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Time for national action on tenancy databases.



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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Senator Kim Carr

Shadow Minister for Housing; Urban Development; Local Government and Territories

Laurie Ferguson MP Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs; Population Health and Health Regulation

9/02/06

Time for national action on tenancy databases

The Shadow Minister for Housing, Senator Kim Carr, and the Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, Laurie Ferguson MP, today expressed extreme disappointment at the Howard Government’s go-slow attitude to developing a nationally consistent framework for regulating residential tenancy databases.

The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) first considered this issue in August 2003 and announced that a high level Working Party would report on the issue in the first half of 2004. Public submissions were taken but no report was ever released.

The Attorney-General’s Department said - in response to Labor questions on notice - that the report was finally provided to a meeting of Commonwealth and State/Territory Attorneys-General in November 2005. The Department also said that the Ministers had asked officials to report back in April/May 2006 with a recommendation on whether to pursue a uniform regulatory framework.

Senator Carr said, “It would seem that the Working Party report - despite being more than a year overdue - did not even make a recommendation on the key issue of a nationally consistent framework. Now, the issue will only be reconsidered by the MCCA after the Working Party has reported back the meeting of Attorneys-General in April/May 2006.

“This is despite the fact that in March 2005, the Privacy Commissioner recommended to the Howard Government that it advance as a high priority the work currently being undertaken by the Working Group on Residential Tenancy Databases.

Mr Ferguson said: “The Howard Government has arrogantly ignored the Privacy Commissioner’s recommendation and demonstrated once again its disdain for the interests of vulnerable tenants in the private rental market.

“There appear to be no plans to publicly release the Working Party’s report and Ministers have not even considered the next steps in the process, such as further public consultation. This fits the pattern of the Howard Government’s behind-closed-doors go nowhere processes.”

Already, Government delays have resulted in a number of States and Territories developing their own legislation. This undermines the national consistency that both tenants and the real estate industry have been seeking for some years.

Labor is calling for the Howard Government to stop sitting on its hands and to push for a nationally consistent regime, as per the Privacy Commissioner’s recommendation.

Further information: Amanda Forman (Carr) 0417 142 238 Khaldoun Hajaj (Ferguson) 0404 078 692