INQUIRY INTO BUSINESS MISCONDUCT IN NATIONAL RENTAL AFFORDABILITY SCHEME

14 Dec 2017

Labor notes the independent inquiry announced into business practices that threaten the integrity of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

SENATOR THE HON DOUG CAMERON

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR SKILLS, TAFE AND APPRENTICESHIPS

INQUIRY INTO BUSINESS MISCONDUCT IN NATIONAL RENTAL AFFORDABILITY SCHEME   

Labor notes the independent inquiry announced into business practices that threaten the integrity of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

The inquiry follows Labor making representations on behalf of NRAS investors to the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 12 October.

Labor also wrote to the Minister on 15 November in relation to Ethan Affordable Housing and Quantum Housing Group; NRAS providers linked to former Family First candidate Ashley Fenn.

Labor also raised Ethan’s conduct at Budget Estimates in October and during a Senate inquiry into legislative changes to NRAS last month.

Labor has always supported improvements to NRAS that will protect its integrity. It is the only Commonwealth program contributing directly to the supply of affordable housing.

NRAS has delivered over 38,000 affordable homes, and was on track to deliver thousands more before the Liberals made the ill-considered decision to cap the scheme in the 2014-15 Budget.

It is completely disingenuous for Minister Porter to be looking to sheet home blame for the bad conduct of one or two NRAS approved participants to Labor.

It is in fact Labor that has been calling on the Turnbull government to take action to stop the conduct of Ethan and its associated businesses.

As recently as September this year, the Department of Social Services was writing to NRAS investors on behalf of Minister Porter washing their hands of Ethan’s conduct and advising them to seek independent legal advice.

Labor also welcomed changes to NRAS Regulations introduced last month which provide protections for NRAS investors against the one or two of NRAS approved participants who seem determined to game the system.

Importantly, the new regulations provide that NRAS allocations held by participants who breach consumer protection law by, for example, engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct or engaging in unlawful anti-competitive conduct, are liable to have the allocation compulsorily transferred to another approved participant.

It is good to see the Turnbull government has finally acted on the concerns that Labor has raised over the conduct of one or two NRAS participants.

The danger in the inquiry is that the Turnbull government’s long-standing hostility to NRAS takes priority over any genuine concern to protect the integrity of NRAS, the interests of investors and the tenants of NRAS properties who need access to affordable rental housing.

THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2017