Page 3983 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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Affordable housing


Debate resumed from 30 June 2005, on motion by Mr Hargreaves:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.21): The minister will no doubt be interested in responding today by announcing the amount of money that has been poured into affordable housing since he took over the position of housing minister. However, I suspect that some within the social housing sector will not be entirely convinced by the capital injections into the construction of adaptable and responsive housing options that will, for some time into the future, meet the perceived needs of the core clientele of social housing and emergency accommodation.

There are some innovative and responsive programs outlined in the report we are debating today. The government is trying to come to terms with some very needy sectors such as housing for the aged, student accommodation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing, and assisting with housing options for people with disabilities. I hope to hear from the minister today about the rebuilding of public housing properties at Pierces Creek, Stromlo and Uriarra. Pierces Creek of course is of most interest to me— and the families waiting to return to the settlement.

We may well be convinced that social growth is entirely reliant on economic growth. It is not. Real growth in a society is also dependent on how we protect and nurture our most disadvantaged, socially isolated or marginalized people. There is an army of community and social service organisations in the ACT to assist and guide people in times of greatest need. It is this sector that is deserving of the most government assistance and financial support. It is a sector that forms the backbone of any society and provides us all with a very positive—or negative—insight into how we value a solid welfare safety net. A large proportion of their workload is centred on housing issues. One would say a fair proportion of that workload could be eased with effective and coordinated government support that follows through on political commitments.

I was pleased to hear the minister giving the Assembly an update on the Currong apartments, Fraser Court and former Burnie Court sites. However, disappointingly to me, it seems that these projects are being timed as election sweeteners with no great urgency to expedite construction and put roofs over people’s heads. It is here that one surely must ask, therefore, about the spending priorities of the current ACT government and whether they should expend disproportionate amounts of public money subsidising some unique and often obscure cultural activities or other events that might seek further support from, say, the private sector. We must question some of the pet ministerial projects, purely designed for ministers to leave their own legacies—such as an arboretum—which has cost the ACT taxpayers some $12 million so far. Just think what the community services and housing sectors could do with that money.

Although much of the government’s plans point to an apparent commitment to social inclusion, fiscal priorities are still not being directly targeted towards realistically eradicating social disadvantage and other problems associated with allocating the right

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