Page 3089 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 October 2022
the structural inadequacy of welfare payments in Australia. As a result, people receiving income support payments are experiencing poverty because, as Mr Davis outlined, they are just not being given enough money to survive. They are not being provided with enough money to afford their groceries, fuel and utilities. Unless they are able to reside in income-based social housing, they certainly cannot afford to privately rent.
In response to calls that we cannot afford to raise the rate of JobSeeker, there is an easy answer: ditch the financially irresponsible stage 3 tax cuts. Let us prioritise the use of finite resources to support those on the lowest incomes, not deliver more wealth to those on the highest incomes. This is in the realm of the federal sphere but something that we will continue to advocate on. We know that this makes economic sense as well as moral sense. We know the areas where Canberrans in poverty are particularly hurting. The cost of housing, the cost of food and the cost of utilities are key areas where there are particular pressures. The current cost of living crisis has many drivers and there are limited ways that we can respond locally. However, where we can, we will.
We know that, in the main, housing unaffordability in Canberra is caused by the financialisation of housing Australia wide. Instead of being for the social good, housing has become a speculative investment because of decades of policy choices that have made it a commodity. While we do not have all the levers to improve housing affordability, our actions show that we are working hard to make things better, particularly for those on the lowest incomes. We continue to roll out investments in public housing and we have increased funding to specialised homelessness services, from a $20 million base of funding in 2018-19 to $30 million in 2022-23.
As noted here in the chamber today, we have more work to do. We are currently in an ongoing and deep process with our specialist homelessness sector, through both the Rough Sleeper Working Group and the specialist homelessness sector commissioning process. We will be continuing to deeply understand and ensure that we have specific and detailed conversations with the experts who are also delivering services each day. We are optimistic that new initiatives, such as build-to-rent and partnerships with our community housing sector partners, can facilitate a significant uplift in affordable rental and build on some of the current programs we have already introduced.
It is true that we will not solve housing affordability on our own, and it is something that we need to work with the commonwealth government on. While there has been renewed positiveness that there may be a much more cooperative federal environment to look at how we can further reduce housing stress, I do have to be honest that my optimism soured quite significantly with the announcement late yesterday that the commonwealth government will not forgive the ACT historic social housing debt. This means that the ACT government will be providing funds to the commonwealth government to service a debt that is questionable and has probably been paid many times over, rather than investing even more in desperately needed social housing.
Access to healthy food is an area where we have seen significant price pressure in recent times, due to the impact of climate change, extreme weather and supply chains affected by COVID restrictions, to name a few reasons. In this area we need to look at