Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 29 November 2022) . . Page.. 3974 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (4.19): This is a very important issue and one that the ACT Greens care deeply about. Addressing poverty and promoting social justice are foundational values in our parliament. Social justice is embedded in our party’s policies. It inspires our election commitments, and we will always prioritise these issues in our work as a party, whether that is on the crossbench or when we play a role in government.
The cost of living has a very real impact every day on millions of people around Australia, making it difficult or impossible for some to access the necessities of life, and pushing people into poverty. While many of us can continue getting by and can accommodate the cost of living pressures, for the most vulnerable, people living at or below the poverty line, these small changes can make or break them. An increase in rent, a spike in petrol prices, rising food prices—these can make all the difference to whether someone can eat properly or whether they can afford their health care or whether they can stay in accommodation or become at risk of homelessness.
Cost of living pressures exacerbate the inequalities already felt by the most vulnerable, making this situation even harder. It is a cruel problem inherent in this capitalist society we live in, the inequality and the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor. We need compassionate policies and interventions to try and tame these inequalities and to support the more vulnerable in our community.
Statistically, we are a relatively privileged population here in the ACT, but we are far from immune to poverty. There are many people struggling and vulnerable in our population. I acknowledge, and the Greens of course acknowledge, that we face a cost of living crisis. As ACTCOSS’s 2022 Cost of Living Report cites, there are many households in the ACT that cannot afford the fundamentals of a healthy life. As that report points out, the poverty rate in the ACT is approximately nine per cent, which represents an estimated 38,300 Canberrans. Ms Lee has listed a range of cost of living challenges in her motion, reiterating the challenges that ACTCOSS lists in its Cost of Living Report.
Members will have seen further news today about National Shelter’s rental affordability index, which shows the ACT as very problematic for rental affordability. It reveals Canberra as the most problematic city of all the cities for low income households because of the high average income for working people. Groups such as pensioners, people on JobSeeker, students, people working in hospitality—these residents in our city are all facing severe financial stress when it comes to securing affordable rental accommodation. This is a difficult and ongoing problem. I note that last year’s rental affordability index listed similar challenges for those same groups in the ACT.
We also need to acknowledge that the report shows that the rental picture is equally grim right around Australia. In fact, renting has become less affordable in every single Australian city this year, compared to 2021. This points to the fact that there are a range of macro factors affecting Australia and the ACT which are exacerbating affordability issues. These are issues such as global geopolitical events, like the war in Ukraine, which is affecting our whole range of consumer goods, petrol prices and the