Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Vale Dr John Kaye, MLC

Today we remember and pay our respects to Dr John Kaye, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and senior member of the NSW Greens in Parliament.

Dr John Kaye was elected to the Legislative Council in 2007, becoming just the fourth member of the Greens to win a seat in the NSW upper house. As the longest serving current NSW Greens MLC, Dr Kaye has a long list of achievements as a Parliamentarian. After a short battle with an aggressive cancer, Dr Kaye has passed away.

We recall in particular his role in the 2010 Standing Committee on Social Issues Inquiry into Homelessness and Low-Cost Rental Accommodation, where he drew a very clear link between private rental market failings and the ongoing lack of enthusiasm for "public sector solutions to housing".

As their senior Parliamentarian, Dr Kaye took the lead in promoting many of the NSW Greens 2015 election policies. This included an economic platform that would see key infrastructure, including new social and affordable housing, built and paid for by borrowing funds and raising additional tax revenue. The reintroduction of a Vendor Duty - payable on all land other than owner-occupied homes and family farms, where the value since purchase had increased by 12% - was among the new revenue measures put forward. Such a tax would address a fundamental issue with Stamp Duties, in that they effectively fine owner-occupiers for moving house, but it would also act as a kind disincentive against speculative investment in property. At the very least it would ensure some of the speculative gains being realised in residential housing could be recovered by the whole of New South Wales through the tax system, rather than simply landing in the pockets of landlords and their financiers.

And, importantly, Kaye and the NSW Greens adopted much of the federal wing of the party's Better Deal for Renters platform, at a time when no other established party wanted to talk about housing affordability. The Greens campaigned heavily on the issue of Renters Rights in their bid to win the newly established seat of Newtown, with their candidate Jenny Leong ultimately claiming victory.

A great deal of work still lies ahead in promoting policies that acknowledge the basic needs of tenants, particularly those on low incomes, do need to be taken seriously. Part of that involves convincing our Parliamentarians and political hopefuls that ignoring tenants rights, and maintaining an unaffordable private rental market, should no longer be considered acceptable. Dr John Kaye is one such politician who seems to have already understood this, and the tenants of NSW are a half-step closer to this political achievement for his tenure in the NSW Parliament.


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