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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6559


Mr RUDD (Griffith) (09:40): The member for Hinkler has just informed me he will rise to speak in a minute on the passing of Mr Bernie Johnson from his electorate. In anticipation of the remarks that he will make, I would like to extend my bipartisan support for his commendation of a person who was a great Indigenous leader from the city of Bundaberg. Sadly, he passed away in the last week. Through the honourable member and through the parliament, I extend my condolences to his family and to the community.

I am speaking in the chamber this morning on the question of homelessness. This is a continuing challenge for all Australians. According to the census data, we have more than 105,000 Australians who are homeless and 44,000 are young people. Across Queensland, there are more than 19,000 people sleeping rough tonight. Of those, 8,000 are under the age of 25, 5,000 are homeless as a result of domestic violence and 750 are without a place to call home as a result of mental health challenges.

Tonight I am sleeping in the CEO Sleepout, organised by St Vincent de Paul. This is the third St Vinnie's Sleepout that I have participated in. I will be joining hundreds of CEOs, both in Brisbane and around Australia, to raise funds for St Vincent de Paul. Last year we did so and raised $5.3 million across the country. These help support the necessary services for homeless people across Brisbane and regional Queensland. It also supports the Social Housing Program which complements Families Back on Track, which opened earlier this year on the Gold Coast. This particular facility accommodates single parents with kids, with all 27 supported living units now occupied.

I am proud of the fact that, since 2007, the government has invested an unprecedented $26 billion into housing and homelessness services. This includes $5.6 billion towards the Social Housing Initiative, which included building 19,600 new homes and repairing 80,000 existing units of social housing—that makes a huge difference out there in the community; $4.3 billion went towards the National Rental Affordability Scheme, NRAS, which is delivering 50,000 new affordable rental homes; and $450 million through the Housing Affordability Fund reduces the cost for new homebuyers by helping councils and developers with the costs of roads, cabling, sewerage and other infrastructure. Also, in my electorate we have contributed to the construction of Common Ground. These now exist in each major city in Australia. In Brisbane, a $40 million-facility, funded primarily by the Commonwealth, now accommodates rough sleepers—some 140 units in all. This has been a good development.

One sad thing, though, is the future of the Queensland Tenant Advise and Advocacy Service, which supports about 80,000 people each year. Unfortunately, the Liberal-National Party government in Queensland has abolished funding for the future of this terrific service. I would really ask them to reconsider that. It performs a valuable function for all the homeless in Queensland.