30 July 2012

NSW Boarding House Bill 2012 will likely violate the privacy and human rights of veterans receiving disability pensions

It has come to my attention today that the New South Wales ("NSW") Parliament is considering a draft piece of legislation entitled "Boarding House Bill 2012" and that, if passed, will most certainly affect veterans within NSW who receive any type of disability pension and who may live in a boarding house within NSW.

To view the draft bill go here.  Public comment time is due to expire on 10 August 2012.

There are very serious issues in this draft legislation that I believe will violate the privacy and human rights of veterans. Further, this bill has the potential of causing discrimination against veterans who live in a boarding house situation and who receive any Commonwealth disability pension assistance.

Below I outline some of the areas of major concern:

1) The definition of “vulnerable person” listed in section 34 would now include a person receiving “a special rate disability pension under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 of the Commonwealth; any other pension or other payment of a kind prescribed by the regulation.”

2) The draft legislation then seeks to turn a boarding house, under section 35, into a “residential centre for vulnerable people” if there are two or more of “vulnerable persons” in the premises.

3) It then imposes conditions, under section 82, upon the premises owner of a “residential centre for vulnerable people” that would seemingly violate the human rights of the veterans by requiring the owner of the premises to report on the activities of the veteran such as if the absence of the veteran from the centre is more than 24 hours and the veteran has not informed the manager of his or her whereabouts the manager must inform Director-General of the Department or face a fine as more fully explained below.

4) Aside from the human rights violations of monitoring veterans whereabouts it would also most likely cause discrimination against veterans receiving any Government pensions in the State of New South Wales by the most likely result of owners/operators of boarding houses seeking the removal of veterans receiving a pension so that the boarding house would not fall under the definition of section 35.

5) Genuinely disabled people requiring support, need to be housed in appropriate accommodation facilities with necessary support/care structures. These are Licenced Residential Care Facilities (tier 2), not Boarding Houses (tier 1).

6) The definition of a vulnerable person in section 34 is too broad, and will automatically categorise people on pensions (specifically military disability pensions as per section 34.3.c) as “vulnerable”. And as explained above, per section 35 of the legislation two or more vulnerable people in a tier 1 boarding house, automatically forces the operator to comply with tier 2 Licenced Residential Care Facility provisions, which include onerous care, compliance, reporting and penalty conditions, like (as per section 82), an obligation to report to Director General if an occupant that is absent for more than 24 hours, or else a $5,500 fine applies.

7) This draft legislation is misleading and deceptive to suggest this is a “Boarding House Bill”, it’s a “Licenced Residential Care Bill” that will:
  • crush tier one boarding houses making it difficult for veterans who receive a disability pension to receive housing in tier one boarding houses. 
  • discriminate against veterans by automatically categorizing them as vulnerable and thereby precluding them from being treated normally for housing purposes in a state that already has housing shortages and overpriced rental and housing markets.
  • further it’s a breach of the veteran’s privacy and human rights, while it and imposes unrealistic reporting expectations (coupled with severe penalties) on operators.
I am opposed to the aforementioned as it will violate a veteran's privacy and human rights.  These provisions will also discriminate against disabled veterans in a difficult rental and housing market.

Any veteran or Ex-Service organisation wishing to oppose provisions in this draft bill may do so by making a submission to:

10485 Sydney Stock Exchange

Boarding House Reform Team
Ageing, Disability and Homecare
Level 4
83 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000

For further enquiries, please contact the Department of Family and Community Services at: BoardingHouseReform@facs.nsw.gov.au or telephone (02) 8295 4608.

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