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Canberra Today 8°/10° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Evictions: mean and nasty just got meaner and nastier

The exemption panel process has been devised as if Berry and Vassarotti had decided on their version of the Spanish Inquisition.

“Ministers Berry and Vassarotti have tried endlessly to paint these forced relocations as necessary and that everything is being done to ease the pain. They have fooled no-one. This is about forcing older people out of their homes – homes they were told till the beginning of this year were theirs for life or as long as they wished to remain in them,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

JUST when the Housing ACT relocation (eviction) program was looking mean and nasty, the ministers involved, Yvette Berry and Rebecca Vassarotti, upped the ante by introducing something even more dodgy to make lives difficult for some of the Housing ACT tenants.

Paul Costigan.

A little over a week ago Vassarotti stated on her Facebook page that the government was to allow for discretion with those fingered to be forced out of their homes. The trouble was that there was no explanation of what this “discretion” meant.

While people waited for news of what discretion was being offered, some tenants received messages, some via their phone’s voicemail. These informed them that Housing ACT had set up a panel to hear their pleas for exemption. The date for the panel meeting in some cases was 24 to 48 hours from receiving the messages.

This program is about sales of property to raise funds to prop up the cash necessary for Housing ACT to deliver something on the demands for social housing. They need to evict and sell properties because appropriate funds are not being made available through budgetary processes as handed down by Andrew Barr. Housing ACT is forced to raise its own cash to be seen to be doing something meaningful.

Housing ACT and the two ministers have circulated success stories – where tenants have moved and are happy with their relocation. That’s great news for those who have taken up that option. The concern is for others, many older women, who do not want to move and wish to age in the home they have relished for decades. 

This program is about cruel evictions.

The two ministers have tried endlessly to paint these forced relocations as necessary and that everything is being done to ease the pain. They have fooled no-one. This is about forcing older people out of their homes – homes they were told till the beginning of this year were theirs for life or as long as they wished to remain in them.

As Housing ACT has stated, until recently they tried to coax people to volunteer to move. But as some were not so keen, the tone changed and as of earlier this year, Housing ACT “requires” the chosen tenants to relocate. “Friendly” bureaucrats are visiting tenants multiple times to coerce people to give up their homes. No options are offered. They are being told that they have to go and that other “friendly” bureaucrats will be available to assist. 

Since the surprise eviction notices were delivered in February, there’s been about four months of sleepless nights and worry for many tenants. Well done, Yvette Berry and Rebecca Vassarotti. This is obviously what you meant with “Building a Better Normal”. Little did voters realise that it was about increasing stress for older women.

The tenants have been cast guilty because they wish to remain in their beloved homes of decades – when they were told this was not an option.

To get any form of exemption from their punishment (the forced evictions), they have to front a panel of Housing ACT staff and maybe one “community” representative of Housing ACT’s choosing. At that meeting they can present their case against vague criteria. 

If they fail to please the in-house panel, according to the documents sent last week – that’s it! Out they must go! It seems that Berry and Vassarotti and their bureaucracy are making up this program as they go and are not aware of how natural justice works. 

To hear an appeal against such a harsh judgement (get out of your home) as handed down by Housing ACT, the question has to be whether anyone associated with that first decision should be involved directly or indirectly in hearing the appeal. 

Given the ad hoc manner of the process so far, along with the vague nature of the exemption process, one has to ask whether the tenant’s natural justice is being purposely ignored.

Community groups and ACTCOSS continue to request the two ministers, Berry and Vassarotti, change this desperate fund-raising program to allow residents to opt in – that is to choose if they wish to move or not.

The world has seen Australia lock up people who should have been treated as humans who were seeking a safe haven having escaped from dangerous circumstances in their country.

The new federal government is yet to examine the harm caused by the former government’s Robodebt fund-raising program.

It has come as a shock to see self-nominated progressive politicians, Berry and Vassarotti, downplay their cruel robotically managed fund-raising program that is harassing older tenants and obstructing their rightful opportunity for peaceful lives in a wealthy society.

People are wondering how Berry and Vassarotti think these actions could be seen as humane behaviour towards others not so privileged as they are. 

Surely some overdue sanity and kindness must break out soon in the rarified echelons of the ACT government.

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Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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9 Responses to Evictions: mean and nasty just got meaner and nastier

Hamba says: June 21, 2022 at 11:01 am

This is what people keep voting for every four years. They’ll do it again in 2024 because they don’t actually care.

Rafael Pintos-López says: June 23, 2022 at 7:21 am

While I cannot agree with Paul’s choice of a witch-burning illustration somewhere in Germany with a caption that mentions the Spanish Inquisition (thus perpetuating the old black legend that only the Spanish incinerated innocent people), I must admit that his article is spot on. What has the world come to? Two Labor Party female ministers bent on evicting poor old women from their homes without an excuse. Only the whim of some bureaucratic kangaroo court will decide their fate lacking any legal or ethical grounds. Remember the names: Yvette Berry and Rebecca Vassarotti. Good luck on the next election, ACT Labor.

Nerida McDonell says: June 24, 2022 at 9:15 pm

Brilliant article! Rebecca Vassarotti is actually a member of The Greens, Rafael, but, well, where’s the difference? Liberal, Labor, Greens, they’re all the same, all using poisonous policies in the same old lazy, unimaginative budget management approach (long criticised by Labor by the way!) of selling off public assets to improve the bottom line, a quick sugar-fix masquerading as ‘fiscal responsibility’. This is the Robodebt of ACT Public Housing. No ‘On Your Side’ ( ACT Labor Party slogan) in this reality, prefix the phrase with a ‘Not’ and you’d have it right. No ‘caring’ government working for a fair and just society for all, no government deeply respectful of social value, of true inclusiveness and the social contract, no nothing like that. Just shaft a few oldies, minorities, vulnerable constituents for a quick buck, same old same old.

Jane says: June 25, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Very true Nerida. Couldn’t have put it better.
I’m getting more and more disappointed in the current ACT government.


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