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Welfare State…of another kind.

By Indi 20 January 2006 34

I don’t know whether I was fortunate or not to have had the following conversation with a long-term civil servant the other day, but this was basically how it progressed:

This guy is a third generation Canberran, who has ‘worked’ his way in a tireless and determined manner to reach the now esteemed and credible rank beyond the middle classes to Executive Level 1 (I assume that means he earns anywhere between about $70 and 95k, depending on the department).

So far this doesn’t sound all that interesting and is nothing more than listening to this guy ‘blowing ones own trumpet’ conversation that is becoming the norm in this town. I’ve noticed that people are keen early in the piece to structure their social interactions with others based on the ‘level’ they have attained in the service, regardless of ability and competency levels.

The intriuging part of the encounter was that this person has also lived in public housing for his entire life in what is now the fairly affluent and leafy suburb of Griffith…but back when he was young, only middle-ranked public servants were provided with a house in that suburb. But it turns out that this house that he occupies was also his parents home. Before that his grandparents also held a lease with the government, on fairly modest rent. Naturally he pays full rent as determined by the government because he earns a very healthy pay packet.

There is just something abnormal with the scenario here – a lease has been held by his family for a very long time, this guy is the third generation to receive, what I would see really as another form of welfare ie. a very stable long-term government income and to compliment this a government provided home. This led me to ask a generic question about what he did at work – the answer was simply, “oh, I’ve worked out over the years that if you form a comfortable relationship with the Branch Head, you can be put on special projects where you really don’t have to be accountable to anyone…I’m now very good at media monitoring as I read all the daily papers”.

After concluding the chat, I began to wonder if this is possibly not an isolated case of lets say a third generation Canberran, whose parents and grandparents were also public servants, provided with all the comforts by the State, have now come to expect the concept of ‘security of tenure’ in all its wonderous forms – ahhh, it was almost as if I could hear the gravy train, whistle blowing, departing somewhere in the distance.

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34 Responses to
Welfare State…of another kind.
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Jane Hansard 11:32 am 29 Jan 06

Again, back in the late 1980s there was an audit coming and a sudden mass exodus of ACT Housing staff from two and three-beddies to flats they would have been entitled to. I had a friend occupying a swish guvvie in Kingston who had to make do with a one-bedroom flat in North Lyneham from then on. She told me no fewer than 40 ACT Government employees had bent the rules for themselves and had to relocate ahead of the audit. Looks as though things have gone to custard for the ratepayers yet again since. Fresh audit needed. AND they need to fix their procedures for finding out what income Housing tenants are on. Currently they fill in a yellow form every six months. The form doesn’t actually require evidence attached, or take into account that the tenant may be on a low income only that particular week. Rorting in SPADES happening there, besides the usual cash income. I know guvvie tenants paying the minimum $40 a week – and with a garage flat out the back let out for a handy $180 cash a week! Another tenant in Griffith boasts quite openly that she turns over $2000 a week at the Kingston markets all undeclared, and pays a quarter of the pension, around $45 a week, for her $800,000 guvvie!!!! Wake up bureaucrats!

Indi 7:42 pm 28 Jan 06

Nyssa – I’d say more Housing staff reside in public housing than you may think…I heard that there is one fairly senior manager who still resides in one, but most likely was on a lower income when an application was first made and has just simply fumbled up through the ranks.

I wonder if the Minister would believe it is a touch of ‘conflict of interest’ if you are a policy setter or managing housing stock and you still live in one!

nyssa76 4:04 pm 28 Jan 06

ACT Housing won’t do anything. They never do. They espouse that it is because there are “tenant laws” protecting bad (or bludging) tenants.

However, (and I am being naive here), weren’t the tenancy laws brought in to protect good tenants from arsehole landlords?

What about the rights of those tenants (or home owners) next to disruptive ACT Housing tenants? Oh that’s right, they don’t have any rights.

It’s an “us” and “them” mentality.

Also, does anyone know how many ACT Housing staff currently reside in ACT Housing properties? I’d just like to know is all.

Jane Hansard 3:35 pm 28 Jan 06

“In the old days there was this quaint idea that people could be sentimentally attached to homes and such like and that kicking them out of the house that they grew up in because their parents had died and they could afford the private rental market was a touch insensitive. Loaded Dog”

Actually security of tenure from generation to generation only came in since the 1990s. Back in 1988 artist Elizabeth Kruger was not allowed to remain in her parents’ guvvie in Hassall Street, where she was living, even though she was on a low income.

