Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mrs PETRUSMA
Does it concern you there is a provision in the Police Offences Act which effectively makes criminals of the destitute and homeless, who feel they have no choice but to resort to begging to survive? Are you aware that according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance, two people have been prosecuted under this law in the past six months, facing fines, which they will never be able to pay, of up to $800? Do you support this harsh law, or do you agree this legislative throwback to the Great Depression is outdated and has no place in a decent society? Will you lobby your Cabinet colleagues, as Minister for Human Services, to support the Greens' amendment to remove this punitive provision in the Police Offences Act?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I assure everybody in this House that this Government takes the issue of homelessness very seriously. That is why we are investing a lot of money into tackling homelessness, or people who are at risk of homelessness, by putting a wide range of issues into place. We are investing $73.5 million into our affordable housing strategy, which will see up to 1600 homes available to those who are homeless or seeking options, as well as an extra 941 new homes. Plus, we have programs that will deliver up to 150 new homes in programs that the member is quite vehemently against.
In regard to the particular issue at hand, I will be seeking a briefing from the minister responsible for police to take a look at the amendment and also seek a briefing on the matter. I reiterate that this Government takes the issue of homelessness very seriously. Under the previous government it increased by 35 per cent. In the last census it went up to 1507 people who were homeless in this state, so yes, we are taking it seriously.