Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 October 2022) . . Page.. 3088 ..
Think about that. Six years ago, one in 11 households in my electorate was experiencing rental stress. Now it has nearly tripled to become one in four. This is the highest rate across the ACT and, unless something changes, by the next census half or more of all renters in my electorate could easily be in rental stress. During the same time, the percentage of Belconnen households in mortgage stress has surged by 70 per cent.
Figures such as these give us a high-level snapshot of poverty in the ACT, but we need to know more. We need to understand the rates and drivers of poverty here in the nation’s capital. We need to have solid data, not just ideologically informed guesses, regarding the relationship between poverty and economic conditions, including fiscal policy. We need a government that will get serious, really serious, about mechanisms to address and reduce poverty in Canberra.
Robust, Canberra-specific data are necessary to get the mechanisms right. Lack of interest in generating such data is an admission by those opposite that they are not genuinely serious about the 38,000 Canberrans currently living in poverty or the thousands of others who will inevitably join them as cost of living increases continue to hit lower income residents hard.
On behalf of the residents of Ginninderra, I wholeheartedly commend this motion to the Assembly.
MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong—Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services and Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction) (4.16): I thank Ms Lee for bringing this motion to the Assembly, particularly in Anti-Poverty Week. As a previous co-chair of Anti-Poverty Week, as was raised by Ms Lee when she brought an identical motion to the Assembly more than a year ago, this is an issue that I particularly care about.
As previously stated, rather than merely inquiring into the issue, the ACT Greens would instead prefer action on this issue. Rather than spending government money on an inquiry to identify the drivers of poverty, which we are well aware of and which are also being reviewed through a federal parliamentary process, we would use these funds to go to the numerous programs that are designed to support households on low incomes, as outlined in the government amendment. Rather than continuing to talk about these wicked problems, we want to focus on introducing programs and initiatives that aim to reduce inequality and ensure that all members of our community have access to the essential services that are needed to live a dignified life.
There is already a wealth of information on the key issues that are driving poverty in the ACT and in Australia more generally. I do not think anyone could follow the act of Minister Davidson, who has so comprehensively outlined this. We know that these are incredibly difficult times. Rising inflation and the cost of living are disproportionately hurting those with the lowest incomes. We cannot ignore that the current situation of spiralling costs is particularly harming those Canberrans living on welfare, as Mr Davis has outlined.
The rate of JobSeeker payments continues to be significantly under the Henderson poverty line. Thank goodness there have been indexed increases to pensions and welfare payments. But let us be clear: these are a passive and legislated response to some of the extreme increases in costs in recent times, but they do nothing to address