Jane Hansard 3:28 pm 28 Jan 06

At least your EL1 public servant is paying rent. An art school graduate who has NEVER WORKED and has been on the dole since his Austudy ceased in 1987 is occupying a three-bedroom $600,000 guvvie in the inner north for $35 a week. He is on disability – for no apparent reason other than a taste for alcohol. He has had ONE of his teenage children to stay for a total of FIFTEEN NIGHTS in the six years he has occupied the house. NB the ratepayers are ALSO paying for same teenage children to live in another three-beddie in the next suburb – again, at subsidised rent. That’s six bedrooms for the one family.
It gets worse. He is due to inherit half the proceeds of his parents houses. Does he plan to purchase his guvvie? Not on your nellie. He says he will keep his security of tenure with ACT Housing on disability, thanks, and buy a house at the coast mortgage free. Do you think the Housing rules won’t allow that? Think again. He has checked, and now that he is in, acquiring other property won’t affect his tenure – other than increase his rent IF he rents out his coast house. He won’t be renting out the house for income, because that would affect his “disability” pension.
Tired of paying $40 a week rates? That’s where your money is going. ACT Housing are well aware of many such rorts, but won’t change the security of tenure arrangements to something a little more realistic.
Jane Hansard

simto 11:24 am 24 Jan 06

I agree that any bogus “full market rent” is middle-class welfare of the worst kind. And a little bit of gouging on the Government’s behalf of those who can afford it is not a bad idea.

Maelinar 8:49 am 24 Jan 06

I consider full market rent in Canberra to be between $250 and $350 a week, with $250 being an absolute bargain.

Try buying a 3br house for 250k and you’ll see what I mean about there not being too much down in that range, nor would they obtain 10% of mortgage rent. (probably ex housing stock)

I bet my left shoe that ‘market rent’ falls quite substantially below that range however.

The problem is that there is a perceived injustice. If ‘full market’ renters were being stabbed by the Government like the rest of us, there wouldn’t be such an issue.

The question remains, why haven’t they been stabbed already by a Government that’s greedier than Scrooge McDuck, like the rest of us ?

nyssa76 8:49 am 24 Jan 06

dusty, they “won’t” do anything unless it goes to the Tenancy Tribunal – as long as they pay their rent ACT Housing won’t do a damn thing.

They could trash the house, burn it down and still be given a new one as they are current tenants.

To think that that house is for the disabled…..don’t get me started…..grrrr

dusty 8:27 am 24 Jan 06

There is a large 5 bedroom brick guvvie in my neighbourhood, the Inner South, complete with front and back entry ramps that is currently inhabited by fleabags, with not a physical disability in sight. Who allocates these houses? Their logic is non existent. My letters to the department, and phonecalls, regarding the current progressive trashing of this public house (refuse, fences damaged, clothesline torn down etc etc) by said fleabags while on druggy rages have gone unanswered.

Indi 8:26 am 24 Jan 06

loaded dog my learned friend – of course those who currently dominate the policy setting agenda in this town in relation to social services do not appear to have a balanced approach (and perhaps may never have studied public policy or researched all approaches for govts to allocate $$ to the crucial services)…and they may not have a standard dictionary that provides us all with the correct interpretation of the words ‘homelessness’ or ‘priority’

nyssa76 7:38 pm 23 Jan 06

It’s bloody ridiculous!

Priority housing is now up to 12+months.

In order to get “bumped” up the queue you need a letter from your doctor, social worker etc and even then you have to wait 6months.

My cousin, who lives in Bateman’s Bay, can’t get a house up here. She has a child with a severe disability and has to make regular trips to the ACT for medical services.

The child is in a wheelchair and my cousin has other children to consider as well. Housing will “offer” her a 3br house in the ACT if they have one but she needs a 4br.

She had to quit her job to be a fulltime carer to the child with a disability (she isn’t a bludger).

Deb Foskey and this other arsehole should move the hell out of Govvie housing. There are people who TRULY need it.


loadedog 7:21 pm 23 Jan 06

One last word, I was talking to mate who said this debate has been going on for 30 years or more and it’ll never be resolved in favour of the ‘kick the bastards out’ brigade, probably because those who decide policy in this area are aware of the whole range of issues that it raises and are immune to the falacious and vituparitive diatribes on the matter that regularly appear here and elsewhere. I hope so anyway.

On that note I bow out.

loadedog 7:11 pm 23 Jan 06

Good point Simto, and yes, ‘full market rent’ is what it sounds like, the rental value of the property compared to other similar properties in the same area, as assessed, I believe, by the Australian Valuation Office.

Xanthomyza 11:14 am 23 Jan 06

It strikes me as odd that three generations of this family don’t actually own a home. All that market rent over those many years could have bought that family a considerable asset. Don’t people aspire to owning their own home? Maybe they own several properties at the coast or something…

I agree with Blossy about the ‘special projects’ bit. That’s where my department keeps the grossly incompetent.


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