Tabling of SPLA’s Report on the Inquiry into Homelessness in Australia

  • Speech

Tabling of SPLA’s Report on the Inquiry into Homelessness in Australia

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle): by leave—As deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, I welcome and appreciate this opportunity to speak to the committee's report following our inquiry into homelessness in Australia. At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the work of the chair, the member for Fisher; the secretariat; and, indeed, my parliamentary colleagues on the committee, thanking them for their contributions to this very timely report. It is apt that we should table this report during National Homelessness Week on one to the most critical issues facing this nation today. More importantly, I'd like to acknowledge the voices of those who very courageously came forward to our committee to share their stories of homelessness with us. I wanted to say: we hear you. Your stories were invaluable and remain critical to our fight to ensure that every Australian has a safe place to call home.

The committee received some 201 submissions and 25 supplementary submissions, and many of those submissions were comprehensive and detailed and provided very important insights into the lived experiences of people affected by homelessness across Australia. We held public hearings across five days, gathering some 28 hours of oral evidence from a vast range of advocates, frontline organisations and government departments who support Australians affected by homelessness. The evidence, expertise and advocacy brought forward to the committee was invaluable to our understanding of this national crisis in Australia.

We know that homelessness is a national crisis. Right now there are more people experiencing homelessness in Australia than ever before. In just one year, rents in Australia have soared by 15.1 per cent. Every day more and more Australians are being locked out of the private rental market. Just last year, 10,000 women and children fleeing violence were turned away from our refuges because there weren't enough beds available. That's more than 27 a night. Just let that sink in.

The failure of this government to show leadership and to take responsibility on this serious issue is unforgiveable, given how long the sector and the broader Australian community have been calling for these issues to be addressed. For eight long years, this government has ignored and neglected the urgent need for more affordable and social housing. Regretfully, this report does not include a single recommendation that will see the construction of any new dwellings. That is a terrible missed opportunity, in my opinion. Without a commitment for increasing investment in social housing, this government is leaving thousands of vulnerable Australians behind, especially women and children who are fleeing violence, older women on low incomes, First Nations families and communities, and veterans. A never-ending stream of parliamentary reports and independent inquiries is telling us all the same thing: we need real action, intervention and leadership to solve what is a national housing crisis.

However, on this issue, the Morrison government seem devoid of a willingness to show any leadership and is unwilling to take any action. The committee has recommended that the federal government introduce a 10-year national strategy on homelessness, and Labor supports and indeed welcomes this recommendation. But we fear it will be ignored, like countless other recommendations from countless other reports. That's why today I join with the government members on this committee in pleading for the federal government to adopt this recommendation. And it is good that the minister sits in this chamber at this time to hear the importance of a bipartisan recommendation. We're asking you to implement this recommendation for a national strategy. It's a very good start. But you have so much catching up to do; it is not funny.

In March this year, Labor committed to developing a national housing and homelessness strategy, and I invite the government to do the same. Labor recognises something that this government simply doesn't, and that is that urgent action is needed to address what is a national crisis. But where the government fails to act, a future Albanese Labor government will. Labor will implement a national strategy to combat homelessness, as this committee has recommended, and we will go one step further with our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund. We will build the social and affordable housing that is needed to reduce homelessness across the nation. Sadly, the Morrison government have acted as if this isn't their problem, as if they don't have a responsibility to care for the people of this nation, but, of course, they do.

To be sure, one of the greatest tests for this government will be how it responds to this report. Let's hope this report doesn't sit on the shelves, gathering dust, being used as a paper weight on the desk of a minister, as so many others seem to. Australians deserve better than that. Indeed, Australians demand better than that. It's time to step up and show some real leadership, Mr Morrison.

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