Housing Trust Tenants Association | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:41 :00 ): I rise to support the member for Morphett’s motion. I think it is a very important motion that raises many points. I would like to start by pointing out that this is a motion actually about the Housing Trust Tenants Association and is certainly not about Housing SA, and that, of course, is a very important distinction.

Our two electorate offices work very closely with Housing SA and actually get great service from them. I really would like to point out how helpful Mr Chris Kennett in Port Augusta and Ms Liz Malcolm in Port Pirie are. Between them they cover the majority of our area. They move around a fair bit. I think Ms Malcolm is often off on other duties and Mr Kennett often covers the Port Pirie office in the Yorke and Mid North region. Nonetheless, they really do an outstanding job trying to help my constituents and their clients (if that is the right word) in Housing SA properties.

In fact, they really went above and beyond their duties by volunteering an enormous amount of their own personal time and their own professional capacity during the Bangor fire, helping with regard to the emergency response unit that was set up in Port Pirie, and a significant amount of time and effort was spent in Wirrabara as well, trying to help people who had been displaced in many ways. That might have been because their house burned down or it might have been through needing some sort of counselling. They really do an outstanding job.

That is completely different from the Housing Trust Tenants Association. I do not believe I have ever met Ms Julie Macdonald. I do not believe that I know her at all. However, the things I have been made aware of about her concern me enormously. I wonder really whether it is even fair to call it the Housing Trust Tenants Association. They probably have that name registered somewhere, but there do not seem to be an enormous number of Housing Trust tenants who have a great deal of faith in this association or what Ms Julie Macdonald is purporting to do on their behalf and seemingly doing on behalf of the South Australian Labor Party.

This motion really is about misleading and deceptive conduct, and I do not think there is much doubt that that is what happened here. I do not think there is much doubt that there are two key issues here. One is deceptive conduct potentially with regard to the Privacy Act. As many speakers before me have said, nobody really knows from where the tenants’ names and addresses were sourced, but nobody really believes that they could have been used without having been sourced from a government source one way or the other. The practical reality of trying to do all be back-matching would have prevented Julie Macdonald, and even a reasonably large band of helpers, from matching them all up. I guess we will really never know whether that was the case or not, but it does seem very improbable that those documents were not sourced from somewhere inappropriate, and that is very alarming in itself.

The other thing of course that is particularly alarming is the fact that we feel we were very badly misrepresented by the information that was sent out. I can tell you that my constituents, the constituents who have raised this with me, feel that we were very badly misrepresented as well. Constituents in Port Augusta, for example, have a regular meeting at the Port Augusta senior citizens hall, many of them are Housing SA tenants and they were really worried.

The member for Hammond talked about a lady coming to his office and being physically scared and physically affected by this. There was a meeting in Port Augusta, one of their weekly meetings in the lead-up to the election, where a group of elderly people were really, really worried. They were concerned that they were going to get kicked out of their homes, and of course that was never the case. I think it would be much more helpful if the Housing Trust Tenants Association wanted to deal with some of the real issues that affect Housing SA tenants, some of the real issues like dealing with dreadfully disruptive tenants, as I know happens all over the state and as I know happens in Port Augusta a lot.

I think the Housing Trust Tenants Association should be lobbying for a much stronger stance from the government with regard to disruptive tenants. That is not because I want disruptive tenants and, presumably, bad people to be kicked out in the street and left destitute and homeless, it is not that at all. It is because they are not taking proper advantage of the privilege that public housing is—they are not taking advantage of the privilege that public housing is. When there is such a significant waiting list then why not replace disruptive, inappropriate tenants with potentially positive and good tenants for the benefit of everybody? If someone is going to miss out, if someone needs to be on the waiting list, let it be the people with a proven track record of being disruptive, unruly and, essentially, obstructing the whole privilege that is public housing.

The issue of water meters is one that the Housing Trust Tenants Association could take up on behalf of its members, if it wanted to. There are enormous numbers of constituents in my electorate who still have shared water meters. I understand the reality with regard to the cost of replacing water meters, but the impact on some of the tenants is just dreadful. There are situations where you might have two, five, 10 or 15 units sharing the same water meter.

I understand they get a 30 per cent discount on their bill but that is often overcome if you have one tenant sharing the water in their property with an enormous number, like maybe 15 or 20 people, all coming through and using the water. So then all of the other tenants, who are trying to be responsible, have to pay their share of that and they actually end up paying more than they would if they did not get the 30 per cent discount. I think as the price of water goes up and up and up the cost of replacing the meter will become more and more affordable. So, I think that is something Ms Julie Macdonald could concentrate on.

The fact that we have so many vacant Housing SA properties around the state and such a long waiting list is something that could be dealt with. I think the maintenance arrangements that are in place are something that could be dealt with. The government, a year or so ago, tried to set up a situation whereby contractors had to be preferred contractors for certain regional areas but they could not recover their travel costs in the bills they put forward for, essentially, fixed price maintenance.

So in an electorate like Stuart, where you have housing properties that are well away from regional centres where most contractors are based, that presents a very significant difficulty. It presents a significant difficulty for the contractor to try to win business and stay afloat, it makes it very significantly difficult for the good people trying to run Housing SA offices and services in the region when they cannot get contractors very willing to do the work and, of course, it is no good for the tenants either. They are trying to get their property improved, they are trying to get their property maintained, but without a good supply of building contractors.

Mr Speaker, I recommend those as just some of the issues that the Housing Trust Tenants Association should be focusing on and not, as the member for Morphett says, trying to run deceptive scare campaigns, not accessing information which seemingly has been accessed completely inappropriately—it does not seem possible that it would have come from any other source in a very practical sense; it would not have come from any legal source, in a practical sense—and not misrepresenting one political party. This association should be completely apolitical and trying only to support the tenants who live in these homes.