My matter is for the Minister for Housing. However, it does potentially traverse multiple portfolios – so I would both understand and appreciate it if he chose to redirect some of it to another Minister on my behalf.
It’s about two very important housing issues that each have obvious resonance at the height of summer.
The first is the lack of any requirement for air conditioning in Victorian public housing. This is clearly an especially acute need in many parts of my electorate of Northern Victoria, which are typically some of the State’s hottest areas. The State Government is obliged, by law, to provide public housing tenants with facilities that are, quote, “fit for habitation”. Yet, because this term is only loosely defined, minimum requirements normally only apply to the heating (and not to the cooling) of homes.
A recent Sydney University study for Mallee Family Care asserts that this actually represents a breach of the longstanding United Nations’ Right to Adequate Housing principles. Obviously, the ramifications of living in overly hot housing are multi-faceted … but they include sweating, dehydration, headaches, lethargy, poor nutrition, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, various mental conditions and, worst of all, family violence.
President, I am also greatly concerned about the lack of any clear compulsion for Victorian retirement village operators to institute emergency evacuation plans or even assembly points. Naturally, the residents of these villages are typically older, more frail and less mobile than most other people – and, therefore, they invariably require greater consideration in such circumstances. Unfortunately, however, those needs of these often-highly-vulnerable Victorians don’t appear to be recognised or expressed in our State’s laws. By contrast, I understand that emergency and evacuation procedures are compulsory requirements in New South Wales retirement villages, for example, and at many other Victorian localities, including hospitals and public aged care facilities. As well as schools, early childhood education and care services, libraries, other State and local government buildings, and the like.
Whilst this issue is equally relevant to all forms of emergency situations, I raise it especially in the context of our State’s recent bushfires, which threatened many towns and their residents – and which saw thousands of people, including many retired citizens, asked to urgently leave their homes. Given all of this background, the action I seek is that the Minister review each of these various gaps in current legislation and policy, and advise in his answer of any steps the Government will take to improve these arrangements for public housing and retirement village residents respectively.