Politicking over the pricing of carbon reached a new low recently when NSW Housing Minister Pru Goward announced that some carbon tax compensation paid to public housing tenants would be confiscated by the state government.
Many public housing tenants are pensioners and will therefore be receiving compensation of under a dollar a day to cover price rises associated with the carbon tax. Rents paid by public housing tenants are calculated as a proportion of the tenants’ income and Goward has announced that the compensation will be included as part of that income, meaning rents for many tenants will increase.
Goward claims that these increases in rent are to cover increasing property and maintenance costs resulting from the carbon tax, but that claim is ridiculous on at least two fronts. Firstly, the rent increase is based on Goward’s idea that costs to her Department will increase 1.7%. That’s almost three times the treasury modelling that predicts an increase of just 0.6%. I’m not sure why Goward thinks she can predict these things better than the treasury of the nation.
Secondly, for maintenance costs to increase Housing NSW would have to actually carry out some maintenance. Years of experience has shown that getting them to perform even the most essential of repair jobs is like trying to get blood from a stone. I’ve known tenants to pay thousands of dollars scrimped and saved from their own meagre incomes to perform essential maintenance works on the government owned properties they live in because the Department simply obfuscates and never does anything.
If the government wanted to save money on maintenance they could start by removing the huge inefficiencies that plagued the system. Maintenance work, when it is done, is also never carried out in-house. It’s done by private contractors who often send in their own sub-contractors, each of whom take a slice of the price and pocket it, adding to the cost of maintenance work.
There’s also so much doubling up in the bureaucracy of the maintenance system, with staff usually sent to talk to tenants multiple times, asking the same questions and taking the same photos before anything gets done. Half the time the information is all lost in the system part way through and it needs to start all over again.
At the federal level the Liberals love to say that they’d cut waste if they were in government, yet at the state level they are in government but have waved the white flag on stopping waste. They’ve decided charging pensioners is an easier way to solve their problems
I suspect that ultimately the rent increases are all about trying to make it look like the carbon price will increase the cost of living. It’s been acknowledged that there would be some small cost increases as a result of pricing carbon, which is why the Greens negotiated a compensation package. However having these increases covered doesn’t fit the Liberal party narrative of climate change action hurting people financially, so they’re rewriting the rules to make sure it does hurt.
To see the Liberals charging those who can least afford it in order to score political points is the most shameful act committed yet in what has been an incredibly grubby and misleading campaign against the important environmental reform that is pricing carbon.