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Recently Tasmanians have observed a complete inability by our political leadership and bureaucratic establishment to respond to serious community emergencies, in particular the affordable housing and domestic violence crises. Inability to deal with the current housing crisis has its roots in the over regulation of the cottage construction sector dating back more than a decade and exacerbated by local government red and green tape attitudes around ‘not in our back yards’ etc.

Housing strategies presented recently by both the Labor and Liberal parties have great merit, but neither address either our current accessible housing emergency or the longer-term affordability for home seekers because they haven’t been able to deal with the following:

  1. Stubborn Local Government opposition toward emergency housing initiatives. I believe the rigidity of such onerous regulations are selfish, indeed heartless. The Gutwein Govt simply gave up on the election promise to reduce and reform the ridiculous number of local councils in this state, however I believe local govt self-interest sabotaged Gutwein’s efforts.    
  2. The shortage of tradespeople and the shortfall in the rounded skills required to maintain a viable home building industry is the result of the dismantling of TasTAFE and Adult Education as mentoring institutions. I know of 150 independent Tasmanian builders, who when facing retirement can’t find any younger operators with the small business skills needed to take over the enterprise, survive and then thrive.
  3. The sidelining of the traditional ‘small builder’ due to over regulation has favoured the very big building firms who are able to absorb the cost of compliance. The resulting corporate power concentration at the big end of town reduces true competition, as house/land packages usually exclude the independent builder thus prevent any true competition, resulting in inflated build prices. Some estimates indicate a resulting $100,000 increase on top of the average mortgage.
  4. I believe the over regulation of the building industry was an honest attempt to crackdown on ‘shonky builders’ but they still exist as per the recent example at the disastrous ‘leggo-land’ development north of Hobart. This appears to be happening because to cope with the sheer weight of the red/green tape compliance Local Government administrations have had to out-source supervision of the compliance to contractors and consultants. This has meant not only are we now paying twice for the building service (fees) but the Council staff have lost the skills and knowledge to supervise the consultants!   
  5. Commercial banking practices that discriminate against ‘owner builders’ by forcing home seekers into the hands of the big builders unless they already have 80% of the deposit as cash in hand.
  6. ‘Build completion times’ of 2 years insisted by both the Banks and local Councils prevent home builders starting small with 1 bed & 1 bath and extending as they can afford to do so without copping extra fees & charges as they go. A 10-year build time would help youngsters break out from the rent cycle trap at an age when they can work 2 jobs, cope with all that pressure and still grow a stable, safe family home.    

When combined, each of these items contribute to a state of seriously poor economic, physical and mental health across our community.

It is obvious that we need appropriate levels of regulation, but I believe the onerous levels we now are burdened with are taking lives. Our Assistant Commissioner for Police last week reminded us of the ‘Big 5’ that seem to have doubled our road toll compared to this time last year. 3 out of the 5 can clearly be linked to the stress we are confronted with in our daily lives, in just trying to keep to our deadlines, and make ends meet. 

We are witnessing increasing levels of violence exhibited by our kids in primary school, certainly partly because Mum and Dad are struggling to keep a roof overhead and wolf from the door. However, the prevalence of male violence against women and children indicates other forces are at play as well.    

For 2 years I was a TasTAFE sessional teacher at Risdon Prison, the experience convinced me that our prison system is simply not working. It’s reported there are 40,000 people incarcerated across our country and one third of them have never been convicted. The experience of those will almost always be negative and their lives changed forever. Imagine, how hard it’s going to be for those folk when joining the queue to find somewhere to live? We urgently need regulatory reform around investment in diversionary preventative programs, especially with regard to men’s mental health.

It’s been estimated that for every $1000 invested in health and safety programs for women we only match that with $1 for men’s health and given that 99% of domestic violence perpetrators and %70 of suicide sufferers are men it seems we are putting most of the safety investment at the bottom of the cliff! I feel deeply that if we can equalise that investment many women’s lives will be saved each year.

Our food safety regulations are also urgently in need of reform. We see unprecedented levels of wildlife over-running farm land and current regulations means most will be shot or poisoned and must be left to rot on the property. This is a disgraceful waste and must be addressed, similar to European models where a hunter would take the beast to a licenced butcher who would process and mark the meat ‘not for sale’, released to the hunter to take home and share. Surplus meat is minced and made available to families in need. A TasTAFE course could upskill interested butchers with meat inspector status to utilise this great food resource, but regulation reform is required first.  

Rick Cazaly is the Independent Candidate for Elwick in the Legislative Council election on 7th of May.