Jenny Leong, The Greens Member for Newtown has asked the NSW Premier to justify the Liberal Governments refusal to conduct pest control to address large scale rat and cockroach infestations in properties leased as public housing.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (15:10): I direct my question to the Premier. Given the unacceptable situation of public housing tenants living in properties infested by vermin, including cockroaches and rats, due to negligence by the Land and Housing Corporation, will the Premier commit to an urgent rollout of regular pest control in public housing across the State to ensure that people's homes are safe and suitable to be able to live in?
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN (Willoughby—Premier) (15:11): I thank the member for Newtown for her question. I thank Minister Pavey for her answer just then in the House, because she has given a very good assessment of the investment that the New South Wales Government is making in social housing. She and Minister Ward work together closely in relation to providing assets and support to our citizens who require that social housing. This is an important issue and the Government is committed not only to increasing supply but also to increasing—
[An Opposition member interjected.]
I again thank Ministers Pavey and Ward, but I also state that, as I understand it, as of December 2020 we conducted a survey of all the tenants, and the minimum requirement is that 75 per cent say that maintenance work is satisfactory to them. We actually had a response of 85 per cent. There is more work to do, I understand, but of course it is encouraging to know that 85 per cent of tenants regarded their experience as positive. In relation to the specific issue of pest control raised by the member for Newtown, I want to say this: All public housing properties are let to incoming tenants in a "clean, safe and habitable standard in accordance"—
[Opposition members interjected.]
The SPEAKER: Order! The Premier is giving a serious response.
Ms Lynda Voltz: That's not serious.
The SPEAKER: I call the member for Auburn to order for the second time. The member for Shellharbour will leave the Chamber for an hour under Standing Order 249A.
[Pursuant to sessional order the member for Shellharbour left the Chamber at 15:12.]
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: I am simply quoting the Residential Tenancies Act on what is the legal obligation but then what the Government is doing on top of that. The Land and Housing Corporation accepts—
The SPEAKER: I call the member for Coogee to order for the second time.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: As the member for Newtown alluded to in her question, the Land and Housing Corporation accepts responsibility for any vermin or pests that are identified in the incoming property. So obviously if there are new tenants coming in, the Land and Housing Corporation is responsible for that, or for issues identified within three months of the tenancy commencing. As with private rentals, public housing tenants are generally responsible for getting rid of vermin after that three-month time period elapses. However, knowing that social housing does have some of our community's most vulnerable, our Government provides additional services to those who need it most, as we did during COVID-19, including outreach phone calls to elderly and vulnerable tenants, information and assistance on preventative health issues, and not counting additional Commonwealth support payments as part of their incomes, so at least that frees up their income for other things. In relation to additional maintenance and cleaning in high-rise and complex buildings—
Ms Jenny Leong: Point of order: My point of order is on relevance under Standing Order 129. With respect to the Premier, I was asking whether she would commit to or at the very least look at a review, because we know that public housing tenants are living in unsafe conditions with cockroaches and rats.
The SPEAKER: The Premier is being generally relevant to the question.
Ms Jenny Leong: I am asking the Premier to have a look at whether she can commit to investigating this further—
The SPEAKER: I have heard enough, thank you. The member for Newtown will resume her seat.
Ms Jenny Leong: —because no matter what is being set as the requirements, the requirements are not being met.
The SPEAKER: I call the member for Newtown to order for the first time.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: I am simply providing advice to the House on the lengths the Government goes to in relation to supporting the State's social and public housing tenants. In relation to a specific issue, whether it is pest control or anything else regarding maintenance, the Government reviews its position on an ongoing basis. Nobody should be living in substandard conditions. In fact, as Minister Pavey articulated in a previous answer, the Government is investing more in social housing than any other State per capita. Of course there is always more work to be done, but if you look at the progress we have made in recent times—the way in which we have reduced homelessness and, in particular, reduced the period that people are waiting in order to get into accommodation—we have come a long way. Is there more to do? Of course there is. I thank the member for the question.