Homelessness law needs major re-think, says PIAC

The Federal Government’s draft Homelessness
Bill 2012 needs a major re-think in order to have a positive, practical impact
on people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

That’s the message delivered today by the Public Interest Advocacy
Centre (PIAC) to the Federal Minister for Housing and Minister for
Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor (pictured, left, with PIAC chief executive, Edward Santow).

‘The draft Bill expressly states that the new law is intended to have no
effect on legal rights or obligations in relation to homelessness. I have never
seen a law that does this, and it would completely undermine the good policy that
the Bill is intended to implement,’ said PIAC chief executive, Edward Santow.

‘Because of this, the Bill will be of little or no help to the growing
numbers of men, women and families who are in housing crisis.’

‘PIAC urges the Housing Minister to revise the draft Homelessness Bill.
The proposed legislation must at least require homelessness services to meet basic
human rights standards when delivering assistance to people in need,’ Mr Santow

The Minister released
the draft homelessness legislation
last month and called for comments by 3
August 2012.

‘In explaining why the Bill failed to take a rights-based approach, the
Minister stated that the Government does not have the constitutional power to regulate housing
or homelessness.

‘On the Minister’s
advice, PIAC sought legal advice on this question from
constitutional experts, Arthur Moses SC and Professor Patrick Keyzer. That
advice refers to the most recent High Court decisions on this point, and shows
that the Federal Parliament clearly has the power to pass effective
homelessness legislation,’ Mr Santow said.

‘PIAC urges the Minister to revise the draft legislation accordingly.
This is an important opportunity to legislate for standards that ensure the
human rights of homeless people are recognised, respected and fulfilled,’ Mr
Santow said.

Read the advice from Arthur Moses SC and Professor Patrick Keyzer (pdf).

Read the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service submission on the Homelessness_Bill (pdf)

PIAC Senior Media and Communications Adviser, Dominic O’Grady: 0478 739 280

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