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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3139


Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to the consumer price index and private rent increases. Is he aware of the recent research by the Institute of Family Studies into the latest census statistics which show that private rents have increased in all capital cities by much more than is shown by the consumer price index. Does he agree that these findings suggest that private renters, particularly those on social security benefits and low income families, could be facing much more financial hardship than previously indicated. Is the Government planning to review the level of rent allowance and the methods of indexing it and of deciding who is eligible to receive it?


Senator GRIMES —Yes, I am aware that in the last couple of years private rents have increased at a greater rate than the consumer price index. As a result of that, of course, low income families and pensioners, in particular, who are in private rental accommodation and who are the poorest people in our community, have been left behind. Certainly, the Government is considering the level of the supplementary rent allowance. Mr Hawke and I have both announced that in the forthcoming Budget the level of the supplementary rent allowance will be a prime consideration because the group of people in private rental accommodation is so badly off. As Senator Foreman will know, the Government also gives a high priority to the construction of public accommodation and, in particular, public rental accommodation and, through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, assists the States to provide houses for low income people. We are well aware that the three great determinants of poverty in this country are low income, access to health care at a reasonable price and access to housing and that housing is a key parameter in the determination of poverty, as was demonstrated by the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty.

Senator Foreman asked about the indexation of the supplementary rent allowance. At the moment that allowance is not indexed, as the honourable senator would know. Whether it should be indexed will also be considered in the budgetary context. However, I assure Senator Foreman that this very important group of people has not been forgotten.