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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12648

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (21:54): Many things have happened in the electorate of La Trobe in recent weeks, and I hope to update the House on a few of them. Specifically, and firstly, a community discussion that I held, together with the Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business at Ferntree Gully Uniting Church during the course of Anti-Poverty Week a couple of weeks ago, which focused on housing and homelessness initiatives undertaken by this government and the circumstances that many people find themselves in in relation to housing affordability and homelessness, throughout Victoria and indeed around Australia, and in respect of which the government is doing much—and, of course, it need not be said that much more remains to be done; but the government has done great work. I must thank the Ferntree Gully Uniting Church, and also the Tecoma Uniting Church, for their involvement on the day and for hosting it.

I thought I would update the House particularly in relation to this because, in my electorate alone, the government's Social Housing Initiative has meant that over $19 million has been spent on 66 new dwellings, with 60 completed to date. Of those which are tenanted, 75 per cent have been tenanted to people who would otherwise have faced homelessness, 15 per cent to elderly people and 22 per cent to people with disability—noting that tenants can be in more than one category. So these are practical ways in which this government is making significant commitments to people who would otherwise potentially face hardship or difficulty in finding housing.

It was appropriate that we held the forum in Ferntree Gully, not terribly far from the site of two significant social housing developments, one of which I have visited with the minister on a previous occasion, which has seen 14 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units developed. The facility incorporates six-star energy ratings including water tanks and energy-efficient lighting and heating. It is an excellent facility and I was delighted to go along and meet with Wilf and Francesca, an elderly couple who had recently moved into social housing there. It was great to hear their story about being able to settle in the community around Boronia.

Likewise, there is another social housing development that has stood to the benefit of residents of Ferntree Gully, on the corner of Dorset Road and Burwood Highway, which has been constructed with the assistance of this government—and, it must be said, with considerable opposition from the opposition, both in terms of the commitment to funding for that project and for projects of its kind right around the country using stimulus funding. It was additionally opposed quite vehemently by local members of the Liberal Party at the time of its construction, which was most disappointing.

Victoria has stood to benefit very significant through the federal government's investments, not only in relation to the construction of dwellings through social housing and the Social Housing Initiative but through repairs to around 90 dwellings, for instance, with over $400,000 being committed to that in my electorate alone. It is regrettable against that backdrop that, at the same time as the federal government consistently makes significant investments in social housing and initiatives to reduce homelessness, and initiatives to improve housing and rental affordability, the Victorian government has elected to decrease funding to the Social Housing Advocacy and Support Program by almost $3 million in the 2012-13 financial year. It is most regrettable indeed, and certainly noted by Victorians.

The second matter about which I will briefly update the House in the time remaining to me is a forum which I held with the Minister for Ageing in recent weeks at the Emerald U3A. I am delighted to continue my engagement with University of the Third Age organisations throughout my electorate, and have recently had the opportunity to visit the Knox U3A, the Casey U3A and the Emerald U3A for a range of activities. The Emerald U3A generously hosted an event, which was extremely well attended. Many people were clearly very interested in the government's proposals in relation to aged-care reform under the Living Longer, Living Better package, which members will no doubt recall provides around $3.7 billion over five years and is focused on trying to give elderly Australians and post-retirement Australians an opportunity to remain in their homes for longer and to give people an opportunity to have greater choice in relation to their aged-care options. There was great interest in Emerald U3A, and my thanks go to the president, Michael Allery, for that; and my congratulations go to the Knox U3A, and its president Lawrie Gaylard, and to Casey U3A, and its outgoing president, Pat Stone, for their recent initiatives also. (Time expired)