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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Homelessness

21 May 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Thank you to Ms Standen and the honourable member for Franklin for bringing this Matter of Public Importance debate on today. It is important that we acknowledge in this place that, right now, there are people who are so-called, sleeping rough, sleeping under bridges, crashing at their friend's houses, sleeping in shipping containers, caravans and in highly unaffordable and unsuitable accommodation.

Let us be really clear about where this began, where this crisis started. It started in 2014, that is a fact. The Labor-Greens government delivered 2200 new affordable energy efficient homes. It was a massive investment in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. It all stopped when the Liberals were elected to the Tasmanian parliament and when the Liberal/National party was elected to the federal parliament. One of the first things that Tony Abbott as prime minister - and, hello everyone, how great was that result on Saturday night - one of the first things that Tony Abbott did as prime minister, with Joe Hockey as his treasurer, was to slash the national rental affordability scheme. From then on there was a chronic underinvestment in housing at a federal and state level.

Even in the last federal budget, which was brought down before Scott Morrison went to an election, there is a $200 million cut to the National Affordable Housing Agreement in real terms over the forward Estimates. There is an $800 million cut to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness over the forward Estimates. That is the kind of chronic under-resourcing that we are dealing with here.

The best results for people who need a home in Tasmania come when all three levels of government are working together and are prepared to invest in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing.

In the last term of the parliament, for three years and three state budgets, there was no substantial increase in funds for social and affordable housing. At the same time as the Government was allowing unchecked expansion of new listings for short stay accommodation and underinvesting in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing and rolling over to the federal government who chronically and callously underinvest in people right across the spectrum of social services in this country.

Every member of this place knows because of our engagement with our constituents that the single most important foundation for life's successes, for your capacity to access education, training, employment, recreational opportunities is a secure and affordable home. I quote from a letter that was sent to Mr Jaensch by a Tasmanian woman, a homeless Tasmanian, a divorced 50-year-old, highly-educated homeless Tasmanian, a full-time carer to a now adult and also homeless autistic Tasmanian. I do not know if you recall this letter, Mr Jaensch, but it should have arrived with you in late March, early April. This woman says at the end of her letter to the minister:

Homelessness and rental distress is damaging our community in more ways than the narrow economic view your Government takes, not knowing where you are going to live, whether you are going to be able to send your children to school, whether you will be forced to move away from your support network or how you will be able to afford to move when forced to has a deep emotional impact that, in the long run, costs us both in terms of social cohesiveness and mental health. So, with that I will leave you with the words of another member of my support group.

Quote:

When they measure the impact of homelessness it is all bricks and mortar and logistics. They do not measure the lasting trauma, they do not even acknowledge it. This is a conversation that must be had with our Government so that people like me and those less fortunate, are not having to live with what is akin to post-traumatic stress disorder, due to not having housing security.

Every member of this place wants Mr Jaensch to succeed. Mr Jaensch, we want you to meet the targets for delivering new affordable social housing, but you cannot even be upfront about how many houses of the 900 that were promised by the end of this financial year will have been built. That does not instil, certainly in the Greens, a great sense of confidence in your capacity to deliver or optimism that life for homeless Tasmanians and Tasmanians living in acute housing distress will improve.

People are not pitching their tents on the lawns of Parliament. The Showground has closed to people who do not have a secure home, so the obvious evidence that was before us as parliamentarians of this homelessness crisis, it is not right in front of us but that is not that it is not there. It has been pushed outside.

This is what happens in places like Hobart, London, Sydney: authorities push the problem out of sight and out of mind. What is happening is that people are living in shipping containers. There are more people sleeping up on the Domain and winter is here.

This is a crisis.

Ms Standen - Heaven help them during the Dark Path.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, that is right. We have a situation where the housing waiting list has gone from its lowest level in a decade under the previous Labor-Greens government to now its highest level in a decade with more than 3200 Tasmanians on the housing waiting list.

Minister, when you stand up in here and you seek to answer questions with decency in response to the questions that came from the Opposition this morning and you suggest to homeless people that they call an 1800 number, it is incredibly tone deaf. Minister, you need to do better. You need to get out more and talk to more people who are living in housing distress.