Deb Foskey in Public Housing Debate Gets More Exposure

By 7 June 2005 68

Crikey has this piece about the continuing debate on ACT Greens MLA Deb Foskey remaining in Public Housing.

Green Grinch gets the tabloid TV treatment
Hugo Kelly writes:

Canberra Greens MP Deb Foskey’s determination to bludge on ACT taxpayers and keep her public subsidised house has reached national tabloid TV, with Today Tonight following up Crikey’s story last night.
To her credit, Foskey did her best to explain why an MP on $100,000 should continue to live on public housing while on the other side of town, a single mum and her crippled son must live out of a car boot.
There are 4,000 people on the ACT public housing waiting list, but this doesn’t move Foskey, who’s intent on clinging to her taxpayer-subsidised home in comfy Yarralumla “because I support public housing.”
And it seems the ACT government’s Chifleyite desire to end the private rental market sits well with the selfish Green. Housing ACT gives priority to emergency housing – but exists to provide accomodation to anyone who would like it, including greedy MPs. Check out the unfolding debate here (

Meanwhile, Foskey has been on the radio speculating ( about how she’s going to spend her windfall pay increase: “Such a pay rise does enable me to support those organisations that I do like to support more generously and yes if this pay rise comes to me I’ll be certainly considering how I can spread it around a bit more equitably.”

Can we make a suggestion: get out of the public housing, take up a mortgage and let some more deserving citizen take your place. In the words of Naomi Robson ( “You can tell us what you think about a well-paid pollie occupying public housing on our website.”
Emails to

Please login to post your comments
68 Responses to
Deb Foskey in Public Housing Debate Gets More Exposure
Canberra_unsung_hero 2:02 pm
07 Jun 05

Hmmmmm …. looks like Foskey’s back on the ‘burner’ again, ha,ha.

theonlyjames 2:09 pm
07 Jun 05

She responded to Crikey in their “Corrections, clarifications, comments & c*ck-ups” section on Monday.

I cannot find it on the Crikey site so here you go (please remove if this breaches some kind of copyright/RiotAct policy).

Canberra Greens MP Deb Foskey writes:
I read with interest Hugo Kelly’s comments about my housing situation. I do not remember Mr Kelly ever approaching me about this or any other matter. Linking it to the pay rise is a long shot – I first learned of this decision when I read my Canberra Times this morning. The Remuneration Tribunal makes a recommendation which is then adopted by the government without the Assembly playing any role. This is inappropriate. As for my housing, it is ACT government policy that tenants have security of tenure. Indeed, me leaving my house will do less for the needy people Mr Kelly probably has in mind than staying in it. Paradoxical I know, but the 13% of tenants who pay market rent contribute $19 million towards housing. Attacking me for paying market rent on my home a few months after election, and then linking it to a pay rise I do not support, is really an attack on the government’s policy of secure housing for all public housing tenants. At the moment my rent goes into building, purchasing and maintaining more homes for people who need them. Under the Liberals’ policy, it would go to a private landlord and do nothing for affordable housing. We need more public and other affordable housing – there is no other way we can tackle the problem.

areaman 2:13 pm
07 Jun 05

Wouldn’t a policy of kicking people out of the house they have lived in for years if they earn more money a disincentive to work? If they’re paying market rent and subsidising the system for other people who actually can’t afford to pay then what’s the problem.

che 2:36 pm
07 Jun 05

yeah, but that doesn’t make nearly as sensational a headline areaman

Indi 2:53 pm
07 Jun 05

areaman – as opposed to someone waiting endlessly on the waiting list (who has next to no assets or a substantial income). Govt needs to find a more sustainable source of revenue than market renters who have the desirable position of maintaining a spot on the gravy train!

The govt must be loving this, a green who naturally would support the govt current policy that secures you a house for life.

