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Notice given 14 June 2011

685  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Treasurer—In regard to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the Principles).

(1) Is the Government aware that the Principles are widely recognised as a leading voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative designed to provide guidance to extractives companies on maintaining the security of their operations in a manner that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms.

(2) Is the Government aware that the Governments of Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Colombia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America actively participate in and promote the Principles.

(3) Why has the Government to date refused to join the Principles.

(4) What is the Government doing to ensure that Australian companies operating as ‘high risk’ companies comply with the Principles and do not, through their security arrangements, cause harm to local communities.

(5) Will the Government consider supporting the Principles.

(6) Does the department currently promote the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and responsible mining by Australian companies overseas; if so, how.

686  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Treasurer—With reference to the proposed changes to the way the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will conduct the homelessness count in the 2011 Census:

(1) Why did the ABS undertake a methodological review of Counting the Homeless 2006 .

(2) How did the ABS consult with the sector before announcing these changes.

(3) What kind of resourcing has been devoted to the homelessness count over the past two census in 2001 and 2006, and does this differ from the resources for the 2011 Census.

(4) Are the proposed changes due to a budget cut or any kind of resourcing issue.

(5) Why was there such a long delay in releasing the discussion paper the ABS promised would be released in December 2009 but was only released in March 2011 about the proposed changes to the methodology.

(6) Why does the ABS still believe the Chamberlain and McKenzie methodology, used for the 2001 and 2006 census, led to an over estimation of homelessness figures, even though this view was and continues to be strongly refuted by homelessness services, peak bodies and homelessness researchers.

(7) What is the ABS response to our understanding that peak bodies, researchers and service providers still maintain in fact the homeless are being undercounted.

(8) Can the ABS confirm it will be doing all the analysis itself using its new methodology and that this will not include:

(a) Chamberlain and McKenzie’s analysis of people staying in supported accommodation data;


 (b) extensive field work usually carried out by Chamberlain and McKenzie; and

(c) an analysis of the Secondary School Student Survey.

(9) Will the ABS form their homelessness estimate predominately on raw census data.

(10) How does this overcome the problem that homelessness is ‘hidden’ and therefore difficult to measure without expert analysis, a sound background in research and an understanding of the complexity of homelessness.

Consultation with sector

(11) In regard to the forum that took place on 24 May 2011 with the ABS and key homelessness stakeholders:

(a) did the ABS call this forum;

(b) apart from this forum, how has the ABS tried to engage with the sector since announcing these dramatic changes;

(c) how many submissions did the ABS receive on its discussion paper and how were they incorporated; and

(d) will the ABS be establishing a sector reference group.

(12) Does the ABS appreciate that up until now Australia has been in the fortunate and unique position (compared to other countries around the world) of having a consensus on homelessness figures.

(13) Will the ABS guarantee that it works to a consensus on publishing revised figures and introducing a new methodology.

New assumptions reflected in the methodology

(14) Can the Minister confirm some of the more controversial assumptions in the discussion paper including:

(a) all people over 55 years old living in caravan parks will be classed as ‘grey nomads’ and will not be counted as homeless;

(b) people living in attractive holiday destinations cannot be classed as homeless;

(c) there are only 1 253 people experiencing primary homelessness in the Northern Territory, but this is based on the assumption that 1 million square miles of territory can be covered in one night; and

(d) people staying in improvised dwellings should not be considered homeless if they have an income from employment or are landowners.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and homelessness

(15) Given that the revised count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were homeless and staying with friends and relatives across Australia on census night has been revised to 872 (discussion paper, p. 73) which is significantly down from the figure of 5 438 in recently released Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures of Indigenous people currently experiencing secondary homelessness, how can the significantly revised down figures be reconciled.

(16) How was the AIHW consulted regarding the proposed changes to the methodology.

(17) How will the new ABS methodology incorporate overcrowding experienced in Indigenous households.


 (18) What strategies are being considered or employed to improve the accuracy of counting Indigenous people in the census.

(19) Given that the census in the territories is only conducted over one night, yet the Northern Territory spans more than 1 000 000 square km and has the highest number of remote communities in Australia and it is stated that between 2001 and 2006 the number of rough sleepers is said to have declined by 26 per cent - yet no additional services or accommodation were provided in this time and it is unlikely that this number found accommodation; it is therefore likely that significant numbers of undercounting of homeless people occurred in the last census, and will occur again, therefore:

(a) what measures will the ABS have in place to prevent undercounting of homeless people in the Northern Territory in the 2011 and subsequent census; and

(b) has the ABS considered extending the census period to more than one day; if not, will it.

School students, young people and homelessness

In regard to the number of young people experiencing homelessness in 2006 which has been revised by the ABS from approximately 21 000 down to 5 000 nationally:

(20) Given that 35 per cent of Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) funding is currently allocated to services providing responses to young people, how will a significant drop for the 2011 figures impact on funding for youth services in the future.

(21) Is the ABS aware that in the north and west Melbourne metropolitan regions alone, current demand data shows that there are 861 young person headed households awaiting assistance.

In regard to the revised estimate for the number of people aged 12 to 24 experiencing homelessness on census night which decreased from 32 444 to 13 316 (discussion paper, p. 73):

(22) Does the ABS have confidence in the accuracy of the new figure.

(23) What is the estimated margin of error and how was it calculated.

(24) Given that a strong concern with the revised methodology is the proposal to only gather data from six schools, over 1 day, on youth homelessness, compared with thousands previously:

(a) what was the rationale for this; and

(b) how will the ABS work with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) regarding any changes to the scope or process for collecting data on youth homelessness through schools.

In regard to the decision not to use the National Census of Homeless School Students, which in 2006 identified approximately 7 000 young people who were homeless but still at school:

(25) Can the ABS confirm why the National Census of Homeless School Students is not going ahead.

(26) Does FaHCSIA sit on the Steering Group for the ABS review.

(27) Has the ABS been provided with any advice in making the case that the National Census on Homeless School Students is not required.


Secondary homelessness

(28) In regard to the significant revision down by 58 per cent (or 27 277 people) from the secondary homelessness figures in the 2006 census, can an outline and account be provided for all of the assumptions underlying the removal of these 27 277 people in the secondary homelessness category.

Undercounting of specific and marginalised groups

(29) For each of the following groups, can the ABS provide an explanation on how it intends to better include them and count them more accurately in the next census:

(a) women escaping domestic violence who seek assistance from a homelessness service but are turned away and either sleep in a car in a concealed location or are accommodated by a friend or relative for the night;

(b) Indigenous people in overcrowded households;

(c) rough sleepers in the ‘long grass’ in the Kimberley and Pilbara in Western Australia and Darwin-Daly district in the Northern Territory;

(d) families in private motels paid for by temporary state housing vouchers; and

(e) single people staying with friends in public housing not named on the lease (due to rules prohibiting sub-letting they often will not identify as residing with the tenant even if this is the case).

New ABS concept of ‘rooflessness’ rather than homelessness

(30) Does the discussion paper suggest that the ABS is moving towards a view of homelessness that focuses on a person’s ‘rooflessness’, that is, homelessness defined only as rough sleeping or primary homelessness.

(31) How is this definition helpful to the current conceptualization of homelessness, particularly in terms of devising responses to prevent and intervene early before primary (‘roofless’) and chronic homelessness occurs.