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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 332 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

It is hard. Market forces are doing that. There are all sorts of circumstances, not the least of which is the fact that the investment market has gone down, so people are getting into public housing as something that is beneficial. Our housing prices and rents are not much different from those in Sydney, except for perhaps the central highly-prized area of Sydney. Can you believe that? We are not much different-and we are worse than the western suburbs. Can you believe that? That is the problem.

We will work through all the issues we can in the Housing Affordability Task Force, but turning these issues around is not something you do with a click of the fingers. It is a mammoth task, and we are trying to address it. There is simply not enough housing for the people who do not have roofs over their heads. I said in question time that having to accommodate people, and wanting to accommodate people, whose government houses burnt down has imposed a further severe strain on our waiting list. My office gets calls-and I have no doubt your office also gets them-about people in deep distress who just do not have a roof-or they are bedded in with relatives or friends.

I was reading a letter yesterday. People are living with a mother-in-law who they do not get on with all that well. There are three or four to the one bed. They are in one room and they dare not go out of the room too often because it creates tension in the house. You all know that is not too uncommon. I have to say to people, although I do not like it, "Well, look, seven months and we might find something for you."That is what we have to do. No wonder we want more houses! We want to change the circumstances.

I have looked objectively and critically, if you like, at the difficult area of ACT Housing. ACT Housing does a great job, and I do not appreciate the remarks made so far today.

MRS BURKE (4.12): Mr Speaker, I rise today, speaking on behalf of my Liberal colleagues, to support Ms Tucker's matter of public importance. Mr Wood, I did not see it in the same way as you did. I do not believe this was brought forward as an exercise of blame but more one of hearing the government's view, which I believe you articulated clearly for us, with passion.

I understand the pressure placed on you at this time. However, there are some issues I would like to bring forward. Please understand that, as you said, we all care about what is going on. Different perspectives may help us to sort through the matter.

In a homeless forum held by my colleague and then shadow Housing Minister, Bill Stefaniak, the Liberal Party was presented with some frightening statistics. Samaritan House is forced to turn away 180 men and men's families per month. There is no distinct profile of these men, but the average age is around 23. Some are married, some have a substance abuse problem, some are unemployed and some have just been released from jail.

The YWCA, in a six-month period, turned away 192 families, many with children. In fact, there would have been at least 300 accompanying children all up. ACTCOSS tells us the story about how we are now seeing second and third generations of families homeless or in desperate need of long-term accommodation. There are concerns about discrimination in the housing market and a lack of emergency accommodation. There are proposals for a boarding house in the territory but, above all, more public housing stock is needed.

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