Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for WORKPLACE SAFETY and CONSUMER AFFAIRS, Ms ARCHER
Yesterday we asked why you are giving out a $100 000 handout to the Tasmanian Residential Rental Property Owners Association. The incorporation documents for this association show their only current office bearer is Ms Louise Elliot, the president and public officer. No one is listed in the roles of treasurer and secretary.
Ms Elliot has been waging a political campaign through her association's Facebook page. In the last fortnight of the state election campaign, the association unleashed a torrent of posts attacking candidate for Clark, Kristie Johnston, while others promoted Clark Liberal candidate Simon Behrakis and explicitly told people to vote Liberal. The pages also attacked independent MLC Meg Webb, spread misinformation about the Greens, and recently promoted the candidacy of Ms Elliot for election to Hobart City Council. The whole thing stinks.
Tasmanians would reasonably conclude the Liberals have stitched up a deal to help them win a second seat in Clark and in return they have promised to bankroll Louise Elliot's run for Hobart City Council. Did you, or your party, make any deals with the Tasmanian Residential Rental Property Owners' Association before or during the state election campaign?
Mr Speaker, I would like to address some very serious allegations in that. I really hope that the form of the last few days is not followed by the Greens and I am given an opportunity to respond to this. What they have alleged, quite frankly, is appalling. I place on the record that, equally, the Government has been highly criticised by that association, publicly and even throughout COVID-19 in relation to the rental protections we have had for tenants. You have deliberately ignored the criticism that association has rightly done across the board in relation to all parties where they see fit to criticise.
I wanted to draw the House's attention to that fact because I believe the Government has been criticised and it is a Liberal Government of course as you highlighted there just as much, if not more, than other members of this House or indeed throughout the campaign. I cannot be responsible for the content of what is put on Facebook; none of us can -
Dr Woodruff - No, but you are responsible for funding them.
Mr SPEAKER - Order. You have asked the question, please allow the minister to answer it.
Ms ARCHER - Mr Speaker, the 2021 22 Budget includes funding for a range of property and tenancy stakeholder bodies to enable them to perform important functions to support their members and the Tasmanian community. This includes the Tasmanian Residential Rental Property Owners Association and of course the legal assistance sector, significant funding.
The association I refer to, in short, was formed in 2020 during COVID-19 and represents the interests of the owners of self managed rental properties. Unlike real estate agents this group tends to have less experience in managing rental properties and less knowledge of their obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997. Inadvertently this can lead to problems between tenants and landlords which, if not managed appropriately, can become disputes.
This set up funding will be used by the association to develop resources and build the knowledge and understanding of property owners with regard to their obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997. This will help to assist landlords resulting in fewer disputes between tenants and landlords. I thought the Greens would welcome that. The Residential Tenancy Commissioner has recently met with the president of that association to discuss areas of focus for this work.
It is not uncommon for the Tasmanian Government to provide money to assist organisations that charge membership fees. A similar model applies to the Youth Network of Tasmania and the National Disability Services, each of which -
Greens members interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Ms ARCHER - I know, certainly YNOT was given funding when Ms O'Connor was minister of that relevant portfolio.
Ms O'Connor - Absolutely, because they represent young people and she is not running for council.
Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, as you know, for constantly interjecting I have no other option but to ask you to leave. I ask you now, please, to be quiet and do not interject on the minister any further in this answer.
Ms ARCHER - Mr Speaker, I am going through what the funding was provided for. Ms O'Connor and Dr Woodruff are alleging that this money has been inappropriately provided to this association. It has not. It has been provided for a specific purpose. The Residency Tenancy Commissioner has met with the president to confirm the purpose of how these funds are to be used. It is important that we minimise the disputes between tenants and landlords, particularly as a result of COVID-19 where we have seen them having to navigate some difficult issues around the Residential Tenancy Act.
Dr Woodruff - Did you make any deals during the election campaign? That is the question.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Ms ARCHER - There are some difficult issues to deal with, there have been disputes to resolve and this association came to us, quite appropriately as many associations do, and made requests for government funding to assist them in educating their members.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker, standing order 45 on relevance. It was about whether any deals were done.
Mr SPEAKER - As you know, it is not a point of order. You are trying to repeat the question. The minister was addressing the question and the relevance of that and the allegation.
Ms ARCHER - I can unequivocally say that there have been no deals done. This funding has been provided as set up funding for this association to assist members to educate them to be advocates in relation to residential tenancy matters so that tenants and landlords can resolve disputes. That is exactly why this money has been established. As I said yesterday, our Government has provided significant support to tenants and landlords, more support to tenants through the Tenants' Union, through our rent relief fund, approximately $4.4 million has been provided by way of rent relief to reduce the amount of rental arrears during this very difficult and challenging time.
I call on the Greens to stop muckraking about this. There is absolutely nothing untoward here.