Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock says with hindsight he shouldn’t have forwarded a letter from the Housing Trust Tenants Association warning them they could be forced out of their homes or face a bedroom tax under a Liberal government.
The letter warns residents they have “much to fear” if a Liberal government is elected in South Australia on March 15, using interstate examples in Queensland and New South Wales to argue the case.
Housing SA tenants doorknocked by Fairfax Media have expressed a mixture of fear, anger and distress at the thought of having to move out or pay a tax on any spare bedrooms.
The letter was signed by Housing Trust Tenants Association assistant secretary Julie Macdonald, who was revealed on public radio on Monday to be a member of the Labor Party.
One resident John Stewart said the letter was “very frightening” and warned media not to doorknock his wife who has multiple sclerosis or his elderly mother because “it could kill them”.
“That sort of letter should not be sent face to face, it’s very frightening, how will I find a place for my mum, myself, and my wife,” he said.
“At 91, I think that could kill my mum, the shock of having to move out.
“What I’m upset about, is the letter is scaring us all and I don’t believe it will actually happen.”
“It brings the issue to the forefront.”
“The bedroom tax really does stink.”
“I think it’s political garbage.”
“I’m not concerned, I would be more concerned if we were being kicked out.”
“It’s political scare mongering.”
“I have no idea if it’s true.”
Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock denied it was a scare campaign and said he is often asked by different organisations to send out letters.
“There were no scare tactics in this, I was asked to forward this on,” he said.
“If I wanted to hide anything, why would I send it out on my letterhead?
“In hindsight, so close to an election, maybe I shouldn’t have sent it."
Liberal candidate for Frome Kendall Jackson described the letter as “disgraceful” and said it was designed to mislead residents about the Liberal Party’s policy.
Resident Dorothy Kennedy said she felt angry when she received the letter and immediately drove to Mr Brock’s office where she spoke to a member of his staff.
“I wasn’t scared about it, I was angry,” she said.
“I got in the car and went straight to Brock’s office.
“I didn’t feel threatened, I’ve only got one bedroom.”
Arthur Roesch described the letter as “political scare mongering” while resident Neryl Gould said the idea of a bedroom tax “really does stink”.
Liberal social housing spokesman Dr Duncan McFetridge ruled out a bedroom tax and forcing people out of their homes, unless they were misbehaving.
“There will be no bedroom tax, and no-one will be forced out of their housing trust home,” he said.
“We will continue to work with non-government organisations to provide better housing and increase the number of social housing homes.”
Social Housing Minister Tony Piccolo said Labor would not introduce a bedroom tax but said the sale of some public stock was “inevitable”.
“We have no desire to match the record of the former Liberal Government, who sold off around 13,500 public housing properties the last time they were in power,” he said.
“Instead, we have committed to delivering a total of 5,200 new affordable and social houses across South Australia – both in metropolitan and regional areas.”
Mr Brock said his opponents were entitled to have a say but called on both major parties to let the public know that there will be no changes to taxes and no selling of Housing SA homes.
“Both sides need to come out and say they will not dump any housing trust stock,” he said.
“I get angry when no side will say, they are not dumping any housing trust homes.”
Mr Brock said he did not know Housing Trust Tenants Association assistant secretary Julie Macdonald.