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Thursday, 14 September 2023
Page: 26

Mrs ARCHER (Bass) (11:34): Given I gave my initial speech indicating my support for the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 back in February, I'm incredibly pleased that the stalemate has ended and I can begin to hold Labor to account for a promise that I and my electorate have put our faith in them to deliver on.

I make no apologies for supporting the Housing Australia Future Fund. In the northern Tasmanian region of Bass, we are in the midst of a social and affordable housing crisis. According to data published by Everybody's Home, Bass has the highest proportion of people waiting for social housing in the state, at around 6.2 per cent. And it's not just confined to Launceston and surrounding suburbs. I encounter it in rural areas, from Scottsdale to my home town of George Town and the beautiful but remote Flinders Island. We shouldn't have to see people leaving the towns they grew up in, where they're connected to their families and their communities, because they can't access housing. Many tourism and hospitality businesses in some of our regional and rural hotspots are also struggling to recruit and retain employees, as there is simply nowhere for them to live.

As Nick Proud, CEO of PowerHousing Australia, shared with me recently, housing affordability has only deteriorated since the election, particularly as migration has rebounded post COVID, and the fund could help more than 80,000 Australian renters in need. He also noted that the delays in passing the Housing Australia Future Fund legislation have already jeopardised the 8,000 households and up to 25,000 Australians that could have had housing approved by mid-October.

The No. 1 constituent issues that come to my office are issues due to a lack of social or affordable housing. Every single day, I am contacted by someone who has been searching for secure accommodation for far too long. While there is strong anecdotal evidence I hear from local organisations—including Strike It Out, City Mission, Shekinah House, St Vinnies and the Salvation Army, who deliver essential services week after week—anyone in the region, and in Launceston particularly, can see it with their own eyes, as tents are now popping up in areas that we would never have seen them even 18 months or two years ago. Shekinah House coordinator Louise Cowan said that demand is ever-increasing. She said:

Generally across all the services we provide, we are seeing new people every week who haven't been homeless before and we know of others who are doing their third winter in a tent.

Paul Giddins, the wonderful owner of the Green Bean Cafe, provides meals to the homeless and to community members doing it tough. Paul has said that demand has grown to the point that, even though they have increased the number of meals they provide each week, there are still others missing out. CEO of St Vincent de Paul Heather Kent said the issue of supporting the community doing it tough was reaching a critical point, as costs of living continue to rise and housing availability remains low. Heather says:

We know that state, local and federal governments are working to stem that supply issue but it can't happen fast enough. We look at the vacancy rates in the major areas across Tasmania and we know that people are waiting weeks if not months to find a safe, appropriate and stable roof over their heads.

What I said in my initial speech stands today: how can I, in good conscience, say to them that I commit to doing what I can to help them and then turn around and vote against a policy that, although flawed, may help?

Back in February I called the then housing minister, Guy Barnett, to inform him of my decision to support the HAFF. I was pleased to see him speak out a few months later and call on his federal counterparts in the Senate to stop talking and start building. Minister Barnett said:

The top three priorities for delivering more homes faster is: supply, supply, supply.

…   …   …

And we just encourage Canberra get on with the job and give us the funding and the support that's needed to build more homes faster.

I will always fight for what's best for my community, no matter who is responsible for putting the legislation in front of me. If it will deliver better outcomes for the region I represent, it will get my vote.

I also want to acknowledge the work of Tasmanian senators Tammy Tyrrell and Jacqui Lambie, who in Senate negotiations will ensure that 1,200 new homes will be built in Tasmania over the next five years, double the original amount allocated to our island state.

Now the work for the federal government begins. You have my support on this, but I will be watching you closely to ensure that you do deliver what you have promised. There is far too much at stake for my community who are living in their cars, camping in public spaces or a friend's backyard, and for the pregnant women couch surfing, for this to fail.