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Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2023

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Tuesday, 31 October 2023

Tags: Legislation, Cost of Living

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I am going to be brief. Much has been said and the Greens are pleased to support the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill. Like the minister and the member for Lyons, I recognise the work and advocacy of Ian Green and the Tasmanian Association for Residents of Retirement Villages (TARRV).

I have some questions regarding the recommendations made in the TARRV submission on the draft bill. The association recommended an amendment around the production of minutes. I note Mrs Alexander's amendments pick up on this in part, and the Government has also taken up this recommendation in part. However, it does not go as far as to require some of the specifics that the association wanted the minutes to include. These include: the names of the operators' representatives who were present in the meeting; the financial details presented to the villages; the questions asked by the villages and the operator's replies and I note that is picked up in an amendment as well as any of the operators' responses not available at the meeting to be provided within two weeks of the meeting and included in the minutes. None of these matters are covered by the proposed new subsections. Is the minister able to explain why the Government chose not to include these prescriptions?

The association also wanted some amendments to broaden the requirements for financial disclosure to include all income sources, not just income from residents and tenants. This as well was not adopted. I ask the minister the reason for this. I also highlight some of the comments made by National Seniors Australia and ask the minister to respond to the recommendations they made. National Seniors Australia has called for a nationally consistent approach to retirement village legislation. Does the minister have a view on this? Are you taking any steps to explore this option with your counterparts? I note the debate today and the clear perspective from members not involved for the Government, that this legislation does not go far enough.

National Seniors Australia also suggested, in the absence of a nationally consistent approach, a range of broader reforms than is provided for in the bill, should take place. These include the establishment of a Retirement Villages Ombudsman and a host of consumer protection and information reforms. Does the Government intend to conduct a broader review of the act to identify the other opportunities for reform, including those matters identified by National Seniors Australia?

I want to talk more broadly about the principles underpinning this bill. We are in a cost of living crisis. Limiting the cost increases to CPI, except in specific circumstances, is proposed in this bill and it is a sensible and fair approach. I expect this bill will receive support across the Chamber and that has been indicated tonight. It is interesting that the Liberal and Labor parties argued and voted a similar proposition for renters in our last sitting week. This amendment bill replaces the current framework, which requires a fee increase to be reasonable with a framework that only allows for increases above CPI under certain circumstances. Adopting the ACT's rent regulation framework would have changed the rent increase framework from one that requires rent increases to, quote:

Not be unreasonable to a framework that only allows for increases above CPI plus 10 per cent of CPI, under certain circumstances. (TBC)

This is a very similar proposition. If anything, the Greens' proposed rent increase framework was less restrictive than the proposed framework that we see before us for fee increases in retirement villages. In the minister's second reading speech she claims, and I quote:

While the act requires the fee increase to be 'reasonable' it is unclear how that is to be established. (TBC)

Indeed, case law in Tasmania shows that proving rent increases are unreasonable is extremely difficult. We have two remarkably similar problems in front of us and two polar opposite positions on the same solution from the Liberal and Labor Parties. It is curious that we are all in here able to say that the status quo cannot remain for this issue but are unable to agree that something needs to be done for renters. One of the examples of this problem that has been put forward was the raising of the service and maintenance fee from $14.54 to $22 plus CPI which included a hardship policy for people to have individualised plans developed. In contrast, we have seen many stories about rents increasing by $100 or more with no hardship policy, no support and resulting in many Tasmanians being driven into financial hardship or homelessness yet this parliament cannot find the collective will to do something about rents.