Yet in a town full of bleeding hearts, both the greens/labour should be getting a roasting for not protecting the people in the poverty trap and sustain the perfect lifestyle for middle to higher income earners who have no conscience and believe social housing is their ‘right’.

areaman 3:04 pm
07 Jun 05

I doubt anyone who’s in public housing was “rich” when they got there, but the question is should people be kicked out if they do start earning a good wage? If they can be given the boot then you’re just making more poverty traps as people wouldn’t find work if it meant they’d loose the roof over their heads.

As to the waiting list, kicking out people paying market rent would mean that ACT housing would have less money and have to sell properties to maintain the rest and you’d have the same problem with no enough housing, just with a smaller pool of both houses and tenants (arguably worse than it is currently as the people paying market rent actually subsidise the rest).

Ralph 3:16 pm
07 Jun 05

The Today Tonight story revealed that the ACT has a policy of allowing tenants to keep a public housing property for life – regardless of how their circumstances change. Additionally, when the occupant kicks the bucket, they can pass the public housing property over to family.

Apparently there are 6 millionaires living in ACT public housing properties.

Indi 3:17 pm
07 Jun 05

Any given govt of the day (quite soon) will be faced with less market renters who subsidise the current system.

Without the big stick approach, surely there are ways to support people (over time) to move out of public housing that assisted them to allow for others to have the right (given that shelter falls under the basic human right) to access the service at the time when they need it the most.

No doubt now this will spark ‘what constitutes the real time of need’ debate! For some market renter tenants this means all their lives – who do you know living in private rental market or someone with a mortgage who has the luxury of tenure for life?

areaman 4:01 pm
07 Jun 05

Because Today Tonight is a bastion of Journalistic integrity. My understanding is that tenure doesn’t necessarily transfer to the family. If they are also living there it might, but you don’t get a government house just because your mum had one.

Indi 4:13 pm
07 Jun 05

yeah areaman, but this govt would have you believe you could have one. the security of tenure policy sounds like a shameless vote grabbing exercise…

areaman 4:14 pm
07 Jun 05

So you think we should be kicking people out of their homes when they start earning more?

Evictor 4:26 pm
07 Jun 05

The bit about your family getting the house isn’t quite right. It doesn’t automatically happen however as a lease is constituted as ‘real property’ under the common law, it can be passed down in a Will. That is the position of the law – not an ACT Housing policy – they fought vigorously against it but lost in Supreme Court.

Feel a bit sorry for Foskey though. She’s earning a good packet now but what about in three years when she’s out on her ear. No cushy ‘jobs for the boys’ for her. She’ll be back to earning $40K in some community organisation and being on the bread line again. If she leaves her house she’ll be back on the waiting list as well and she could well be the one living out of her car boot.
I want to know when the ’6 millionaires’ will be named and shamed.

Thumper 4:26 pm
07 Jun 05


you don’t just kick people out of their homes. That is ridiculous.

However, people earning as much as Foskey should be looking at alternative accomodation, simply to free up the shortfall.

The irony of this case is soooo rich….

Maelinar 4:29 pm
07 Jun 05

Means Testing…

areaman 4:33 pm
07 Jun 05

But Thumper if all the poeople paying rent move out you’ll reduce housing ACTs budget and they’ll have to reduce the amount of houses they’ll have, so you won’t really solve the problem will you? That being said I think it was stupid to stay in public housing afer she was elected, not wrong in any sense, but not very clever politically. Given the tight rental market currently maybe she just couldn’t find anywere (or didn’t have time to go house hunting).

areaman 4:35 pm
07 Jun 05

Maelinar, means testing still means turfing people out if they start earning more, hence are a major disincentive to work.

Indi 4:38 pm
07 Jun 05

Without the intention of entering into an ethical battle – does your landlord or bank offer you long term secure tenure? I doubt it.

For those on very decent incomes in public housing, how often does their landlord (in effect you) ask them to review their tenure? never.

Consider what is fair and equitable for those in public housing (exempting lower income earners/pensioners/centrelink recipients) and what you consider is reasonable from your landlord?

