Page 520 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 18 February 2015
I thank Ms Lawder for bringing this matter forward today. It is important that the Assembly remains focused on these discussions, and I welcome the amendment put forward by Ms Berry, which I will be supporting today.
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (5.02): I will speak to the amendment and close the debate. I thank members for their contributions today and I thank Ms Berry for her largely helpful amendment. I will make a few comments about some of the discussions thus far. Ms Berry mentioned that the Northern Territory had the highest rate of homelessness, huge areas of land to cover, the enormous difficulties of town camps and connection to land, a mining boom and a transient workforce just for a start.
Ms Berry seems to think that we are okay because we do not have such a high rate of homelessness as the Northern Territory. We do have a high standard of living in the ACT, combined with a small geographic area, which should make addressing homelessness slightly less complex than in a place like the Northern Territory.
Ms Berry also mentioned that the census data showed that many people in the ACT are receiving services from homelessness providers, which is quite true. But she seems to imply that this means that they are not experiencing homelessness. The ABS definition clearly includes those people. They do not have a safe, secure place to call their own, with security of tenure. If you are in a shelter or a crisis service you only have temporary accommodation. This is a common mistake: confusing having a roof over your head, however tenuous or temporary, with having a place to call your own. Homelessness does not mean rooflessness, as I hope Ms Berry will discover as she becomes more familiar with her portfolio.
Obviously, Ms Berry thinks she knows better than the independent Australian Bureau of Statistics. I do understand Ms Berry’s reluctance, as has been demonstrated by previous ACT housing ministers, to accept the serious rate of homelessness in the ACT, which is not borne out by the figures. It is not okay to sleep in your car or couch surf. At least you have some sort of roof over your head, but you are still homelessness.
We have also had a lot of reference to federal funding through the national partnership agreement on homelessness. This comprised funding for all states and territories, commencing 1 July 2009, and was initially expected to conclude on 30 June 2013. It has been extended twice. The national partnership agreement on homelessness was intended—always intended—to be a time-limited payment, a one-off injection of funds, a big bang impact on homelessness which would then stop and we would go back to the regular funding which comes through the national affordable housing agreement.
The national affordable housing agreement, which no-one has bothered to mention today, also includes significant funding for homelessness services. The NAHA is an ongoing special purpose payment. It is disingenuous and misleading of Mr Barr to say that the homelessness services will be cut and to imply that there is no ongoing funding. That is not the case. There is ongoing funding for homelessness services