Greens in Parliament: Supporting Electric and Hydrogen Fuel, and Improvements to Rental Bond Services

Today the Greens supported measures to improve the uptake of electric and Hydrogen powered vehicles, and supported changes to make lodging rental bonds easier and more transparent for renters. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 19:52 :32 ): I speak on behalf of The Greens to support the Regulatory and Other Legislation (Amendments and Repeals) Bill 2016. The bill amends a number of Acts, as has been outlined. Mr Justin Field, my colleague in the other place, has spoken on the key changes. I express my support and the support of The Greens in this place for a number of the changes, including, as has already been mentioned, the fuel price publication that will see the bill amend the Fair Trading Act 1987 to include electricity and hydrogen in the definition of "prescribed fuel" for the purpose of the publication of prices. As my colleague noted in the other place, it is encouraging to see the Government recognising that the future is coming quickly with regard to powering the private transport sector in this State. The Greens support this amendment as it recognises that electric vehicles are the future of vehicle transport.

In my capacity as The Greens NSW housing spokesperson, I also acknowledge the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 with the stated aim of encouraging the use of online bond services. This is an aim that The Greens support. We recognise, as has been reported by the Government, that only approximately 20 per cent of bonds are currently lodged in this way. This is a very low rate for our digital age. We welcome changes that aim to increase the uptake of the online option. The new provisions will ensure that tenants are advised that they have the option to lodge their bond direct with the Rental Bond Board online. This digital option for bond lodgement is likely to be preferred by a number of tenants who are currently not aware that it is an option.

Importantly, The Greens believe this also puts more ownership of that bond into the hands of the tenants, recognising that tenants will be aware that bonds do not need to be lodged through landlords or real estate agents. As more tenants opt to use the direct, online option for lodging their bond, the number of instances will be reduced in which dodgy real estate agents or landlords claim to have lodged a bond on behalf of a tenant but fail to do so. Anything that puts more power and rights back into the hands of people in our community who are renters rather than those of dodgy landlords is a change that The Greens welcome. As the Tenants' Union has noted, this will also help to reinforce the idea that rental bond money is actually tenants' money.

Landlords do not have an arbitrary claim on a rental bond and have no need to interact with it until the end of a tenancy, if at all. It is important that that is reiterated wherever possible within this process to tip the balance back so that renters are provided with that security. While we support this amendment, we note that some scrutiny will be required to ensure that the invitations to tenants to use the online rental bonds service are genuine. We will continue to work closely with the Tenants Union as to how the amendment works in practice. Another area that assists in holding real estate and dodgy landlords to account in our broader area is in the changes that have been made to the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002, specifically in relation to closing a loophole in laws relating to underquoting in New South Wales.

The amendments will better protect people trying to buy a home and ensure that individuals found to have intentionally understated property prices to mislead prospective buyers are properly penalised. The Greens support this as an important change, especially given the concerns raised and complaints made under another initiative of this Minister in relation to real estate agents that we have seen in the last three reports of complaints within that sector. I believe they have rated in the top one or two on both occasions. Finally, I comment on the changes to the Photo Card Act 2005. The Greens support changes that will enable a person to hold both a photo ID card and a driver licence. However, I flag an issue that has been raised with me by a constituent in the electorate of Newtown. I understand it has been an ongoing concern in relation to photo cards. Perhaps this change might be an opportunity to reiterate the fact that photo cards need to be accepted and can be accepted in the same way as a driver licence. It is an official form of identification.

While the Roads and Maritime Services website notes that the NSW Photo Card has the same application process and security features as a driver licence and that you should be able to use it everywhere that accepts a driver licence, in fact in many cases photo card holders are discriminated against. People who only hold a photo card and do not have a driver licence are often people with disabilities or people who for some reason are unable to get a driver licence. It means that they are then unable to interact with government departments. The Greens think this change is perhaps an opportunity to remind government departments of the fact that a photo ID card is an important form of identification, especially for those people with a disability who are unable to get a driver licence. We ask that the forms, policies and procedures are updated to make sure that there is a reminder to all government departments that people with a photo ID card rather than a driver licence are not discriminated against. To conclude, The Greens are supportive of these changes and particularly supportive of any changes that put the rights of renters on the agenda and make sure that we protect them from dodgy landlords.


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