Page 3984 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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balance of affordable housing options for Canberra’s most needy. No doubt there needs to be a balance of maintaining what is good for the majority, but it should not be forgotten that some programs should be funded ahead of the grandiose ones in order to realise the long-term social and community benefits for all in the ACT. This can only be supported further when the ACT government, which has led all Canberrans to believe in an election commitment in 2004 of $30 million over three years for capital injection into social housing, can no longer fulfil its primary role of serving the community by making inroads into the eradication of social disadvantage in Canberra.

At this point in the fiscal cycle, when the ACT government is not faced with positive economic times, it elects to shift focus away from the duty to maintain sound social services and, as I have said, commits funds to a project such as an arboretum. What lies ahead? I support the minister’s intentions to do what is fiscally possible in addressing the balance between funding social housing options and, at the same time, facing the quandary of attempting to cool off the problem of higher rents and house prices in the private market.

I again urge the minister to continue to lobby the Treasurer and the planning minister to work with him on this critical matter. Planning mechanisms, land supply strategies and shared equity schemes may well be the crucial components that will assist the ACT government in meeting obligations with the federal government. Naturally, these should be well under way to attract more first home buyers who are capable of independently entering the housing market. I support the minister’s calls for further federal government input into this area, as it seems that, as a small jurisdiction, the ACT is faced with extra fiscal challenges that simply cannot be met by our limited revenue base.

I have personally had many discussions over the past year with Senator Kay Patterson and her staff on a whole range of housing issues, not the least of which was a suggestion to move towards a more nationally consistent policy approach to housing. I believe this is a logical and practical step to take. To bolster this point, it is a quite sensible request by the ACT government—I note that at page 48 of the report—to see placed back on the national agenda the development of a national housing policy, envisaging a united and bipartisan effort by all levels of government to improve housing affordability right across Australia.

There is no doubt that the minister and I will have ideological differences on issues of tenure, debt management, eligibility requirements for social housing and the distinct need for a more rapid response to crisis and emergency accommodation, to meet the needs of the homeless and those escaping domestic violence and other social problems. However, I signify quite clearly that we share common ground in the aim of combating homelessness and the debilitating effect of poverty associated with it.

In a city-state such as ours there is a real opportunity to see effective breakthroughs occurring as we see government, community organisations and the business sector become far more comfortable with sharing the load and resources to promote shared responsibility as the key to providing solutions to, and tackling the issue of, housing affordability and the social problems associated with that. It is pleasing to see that under the commonwealth-state housing agreement. I encourage and applaud the efforts of the government to date, although I would say get a wriggle on, to make sure we get these things nailed a bit quicker, in relation to working with the private sector.

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