The ACT Liberals have expressed fears that mini-brothels will open up on Canberra's suburban streets if Labor returns to government in the upcoming ACT election. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
THE ACT Liberals fear mini-brothels will open up on Canberra's suburban streets if Labor and the Greens are returned to government after the October 20 election.
A June Justice and Community Safety committee report into prostitution recommended an increase in the number of sex workers who can work from a single suburban residence from one to two. The ACT Greens support the recommendation and Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the government is still considering its position.
Prostitution from residential suburbs by individual sex workers has been legal and practised in Canberra since 1992.
But Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne said Mr Corbell was misleading Canberrans by refusing to take a position.
''The government could have ruled this out when the committee reported and it didn't - the government is hedging its bets - they need to rule it out and my concern is that while they are hedging their bets and if we end up with a Labor-Green government after the election, we will end up with mini-brothels in our suburbs,'' Mrs Dunne said.
But Mr Corbell said Mrs Dunne was being alarmist.
''We support a regulated industry but we have not announced any proposals to change the current laws regarding sole workers in the suburbs,'' Mr Corbell said.
''This is a complex issue with sex workers raising issues around occupational health and safety. We have not agreed to that recommendation at this time, instead we have said that we will need to talk further with residents groups, Neighbourhood Watch and with the representatives of sex workers before considering any change.''
Mrs Dunne said Canberrans were worried about sex workers doing business in suburban streets.
The debate about prostitutes in the suburbs comes as the three parties today outline their housing and development policies in the Sunday Canberra Times.
In the graphic below, Labor, the Liberals and Greens gave to the Housing Industry Association their answers on stimulating the building economy, the density of housing and their ideas for housing affordability.
ACT POLITICAL LEADERS PUT FORWARD THEIR THOUGHTS ON HOUSING POLICY BEFORE THE OCTOBER 20 ELECTION
How will you reinvigorate the centre of the city and encourage higher density development in inner Canberra?
One of the key outcomes of the Planning Strategy, released in August 2012, is to strategically focus urban intensification at town and group centres and along key transit corridors, rather than throughout the suburbs. This will maintain the low density suburban environment valued by so many Canberrans.
It will also lead to a more diverse and vibrant city and town centres, and allow more people to live closer to places of employment, supporting an improved public transport system.
Greenfield development will continue, but it is urban intensification which will help deliver the significant social, economic and ecological benefits of a more compact city while substantially retaining much of Canberra’s high-amenity suburban fabric.
The ACT Labor Government has also offered a 75 per cent remission on the Lease Variation Charge to provide incentives to adapt old commercial office stock to mixed-use and residential-use. This remission is in addition to the stamp duty waiver for the first transaction of the financial vehicle, further removing barriers to adaptive re-use and promoting increased residential density.
To date, although ACT Labor has said that they are in favour of urban infill, much of their policy initiatives do not support this. For example, the Government’s LVC tax is a disincentive to more unit developments.
As such, if elected, the Canberra Liberals will:
- Reduce the Government’s tax on units to the 2011-12 level.
- Establish Infrastructure Canberra as an agency headed by an independent Infrastructure Commissioner, to advise on and guide infrastructure development for the long term interests of the city.
- Support planning and land release policies which encourage greater density in town centres.
The Greens support higher density development in inner Canberra. When the Lease Variation Charge was codified the Greens introduced a range of remission provisions which would allow the Government to remit part or all of the charge for developments in good locations like the city centre.
Unfortunately the Government has not yet utilised these provisions and we believe this is a missed opportunity and something we would like remedied as soon as possible. Again, we think improved transport infrastructure, particularly light rail will also attract people to those areas.
The Greens will also be announcing a range of other initiatives to revitalise Civic. Making the area safe, vibrant and attractive will encourage people to live in the city area. The Greens support incentives to convert unused office space into residential buildings and reinvigorating the city by reusing “dead” buildings. This is environmentally sustainable and socially desirable development.
What are your policies to improve housing affordability for owner-occupier and rental housing in the ACT?
ACT Labor understands the need for Canberrans to have secure and affordable housing, whether it is through renting a home or buying one.
The 2012-13 ACT Budget contains tax reforms and targeted assistance measures to make housing more affordable for Canberrans. Stamp duty is unfair, and poses a significant extra cost burden on people buying a home.
That’s why ACT Labor will abolish stamp duty progressively over the next twenty years. Stamp duty on a $500,000 home, for example, will fall by $2450 immediately and by more than $7,000 in five years. ACT Labor have also extended the threshold for the Home Buyer concession Scheme to $150,000, making more people eligible for a reduction in stamp duty.
To boost the construction sector and the supply of new homes, the scheme will only apply to new homes, substantially renovated homes, and vacant blocks of residential land. As of July 1 land tax was reduced on properties with an average unimproved value of between $75,000 and $390,000.
This will provide average savings of $208 each year on land tax for about 76 per cent of rental properties.
These reforms – which are making housing cheaper for Canberrans whether they are renting or buying – will be reversed by the Canberra Liberals despite their previous apparent support for making housing more affordable.
In terms of their negative impact on housing affordability and the capacity of government to make a positive influence, the Canberra Liberals consider the most important areas to be Taxation, Land Supply, Infrastructure and Competition.
In government, we will implement the following policies to address each of these areas:
- Ensure reasonable general rates by repealing the current general rates formula, and reinstating the formula applied in the 2011-12 financial year.
- Provide greater certainty for industry by reducing the Government’s tax on units to the 2011-12 level, saving tens of thousands in tax per unit.
- Create a genuine land bank to give industry and residents certainty.
- Publish ‘real-time’ information about blocks of land as they are ready for sale and development.
- Establish Infrastructure Canberra as an agency headed by an independent Infrastructure Commissioner, supported by an industry board, to advise on and guide infrastructure development for the long term interests of the city, and ensure infrastructure that supports housing is no longer delayed.
- Promote a healthy balance between small and large developers.
The Greens support greater provision of public housing as one way to reduce housing stress. We have announced a financial commitment to this in addition to increased support for the "Common Ground" initiative.
In terms of the market more generally there is no doubt that housing in Canberra is expensive. In order to provide more affordable housing in Canberra we need to look at both the upfront cost of purchase, and the weekly rental, as well as the cost of running those houses.
Energy and water efficiency measures can save a significant amount of money and this is something which the Greens have been very strongly focused on.
The cost of running a car is in the order of $10,000 a year, which means that provision of good public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure so that fewer cars are needed in a household can lead to significant savings.
The Greens have a long standing concern with planning requirements that impact on affordability such as minimum parking requirements. We have, and will continue to, advocate for their reduction in areas such as town centres where there is good provision of public transport.
This gives consumers choice and lets them save money if it suits them. More generally, deflating the market price of housing is a complicated task. We know that the prevailing market conditions have the greatest impact on house prices – the late nineties demonstrated this very clearly and the Greens have always advocated policies to try and minimise the boom and bust cycle.
However, within that cycle there is much that we can do to provide good quality, sustainable and affordable housing. Providing the taxation settings to encourage development of more affordable housing is something the Greens have advocated and strongly supported.
We should be providing the right signals to the market about the types of housing we want and allowing housing resources to be better distributed.