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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13983

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (16:09): Rarely do federal MPs or, for that matter, the federal government get an opportunity to intervene in homelessness policy. We have very, very strong Commonwealth-state agreements in this area and we're usually reliant on state governments to deliver the housing services that Australia expects. But late last year my city of Redland faced a homelessness crisis, with the evolution of what was referred to in the media as a 'tent city'. This caused great concern to many residents. I had a number of concerned complaints come from the business community near to where we had some homeless individuals living in tents, of all things, close to this commercial area. I forwarded those concerns on to our council. I know that the council have been working with police and other support services. As a result of that intervention, I'm very pleased to say that that tent city has been closed down. Of course, from a federal point of view, it's very hard to know at an individual level how cases are managed. We'd all agree that you'd leave that to the experts. But it is my understanding now that the overwhelming majority of those people who were dependent on the tent city as late as November last year have now been housed and employed.

I want to say on, I think, behalf of both sides of this chamber that we are a nation that pays considerable attention to the needs of the needy. We're a nation that pays a lot of tax. I think it's utterly reasonable to expect that people caught in those situations for a variety of reasons should never be told that the waiting list is seven years. That's exactly what was happening. Local service providers, resigned to that difficult fact, had taken to offering tents and swags and expecting Australians to live in bushland. I can see there are areas of Australia where problems are far greater, but unless a line in the sand is drawn to say, 'There'll be no tents in the city,' we will have the invidious challenge that those numbers will simply grow. I'm glad to say that that's not the case. I'm going to make sure, while I'm a federal MP, that that is never the case.

I know there will be people in complex circumstances. I know they'll be needing help from multiple players. But I'm calling upon homelessness providers who ultimately work under the umbrella of state government to have standard operating procedures to make sure that cases of DV are identified rapidly and cases where children are affected are identified immediately and that we don't push people away because they're a working-age male and they're less needy. Many of them have children. Believe it or not, one of the people in this case had a pet and, because he had a pet cat, he could get no emergency accommodation. The best he could do was a car. We can be better, but we must draw a line and say, 'In a civilised democracy with social policy that we can be proud of we can always do better than putting our citizens in tents.'