the amenity of local residents in relation to where they live and providing them with a safe environment.

In terms of the people in public housing in my electorate of Ivanhoe, particularly in West Heidelberg, part of that is done through a range of projects that we initiated when we were in government, such as neighbourhood renewal and the provision of advocacy for people in public housing. We have given them a stronger voice and a say in their own advocacy and representation. It is about holding the Office of Housing, the Department of Human Services and local government to account and allowing people to have a say fundamentally about the way they live their lives and about ensuring that they are treated with respect and dignity.

What the people of the Ivanhoe electorate — particularly the people of West Heidelberg, where I live and where there is a large public housing community — have raised with me about this legislation is the fact that often public housing is not suitable for their purposes, either because of the size of their families or because the housing has not been maintained. These are the sorts of issues that people raise with me constantly in the Ivanhoe electorate. These are the sorts of issues that the Labor government dealt with to ensure that people in public housing were treated with respect and dignity. That is what Labor governments want to ensure.

When the government talks about public housing it looks for easy and cheap headlines, but we do not hear anything about investment in public housing or about increasing the maintenance budget for public housing. We do not hear anything about building public housing on the vacant blocks in West Heidelberg. The government wants to pay consultants to draw up fancy plans, but when it comes to improving the amenity for people in public housing it says nothing about investing in public housing itself.

It does not want to talk about investing in building public housing on vacant blocks in West Heidelberg owned by the Office of Housing for which the director of housing is responsible when people are looking for somewhere to live and are expecting the government to provide them with opportunities. Those blocks are sitting there vacant because this government will not provide the investment for more public housing to be built.

On the subject of investing in public housing and providing opportunities for constituents in my electorate to have somewhere to live and a roof over their head, I am pleased to talk about some of the homes and facilities that have been built for people who live in West Heidelberg. I will talk about some of those out in the Bellfield — —

Mr Shaw — On a point of order, Speaker, the bill is not about investment in public housing; the bill is specifically about the trafficking of drugs. 

An honourable member interjected.

Mr Shaw — The point of order is that the member is not speaking on the bill. I ask you, Speaker, to instruct the member to speak on the bill and not about investment in public housing.

The SPEAKER — Order! I do not uphold the point of order. I ask the member to return to debating the bill before the house.

Mr CARBINES — This bill goes to the heart of what the residents of West Heidelberg say to me. They are keen to improve the amenity of their neighbourhood.

They work hard to do that through projects such as neighbourhood renewal, through their advocacy and through discussion around improving local facilities such as those at Malahang Reserve, as well as by holding local fetes and festivals that promote Housing Week and their issues and holding local barbecues in the community. They have had barbecues at the Bell Bardia estate and the Tarakan estate. We want people to be able to put forward their issues and talk about what is important to them to ensure that the Office of Housing, the Department of Human Services and the government are listening and responding to their issues on public housing matters.

In relation to this matter, ultimately the government has a responsibility to house all vulnerable Victorians, including all those who may end up getting charged on an indictable offence, but what about their families and the homes in which they live that are public housing?

Who is looking out for them, who is providing them with confidence that the government and the people of Victoria want them taken care of, looked out for and advocated for? They will continue to get advocacy in West Heidelberg, they will continue to get it in Ivanhoe and they will continue to get it on this side of the house, but we will wait for the next budget to see what is provided by this government to invest in public housing rather than shutting it down and kicking people out. That is what we want to see done by this government, but there is nothing but silence and a cheap headline. Housing is what we want to see in West Heidelberg and the Ivanhoe electorate.