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Residential Tenancy (Rental Market Reform) Amendment Bill 2021

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 18 October 2023

Tags: Tenant Rights, Housing Crisis, Legislation

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, what a depressing response from the Labor and Liberal parties. That is really very depressing and given the way this issue is being played out at the federal level, it is not surprising.

I recognise the concerns expressed by the Labor Party, by Ms Butler, and reflect on what that means. It means absolutely no housing reform and, unfortunately, we have a situation in Australia where we have locked in to a way of doing things that is so embedded in the way we do business and make money, the way we make money from housing as an investment that we have forgotten that housing is a human right, and having a home is a human right. We have lost track of that.

I listened to Ms Butler carefully and her comments about rent controls, for example, none of that made any sense but I am not going to spend the time here going into the details of San Francisco. If you had not taken off the rent controls it would not have had a situation that Ms Butler was talking about.

The point is that you have to have a commitment to who you are trying to make reforms for. If you are trying to make reforms in the housing sector that keep everybody happy, and that includes landowners, you will not make any changes. The Labor Party can be concerned about the housing crisis and can talk about needing to reform the Rental Tenancy Act but they are never going to do it in a way that is meaningful and that will make the changes needed for people who are in desperate crisis at the moment and who will remain in that way.

Ms Haddad -It is an election commitment that we will do it.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, but it is an election commitment that means nothing. Look what has happened at the federal level. At the federal level if it was not for the Greens pushing and pushing then the federal Labor Party's response to the national housing crisis would have been just talk. There was no commitment to ever delivering a baseline amount of money that would go into housing across the country at all. No commitment to delivering it, just a commitment to promising it. If after gambling it on the international stock market, a certain amount of money was returned each year, then it would have gone into building houses. But it was because of the Greens' pushing, backed by Australians who are desperately wanting to having something change in the rental market, that we got a commitment to spend $3 billion. That never would have happened if we had not resisted behalf of renters.

Here we are in Tasmania, we have had this bill sitting here on the books, we started debating it last year. Ms O'Connor brought this on and then the Labor Party at the time said that we are interested, we would really like to do it.

This is people's lives now and we can make changes today. You could have been part of the change that we could have had for renters in Tasmania. That is what we could have had. We could have had that today. We could have had a situation where people cannot be evicted without cause. Thanks to the members in the Chamber today, we will not have that, and we could have done that.

Today, in Tasmania, people can still be evicted - and will still be evicted - if it suits the landlord. They decide there is some retaliation because the renter insists on their rights, complains about the mould, is outraged about the fact that the windows do not open, that they are effectively not shut; cannot have a fan heater system that is working - all the thing that we hear about, people do not bring them up.

The Labor Party knows this. I know they have had people coming and responding to them as constituents talking about the situation but when it comes to the crunch they would rather hold on in the hope that they could be in government one day in the future and control the process and have the Rental Tenancy Act. Good luck with hoping that the Labor Party is going to bring in strong reforms because I do not hear it.

I hear a lot of concern and hand wringing but I also hear talk about unintended consequences for landlords. Why are the Labor and the Liberal parties so concerned about unintended consequences for landlords and they do not care at all about the unintended reality of the short-stay market. Today, in Tasmania, we have a short-stay market that has no encumbrances, that has gone off like a bonanza of money making for people who have put their whole houses on the market, rental houses that were available. More than 9 per cent of Hobart's rental housing stock has been handed over to the short-stay market and neither the Liberal nor the Labor parties are concerned about the unintended consequences.

Ms Haddad - It is our policy to regulate short-stay and you know that.

Dr WOODRUFF - You are not doing it. Bring it in and we will support it and we could move it.

Here we are and we have a great housing reform bill on the table and the Labor Party agrees with the pets, they agree with the no-cause evictions, they agree with making energy efficiency but, no - let us just have a few more years of conversation and meanwhile we have had a 58 per cent increase over six years in the price of rents. Zero per cent of houses in southern Tasmania are affordable for people on low incomes. We all know this because people ring us in desperation and we see single mothers escaping family violence in the car with children. These are the sorts of lies that this bill change would make a meaningful immediate difference to.

We can do this and it is up to us to recognise that it is the extreme unfairness of the rental contracts as they exist. It is the unfair price gouging that is going on where all the deck is stacked towards the landowner and none of it towards the renter. So you can live in a shitty little house that has no functioning windows and no functioning heating system. You can pay a fortune in rent that you cannot afford and you can get kicked out at the end of 12 months simply because the lease is finished for that year and you have to renew it. There is nothing going your way. There is no way you have time to try to get your pet to be able to stay with you. There is no way you are going to go down that track. You just do not want to rock the boat.

We will continue to come in here and put on the table the sort of changes that Tasmanians want so they can understand what the people who are standing to represent them would actually vote to do, the change that we will vote to do and that is what the Labor Party pretends they will do and the Liberal Party, well, you know they will not.