Indi 4:43 pm
07 Jun 05

Evictor – I think you’ll find a lot of families in Canberra exist on around $40K and don’t live in public housing and would not be deemed as ‘on the bread line’.

I believe as it currently stands, if you go to apply for housing and earn more than around $40 to $45K you won’t be eligible for assistance.

areaman 4:49 pm
07 Jun 05

If I had a mortgage I would in a sense have tenure, in that I couldn’t be kicked out if I continued to pay it back, which is way more lenient that the public housing system (who can kick you out if you wreck the place, perform illegal activities or don’t pay them). When does the bank review your tenure if you’re paying them back, also never..

Now I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t have tenure, but my landlord isn’t about to evict me if I start earning more either, which is what people are suggesting ACT housing do.

Indi 5:02 pm
07 Jun 05

Vital difference in your circumstances areaman – you are financially independent and maintaining a private tenancy agreement.

Those in public housing are not – the system they have tenure under is provided for by you as a taxpayer…by the way, I’m sure if you didn’t pay your rent, were prosecuted for illegal activities or damaged your property, your landlord would also reconsider your tenure.

wonsworld 5:11 pm
07 Jun 05

Without wanting to get all Oprah about this. It’s not about money.. it’s not about tenure in a given property or even about the rights of the landlord..

IMHO it is simply a question of ethics. It’s about what would you do in that situation? We can moralise all we want about this issue… but in the long run the only person that answer the question is the current tenant and MLA and she can only answer that to herself.

areaman 5:11 pm
07 Jun 05

I’m not denying that private rentals can get you kicked just as easily as public currently, I was comparing the public system to a mortgage (as you had done in your comment).

The problem is that we are talking about adding in another clause where on top of all the otherways you can get evicted you can also get evicted if you start earning too much. Not only does this strike me as bad policy it reinforces a dependance on welfare (or poorly paid jobs).

areaman 5:18 pm
07 Jun 05

To true wonsworld, my only problem is people who try and claim that Foskey is either taking a place from someone more needy (Today Tonight) or getting a subsidy from the government (crikey). Other than that it’s her call, and ours to judge her on it at the ballot box (as I’ve already said I think it’s politically foolish).

Indi 5:20 pm
07 Jun 05

areaman – I would say there is the trap of welfare dependance. But I doubt this will have any impact on public housing tenants on decent incomes. The only dependence here is on a public housing system that is not providing them with any real incentive to become financially independent (like the remaining 90% of Canberrans who do not, for either financial or personal/ethical reasons, access public housing)

Thumper 5:39 pm
07 Jun 05

Interesting comments.

One thing I can say is that you certainly won’t qualify for public housing on $40K. In fact you won’t qualify on $35K, I know, I have a friend who earns about that much.

As for Foskey’s claim that she, and her of her ilk, prop up, or keep the system running is quite a ridiculous proposition. The system is not a private industry. If ACT housing are short of money and need people like her to pay ‘full market rent’ then its a policy and funding problem.

Put simply, public housing is there for those who can’t afford the private market and if this government was serious about its socialist claims it would be looking after those people.

This appears not to be the case.

And for the record yes, I lived in public housing for about ten years, until, at a pinch, I could afford to buy my own place.

Would it be a crime to mention that, in the fuure, Stanhpe and his band of merry men may need some favours, and Ms Foskey now owes one big time.

Areaman, I totally agree that Foskey is doing nothing wrong. She is totally within her rights to stay there. Its the system that is rotten and needs fixing, which it would appear, is not going to happen.

And meanwhile our brave leader leaves a multi million deficit and goes overseas to look at gardens so he can get his grand aboretum started, whilst totally forgetting that we are in a huge drought that, according to luminaries like Tim Flannery, is not ever really going to break.

But that has nothing to do with the issue.


areaman 5:56 pm
07 Jun 05

Thumper, I guess it’s about what you think the public housing system is for. I think it’s to give people of low means a home (and if these means change at a later date, so be it), you seem to be suggesting it’s to give them a roof over their head until they have any other option.

