Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Ministers

New NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced her first Cabinet and front bench.

The Tenants' Union congratulates our new Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation (covering Fair Trading NSW as part of the portfolio), the Hon. Matt Kean MP.

Member for Hornsby and
Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation,
the Hon. Matt Kean MP
Kean was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2011, as the Member for Hornsby. He served as a Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services in 2014-15, and more recently for Treasury in 2015-17, but this marks his first Ministerial position. According to the Register of Disclosures by Members of the Legislative Assembly, Kean is a tenant, and his appointment comes as the NSW Government prepares to introduce legislation to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 following the statutory review of the Act. We understand drafting is well underway so we don't expect this Ministerial reshuffle to have too great an impact on the reform process - especially since Kean's predecessor, the Hon Victor Dominello MP, will take on the more senior Finance, Services and Property portfolio under which Innovation and Better Regulation sits.

(On that note, we offer our congratulations and thanks to Minister Dominello as well. Dominello held the Innovation and Better Regulation portfolio since April 2015, making him one of the longest serving Ministers for Fair Trading in recent history. During his time in the portfolio he introduced Rental Bonds Online, which allows tenants to deposit their money with the Rental Bond Board directly before entering into a residential tenancy agreement. He presided over the review of the state's renting laws, and while this will not deliver stability, liveability and affordability for tenants Dominello did commit his Government to improving the law for survivors of domestic violence who need to end a tenancy. He'll no longer take carriage of this reform, and it remains to be seen just how it will be implemented, but we acknowledge his consultative approach to its development, and his dedication to seeing it through. Finally, Dominello also oversaw the drafting and implementation of the state's new strata laws. While these laws are not without controversy, they've taken a useful step towards better representation for tenants in the operation and management of strata schemes in New South Wales.)

The Tenants' Union also welcomes the return of Pru Goward to the Family and Community Services portfolio. Goward resumes this portfolio along with Social Housing, while retaining her appointment as Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Member for Goulburn and
Minister for Family and Community Services
Minister for Social Housing, and
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault,
the Hon Pru Goward MP
When Goward previously held the Family and Community Services portfolio there was no Minster for Housing, with responsibility for Social Housing split between Family and Community Services and Finance and Services. This didn't work so well, and a discrete Social Housing portfolio has since been created. It sits alongside the Family and Community Services portfolio, reflecting the Government's view that a Social Housing tenancy is a form of welfare dependency.

Since Goward last held the Family and Community Services portfolio, with shared responsibility for Social Housing, the Government has launched its Future Directions for Social Housing strategy. As a ten-year strategy, there is still much to be done in developing and implementing many of its key proposals, and Goward will now take charge of these. Most notably, she will preside over discussions arising from the current IPART Review of Social and Affordable Housing Rent Models. She will also oversee the Government's efforts to grow the social and affordable housing portfolios for the first time in many years.

Finally, the Tenants' Union congratulates Anthony Roberts - himself a former Minister for Fair Trading - on his appointment as Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing, and Special Minister of State.

Member for Lane Cove, and
Minister for Planning,
Minister for Housing and
Special Minister of State,
the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP
The inclusion of a Housing Ministry is not new, but it hasn't been done since Frank Terenzini held the portfolio in Kristina Keneally's administration, circa 2010-11. Back then, a Housing Minister was really just a Social Housing Minister with a shortened title, so what is new is the inclusion of both a Housing portfolio, with links to the Planning portfolio, and a Social Housing portfolio tied to Family and Community Services. No doubt this broadened focus reflects Berejiklian's much publicised ambition "to make sure that every average, hard-working person in this state can aspire to own their own home", and it bodes relatively well for housing policy discussion during Berejiklian's time as Premier. Of course, we mustn't forget that now former Planning Minister for Rob Stokes once took a swipe at negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts for their contributions to housing unaffordability. His departure from these policy discussions doesn't bode quite so well...

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