Page 1596 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 June 2022

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Study after study demonstrates the wisdom of social housing investment. Although we don’t need to rely on theory alone. After a decade of stalled investment we are living with the real-world cost of neglect. Extra trips to hospital emergency wards and more psychological counselling. Lower school achievement and lower incomes. Women and children unable to escape family violence and more pressure on the justice system.

This is the reality of underinvestment in public housing by the federal government over the last decade. Now we have the chance to increase the investment, even beyond the historic levels already committed to under the Labor-Greens parliamentary and governing agreement.

If the entirety of the money saved, both principal and interest, is invested directly into public housing then we have the chance to make a real dent in the number of people in our city waiting for a safe and secure home. Perhaps none of these people will become Prime Minister, but they all deserve a chance to live a secure and comfortable life and to participate in our society to their full potential. Housing is a human right. Abundant, accessible and appropriate public housing is fundamental to an equitable society.

As someone who grew up in public housing, this issue is deeply personal. I know what it is like to be a tenant of the territory. I understand what it is like to experience housing stress. I have lived through the day-to-day anxieties that insecure housing places upon people and families in our city. People in my family, my friends and my colleagues are still living day to day.

I call on all my fellow members, all 25 of us, and also on the newly elected and re-elected members of the federal parliament, to support forgiving the historic housing debt and, upon that forgiveness, ensuring dollar-for-dollar investment of that money back into public housing, enabling even more Canberrans to access a safe and secure home.

MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Climate Action, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism) (3.07): I thank Mr Davis for bringing this forward today and, in the motion itself, acknowledging all of the work that has been done to date. Clearly, there is a bit of history with this, and we have had mixed success with the previous commonwealth government in relation to our historic housing debts.

We will acknowledge that a small debt—I think that by the time it was allowed to be paid out it was about $2 million—was agreed by former Treasurer Frydenberg. We were paying 12.5 per cent interest on that loan, so I shamed Treasurer Frydenberg at the time, when interest rates were about one per cent, into enabling us to pay that out early. I did not have as much success on the other, more substantive, loan that is at a 4.5 per cent interest rate, so that remains unfinished business for the territory government and something that we are re-prosecuting with the new administration.

Obviously, from the Prime Minister to the finance minister to our local federal representatives, I have already made clear the ACT’s desire to see this housing debt waived and our commitment to do just as the motion has indicated: to reinvest the

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