Sure crisis accomidation is very important, but when people aren’t costing the government money, and are actually earning it money, I don’t see the reason to kick people out of where they live.

The problem is that there isn’t enough housing for those who can’t afford to pay market rent, but evicitng people who can won’t solve that (as the pool will also have to shrink), what will is more money from the government to increase the stocks of public housing so there is enough to go around (as they had promised going in to the election).

Thumper 6:30 pm
07 Jun 05

Totally agree that there will never be enough housing for all those who deserve it. However, the current tact is certainly not alleviating the situation and that is my point.

In Ms Foskey’s case, she may be earning $100K plus, and in four years she will probaly be not. But as a former member of the assembly I don’t thin she’ll find it too hard to pull in $50K plus.

As I mentioned, its a policy problem and its exacerbated by a government that seemingly wants to put its head in the sand and do nothing, which is pretty much par for course.

If we had a government that could more responsibly manage its money then we wouldn’t need people to prop up the public housing system.

In the end, there are people out there with families that are battling away and there is nothing there for them.

I wouldn’t describe myself as left or right, more social conservatism, but I do believe that a country and a State or territory has an obligation to those less fortunate than others through no fault of their own.

And by this I must say that I am far from a bleeding heart. Housing, health, education, aged care, are all things that our government(s) should provide.

Sadly, it seems that this current government is so wrapped up in its own importnace that it bears no relation to any ALP government that has ever existed in the history of this country.

And by that I’m saying that the opposition can do any better because they have continually proved that they are as berift of ideas as the incumbents.

It is a sad day when a government mismanages it money and puts the blame back on the population who pay the money that keeps them there, and voted them in. (See my previous post elsewhere about democracy and that I might not agree with the result, but I accept it because although its not perfect, its the best we have, and its doubtful there’s any better.

Stanhope wears his heart on a sleeve. He is the self proclaimed champion of the oppressed, the poor, the marginalised, and yet when the crunch comes, we see he is totally impotent and inactive in any way to redress this issue.

Is it that our brave leader is further right than he lets on, given that he earns somewhere in the vicinity of $250K plus?

Whatever, I stil think politically and ethically, Ms Foskey should look for alternative accomodation. She can afford it, lots can’t.

Good discussion though…


Thumper 6:35 pm
07 Jun 05

Oh yeah,

Mael mate, means testing is not the answer I’m afraid. It is when you first apply but it gets a bit murky after that…

Cheers Digger

johnboy 7:25 pm
07 Jun 05

Personally I think that $80k (with big pay rise to come) guaranteed for four years is a lot more income AND certainty than most people will ever know.

I also wonder if the Billions (with a B) of Government capital tied up in public housing stock couldn’t be better and more effectively used elsewhere. Replaced with rent assistance schemes and government bond guarantees for those in need.

But, leaving that all to one side. Deb Foskey has done nothing wrong. She has however, highlighted problems with the current policy.

Welfare traps are things best considered before welfare is given, not after the recipient is earning well over the average wage.

The sight of high income earners being evicted is (probably) not something Canberrans would relish.

But why turn once again to tired central administration when self interest can be relied upon?

Housing ACT charges 25% of income up to the so-called “market rents” (personally I’ve never seen a property in the real world going for anything like them but I’ll concede the theoretical possibility they exist).

Why have that cap?

Just take 25% of income, forever, and people will move out of their own accord at the appropriate time for them.

Thumper 7:37 pm
07 Jun 05


Agreed. Ms Foskey has actually done nothing wrong. However, as you point out, she has exposed the shortfalls in the system, which it would also indicate that the current government is not going to do anything about it.

And seriously, you just know that Ms Foskey is not going to pay $25K per annum for rent…..

If she had to, she would be out of there tomorrow…


Follow The RiotACT
Get Premium Membership
Advertisement Newsletter Sign Up

Should school bus travel be free?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Images of Canberra

RiotACT Proudly Supports
Copyright © 2014 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.