Homelessness law needs major rethink, 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 by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to the Federal Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor.

“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 said.

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.

Source: Public Interest Advocacy Centre.