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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2040


Senator REID(6.13) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The report entitled 'Homelessness-a capital problem' was tabled on 10 May in the House of Representatives. It was prepared at the request of the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) and arose from incidents which occurred last year. In about June of last year Havelock House in Canberra, which was formerly a hostel, became the centre of a picket line by people protesting about the Government's policy on low cost accommodation. According to the report , the people on the picket line obtained the support of the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labour Council for their protest. Page 1 of the report outlines the setting up of this inquiry after negotiations and discussions had taken place between the Government and the Trades and Labour Council. In a sense it is a pity that the inquiry was set up in those circumstances because in some respects that detracts from the significance of the report because low cost accommodation issues clearly needed to be addressed by the Government.

The inquiry which was set up was asked in November to report by mid-December, but because of the difficulties many people had in getting submissions to the inquiry the deadline was extended to 6 January 1984. The pity of it is that from that time until 10 May 1984 the Minister for Territories and Local Government kept the report to himself and did not make it public. Even now in tabling it he has not given a Government response to it. In a very real sense a considerable amount of time has been lost. It is similarly the case with the National Capital Development Commission review which the Minister received and kept for a long time before he made it public and with another report before us this afternoon, the report of the Task Force on Implementation of Australian Capital Territory Self Government, a report which the Minister had for some time before tabling it on 10 May 1984. The report of the committee inquiring into homelessness on page 3 stated:

We have not, for example, had time to elaborate our recommendations in terms of their cost, or their legislative and administrative implications.

There are a number of recommendations in the report, some of which I could not possibly accept. Other recommendations might be reasonable if in fact they were shown to be financially practical and worth while for the people they are trying to help. The committee clearly did not have adequate time to look into the cost proposals. As I said, it is a pity that so much time has been lost in considering the report. I would hope that the Government would respond to it before the end of this session of Parliament because by then it will have had the report for the six-month period in which one generally expects the Government to respond to reports. I certainly urge the Minister to see that he responds before the end of this session of Parliament. The report defines homelessness and indicates the number of households which fall into that category:

It may be over 4000 households or possibly even more.

The committee dealt with who are the homeless people and concluded that the group includes single parents and single person households and that the young and the elderly are significant homeless groups.

The report deals also with the circumstances of these people. They are on low or intermittent personal incomes, suffer from unemployment, and frequently have physical or mental illness or handicap. The report addresses a number of issues but does not specifically deal with some of the real solutions to the problem of finding the right environment and the right forms of employment that would enable many of them to live without the sort of support that is referred to in this report. I have not time to deal with the report in significant detail but I point out that homeless people must have been rather disappointed in the Minister's comment on 25 May that he was considering housing for building workers coming to Canberra. He needs to address himself to those who need jobs and homes and are already in Canberra. Parts of the report are counter- productive. The report recommends quite draconian measures as far as landlords are concerned. The consequence of bringing into effect those recommendations would be to drive investment from Canberra and in a sense exacerbate the problem . I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.