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Speaking on the government's last-minute rental amendments

On Tuesday 18 April 2023, I spoke about the government's last-minute tenancy reforms for a so-called 'rent cap', which they moved as amendments to the Local Government Electoral and Other Legislation (Expenditure Caps) Amendments Bill 2022. 

You can read the full speech below, or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard)

Mr BERKMAN: I will take the opportunity to add to the member for South Brisbane’s contribution given how little time we have to contribute on this. I am sure I was not the only person who when this announcement about so-called rent caps was made it actually gave me a moment to pause for hope. I should have known immediately that it was false hope because that is routinely the case with these sorts of thought bubble announcements.

We have been on the record for some time and are the only party that is actively advocating for rent controls including rent caps and a rent freeze. I will be very careful not to stray into anticipating debate in respect of the private member’s bill that the member for South Brisbane has introduced. What we know is that this is not a rent cap as it was described. It is a fake rent cap that does nothing to actually affect the amount by which rent could increase. The reality for renters now is that extreme inflation in the rental market is the real problem. The frequency of rent increase I have not heard—

Mrs FRECKLINGTON: Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I seek your clarification about whether this is pre-empting debate on the bill that is before the House?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER: I will take some advice. We were actually considering that. The general tenet of this debate is somewhat similar to the other bill that is before the House. The member has noted that he is attempting to not pre-empt the debate or anticipate the debate. I ask the member to continue in that vein and to try to stay relevant to this bill without anticipating debate on the other bill. I know that is going to be a tricky line to tread. I am sure you will give it the best go you can.

Mr BERKMAN: I will give it a red-hot go. The fundamental point is that the frequency of rent increases is not the key issue for renters: it is the amount by which rents are increasing at the moment. We know that the amount of rent increases, the rate of rent inflation, is far outstripping CPI at the moment, and that is in an extraordinarily inflationary environment.

How people in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis are supposed to keep up with that is a real challenge, and this bill does absolutely nothing to address it.

I would say as well that the way this has been presented is quite reminiscent of the supposed end to no-grounds evictions we saw in the last round of rent reforms. The government has in reality done nothing to end no-grounds evictions. They have just added an additional basis for eviction, which is the end of a tenancy. There need be no more substantial reason than that, so renters remain as insecure in their homes as they did before that last round of rental reforms. We were told then they were ending no-grounds evictions. Nothing of the sort happened. We are told now that the government is introducing rent caps to protect renters. Nothing of the sort is happening this time. As the member for South Brisbane mentioned, this in fact does the opposite. It risks creating a perverse incentive for landlords to end leases at the end of a shorter six-month period because they will then be entitled to increase the amount of rent. This is worse than just fake reform. It is absolute rubbish and it leaves renters more exposed.

As far as I can tell, we still have no information on just how few renters—even if it was to offer some assistance—it would assist. What proportion of leases are six-month leases? I rented for many, many years, and I cannot recall an occasion when I ever had a six-month lease. Annual leases are always the way it is done. Frankly, I would like it if the minister could give us an answer on that.

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