Page 3912 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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We have seen in the government’s response to this inquiry the progress they are making against those Auditor-General’s points.

Where we appear to fall down is on the flip side of homelessness, which is the provision of affordable housing. The Auditor-General report said:

Accordingly, it is not possible to determine the actual overall effect of the programs on rates of homelessness in the ACT community. Furthermore, homelessness in the ACT is influenced by a range of factors including, for example, housing affordability. People are likely to remain in homelessness programs and initiatives longer if housing affordability is a problem.

We have talked about this many times in this place. We have heard even the previous Chief Minister Mr Stanhope talk about his greatest regret as Chief Minister being the lack of action or progress on the affordable housing action plan. I do not think that much has changed in that regard.

According to the last available census, 2011, the ACT had the second worst rate of homelessness in Australia. For a very small jurisdiction, largely urban, this is quite concerning. It is more than quite concerning; it is alarming. We need to do better. The ACT, I acknowledge, and I have acknowledged many times in this place, does well in servicing people when they are experiencing homelessness. We have a good rate of service provision for people experiencing homelessness.

But the point remains, from the Auditor-General’s report and evidence we heard during the course of the public accounts committee inquiry, that there is a lack of exits from homelessness into housing. We need safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing—a range of different sizes of housing in terms of numbers of bedrooms and the style of housing, not just the location and the price, although they are very important.

As the committee concluded, the right to safe and adequate housing or shelter is everyone’s business. It is about the measure of a society and the actions of the key entities that comprise it—governments, business, citizens and the community as a whole.

This audit has been important in examining the implementation of selected programs and initiatives under the national partnership agreement on homelessness. The committee made 10 recommendations, which include some further investigations, such as on the impact that the national partnership agreement on homelessness has had on the reduction in the number of rough sleepers in the ACT. We have seen some good measures in that regard recently—for example, Common Ground at Gungahlin. But we need to quantify what the reduction in the rate of rough sleeping is. It was one of the headline goals of The Road Home, the white paper on reducing homelessness. As well, there were some interim goals for 2013 and 2014, not just the headline goals. We need to see how we are tracking against those things. Without measurable, quantifiable data, it is very difficult to establish our progress. Those are some of the points that the Auditor-General made.

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