Page 3355 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 18 September 2013

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MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Lawder.

MS LAWDER: Minister, why have nearly a quarter of students living independently experienced some level of homelessness as recently as three months ago, according to the Anglicare report?

MS GALLAGHER: Again, I am not sure I can answer why that would be the case. The focus of the government is on making sure that, where we can provide support for student accommodation and greater accommodation, and the availability of more affordable housing, we are doing that. And that is what we are doing. We have been clear about that now for several years.

The affordable housing action plan set the priorities, and we have been demonstrating that through the partnerships that we have with the universities. And we are making good progress. But that is not to say that we will be able to alleviate some of the pressures students operate under right across Canberra. I think there has to be some acknowledgement that we are much better placed now than we have been in previous years.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Smyth.

MR SMYTH: Minister, what concerns have been raised with you about housing stress faced by local, interstate and overseas students? What action have you taken to ascertain what was said in the report by Anglicare about homelessness among overseas students?

MS GALLAGHER: I would have to check my records but I certainly do not recall—I may have received a letter—any specific approach about housing stress for students. I have certainly met with the non-government sector in my role as Chief Minister where housing affordability as a general issue comes up. But I do not recall it being specifically raised with me.

Again, in terms of my role as Minister for Higher Education, I have convened the vice-chancellors group, which is composed of the vice-chancellors of all the universities represented in this town. We talk about the priorities for encouraging and supporting students to study in this town. Again, I think housing affordability comes up as a general issue. But the government has a proven track record of working with the universities to assist them to solve some of those pressures and we will continue to do so.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Smyth.

MR SMYTH: What impact are the current problems with student accommodation having on our ability to attract students from elsewhere, and since the publication of the comments from ACT Shelter and the survey from Anglicare, what action have you taken to address the issues raised?

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