Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 Second Reading

23 Aug 2018

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I rise today to speak on the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 and I am very, very pleased to see that this bill has come before this house before the end of this term of Parliament. I was not sure if we would get there in the end but we have, which is great. The commitment was made, I think, some time ago during the Northcote by-election, so I am glad to see that this bill has been brought before this Parliament before the end of its term. Hopefully, should it pass this house, it will pass through the other place as well, but I know they have got a big backlog of bills to get through.

The reason I want to speak on this bill is that it is important to many people within the Prahran electorate. This bill will have a positive impact on renters in the Prahran electorate. I know that 60 per cent of people in the Prahran electorate are living in rental accommodation. I think that is the highest proportion of any electorate in the state. Improving the rights of renters is absolutely critical to keeping Prahran livable. The reality is that long-term renting and renting for life are a reality these days, notwithstanding that renting is always going to be an important part of someone’s life before they own their own home, which of course because of poor housing affordability is more and more out of reach.

I have heard from renters in Prahran about some of the problems that they face: high rates of rent and struggling to pay rents, concerns about security of tenancy, the low quality of people’s rental units, delays and poor responses from landlords when repairs are requested, and struggling to find properties to rent because of a pet. These are significant but common issues across renting in the Prahran electorate.

One of the reasons I want to speak as well is to really draw a contrast, because what we have been hearing from the Liberal Party is that they do not support this legislation. From what I have heard from previous speakers they have called this legislation ‘a disgrace, a dog’s breakfast’. They have cited ordinary people and said this will disadvantage ordinary people, yet they are forgetting all those people that are renting and how it would advantage them.

By sheer coincidence, I happened to be looking on Reddit yesterday — the Melbourne subreddit — and what had made it to the top of the list was a Liberal Party flyer that had circulated in the Prahran electorate. I remind members that that is not a good thing for the Liberal Party. It was a piece of material with a list of things saying what the Liberal Party would do. It was rightly described within that subreddit as feeble, generic and non-committal. It was just a vague list of unspecified and generalised things that they would somehow magically do. This party has said, ‘Look, you can only achieve things if you’re in government’, yet when it comes to putting out material, theirs has empty motherhood statements.

I would contrast that — and if people are still wondering from that piece of material what the Liberal Party stands for — with what is happening right here in this house. We have got a bill that is so important to the lives of many people within the Prahran electorate and we have got the Liberal Party here opposing it, wanting to block it, wanting to delay it, calling it a disgrace and calling it a dog’s breakfast. We have got the Greens in here who have campaigned for rental reform, who are supporting this bill and who will continue to fight for rental reform. That is the big difference here. When the rubber hits the road, we are standing on the side of renters. We are standing on the side of all those people in the Prahran electorate who need and want better rights for renters. When we have got a bill that will go to fixing housing, a bill that changes the law in favour of those who do not own a home instead of those who own multiple homes, we are standing on the side of those who do not own a home, for the better rights of renters, and the Liberal Party are trying to delay, block and stop this bill. That is the big difference here. I have heard from people in Prahran about the issues they face with renting, and I am really proud to support this bill and to continue to fight for better rights for renters.

Just securing a rental place can be difficult in itself. We have got people facing systems of rental bidding. We have got dwellings that simply do not meet the standards that people would necessarily expect. I welcome the changes that this bill introduces and the minimum standards that it sets to introduce. I welcome preventing residential rental providers from refusing a pet without seeking an order from VCAT. We have got tenants funds used for urgent repairs to be recouped quicker and faster through a system of reimbursement. We have got quicker access to bond payments. We have got rental increases capped at once a year, which will provide some stability. That is obviously not a cap on the cost or the increase, just the frequency, but it helps.

We certainly welcome the change to the no-fault or no specified reason eviction, which will provide more stability for renters. Ending no-grounds evictions has been something that the Greens have been calling for for almost a decade now. In fact I believe Greg Barber of the other place previously moved a bill to remove that, which was voted down by the other parties.

These are good changes. They will benefit renters in Prahran, and I am really proud to support them, but there is more to do. As the member for Northcote would have suggested, there need to be further standards for energy efficiency such as insulation and efficient light fixtures, hot water systems, heating and more. This would save people money and of course be environmentally friendly. Again, we introduced a private members bill just after the member for Northcote was elected, but that bill was voted down in this place. We have called for an annual cap on rent increases of 2.5 per cent, in line with the national cash rate. Housing affordability has got to the point where the state does need to intervene and cap rent increases.

It is clear that the housing market is broken. This bill goes a long way to address rights for renters. There is more to do, and we are going to keep fighting for those changes. We also need to do things to improve housing affordability, like abolishing negative gearing and those unfair tax breaks and addressing the homelessness crisis with massive investment in public housing to fix those massive housing waiting lists and to prevent homelessness. So I certainly support this legislation. The Liberal Party seem determined to block, oppose and stop this legislation. That is a disgrace. So many people in Prahran are going to be better off with this bill. I support it.

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