Protecting Our Most Vulnerable in the Covid-19 Recovery Bill

Today Abigail spoke in support of the Covid-19 Recovery Bill 2021, successfully passing two amendments to protect vulnerable members of our community. 


Abigail said (15:30): 

I indicate that The Greens will support the COVID-19 Recovery Bill 2021. My colleague in the lower House the member for Newtown, Ms Jenny Leong, has expressed concerns as to how far the measures will be extended. We have some amendments to try to capture some of those concerns. The impacts of COVID are very much still affecting the economy of New South Wales. The economic fallout is still impacting some of the most vulnerable people in our State. We are close to facing another shock when COVID supplements such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker are taken away and we end up with only a small increase on what it was before. We do not know what impact those measures being reduced at a Federal level will have on the people of New South Wales. We must be careful about how we take away our emergency measures at this time.

While supporting the extension of a number of those measures, The Greens note that there is still potential for renters to do it tough. For example, if they continue to experience COVID-related economic impacts during this transition period, they still will not be protected by the extension of some of those emergency measures. Given the uncertainty around what is happening with JobSeeker and JobKeeper and the impact that will have—particularly the wild ride people are having in the rental market and with property prices—we would do well to bolster those supports for an extra six months. We acknowledge that the emergency measures need to be lifted. Although we had hoped they could continue as the new normal, we know that is not going to happen. However, we need a little bit of extra care when beginning to remove the emergency measures. They are the reasons for The Greens amendments, which I will discuss later.


Abigail said (20:19): 

I move The Greens amendment No. 3:

Residential Tenancies—affordability of alternative accommodation

Page 11, Schedule 1.24, proposed clause 27(5)(d), line 19. Insert "and affordability" after "availability".

The Greens believe that the tribunal should be guided to consider some more specific circumstances. We have suggested a new paragraph (e), which is in amendment No. 4, so I will come back to that. In relation to section 27 (5) (d), this amendment will ensure that reasonable and affordable alternative accommodation is considered. As I said in the second reading debate, at the moment there are some pretty wild rental markets. In some regions—particularly, for example in the Northern Rivers—it is almost impossible to find affordable rental accommodation at this time. The Greens believe that should be specifically and explicitly considered in this legislation.


Abigail said (20:23): 

I move The Greens amendment No. 4:

Residential Tenancies—vulnerability of impacted tenants

Page 11, Schedule 1.24, proposed clause 27(5). Insert after line 20—

(e)any special vulnerability of the impacted tenant.

This amendment will require the tribunal to specifically consider the special vulnerability of the particular person. It will cover special vulnerability considerations, such as health conditions and other non-financial hardship considerations. The Greens believe that although there is section 27 (6), which does not limit the matters the tribunal may have regard to, this provision would be appropriately strengthened and send a good signal to the tribunal to explicitly consider.


For full transcript of the debate, see Hansard here and here.

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