For the past 10 weeks, the NSW Government’s Retirement Villages Amendment Bill has been stalled in the upper house because it doesn’t have the numbers to get it through.

Originally touted as a major reform for residents of retirement villages, the legislation has undergone a significant transformation and it now reflects the interests of owners and not elderly clients.

In 2004, the Labor Government promised it would stop village owners from charging residents for expensive capital items such as resurfacing roads and replacing hot water systems.

Last year, then Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney again assured residents the purpose of the proposed legislation was to ensure they paid less, not more to village owners.

On October 29 last year, Burney was guest of honor at a Labor Party fund-raiser organised by the Retirement Village Association at the Aria restaurant on Sydney’s harbourside. It netted $36,840 for ALP coffers.

In June this year when the legislation was finally introduced in parliament it became clear that residents would be worse off.

Shadow fair trading minister Catherine Cusack said: “The Minister had embraced the Retirement Village Association’s policy that requires residents to pay 50% of maintenance plus 50% of capital costs.”

On July 4 the RVA issued a media release under the heading, “Lobbying achieves changes to Retirement Village Bill”, thanking the State Government for adopting its agenda.

RVA president Kevin Ryan said:

In particular, changes to the treatment of capital maintenance and capital replacement were key issues we lobbied for, and we are happy about these changes. Despite long delays in tabling the bill, we are extremely pleased the government listened to our concerns and responded accordingly.

The Association’s CEO Jan Holdsworth was even more explicit:

There were many aspects of the draft consultation bill the RVA was not happy with.

The RVA was seeking to redress an imbalance between the rights of residents and retirement village owners and managers.

For example, there was a heavy compliance on smaller village operators, which has now been removed. There is now much more flexibility for village operators in areas such as financial management of their village.

Cusack says the combined votes of the Liberals, Nationals, Greens, Shooters and Christian Democrats will keep the legislation stranded in the upper house.

Meanwhile, the new Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge is desperately trying to negotiate a behind-the-scenes deal to satisfy Labor’s political donors.

Labor’s sell-out of elderly retirement village residents is disgusting behaviour and we simply cannot and will not support it.

This sad-farcical affair is a snapshot of the way policy and laws are being made in the State of Disgrace by NSW Labor.

Peter Fray

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