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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11834

Ms MARINO (8:07 PM) —I rise to speak on the motion moved by the member for Lindsay. I thank the member for Lindsay for bringing the issue of homelessness before the House and for the opportunity to participate in the debate. Homelessness is a very serious issue both in my electorate of Forrest and across Australia—that inadequate access to safe and secure housing that so many of us take for granted. Homelessness affects thousands of people both directly and indirectly. In 2008 it was estimated that there were 958 homeless people in the South West of WA, which equates to a rate of 52 homeless people per 10,000 head of population.

As we have heard, and are all aware, there is a very serious personal risk in living on the street, living in crisis or refuge accommodation or living in improvised accommodation. We know that domestic and family violence are the most common reasons for homelessness. Eviction and previous accommodation completion are other major contributors, as are relationship and family breakdown, usual accommodation being unavailable and financial difficulties—which is why the member for Cook was so right when he confirmed that the need for jobs is very important.

Participants at two recent Shelter WA housing forums expressed their belief that there was a hidden homelessness problem in the South West of WA. It has been confirmed that, at a rate of 52 per 10,000 head, the South West had a higher proportional rate of homelessness than the Perth metropolitan area. Furthermore, current figures indicate that around 105,000 Australians are homeless each night. In December, 16,000 Australians were classified as sleeping rough on the streets. The level of homelessness in Australia has remained constant for the past 12 years. In fact, youth homelessness has actually reduced over the last five years, and programs such as Reconnect have been very important in this process.

Homelessness is about more than just not having a house or a home to live in, and there are no easy answers as often each case is specific. The coalition is consistently giving bipartisan support to measures that address homelessness and believes that it is essential we achieve the correct policy balance. While building extra shelters is useful and necessary, they alone do not address the underlying causes of homelessness. We believe that an integrated outcomes-based policy is required that addresses many of the complexities of homelessness including mental health, employment services, substance abuse, family support, law enforcement and juvenile justice. A collaborative approach that not only houses the homeless, but also builds new economic growth—one of the keys to encouraging provision of private market housing that is affordable to as many Australians as possible.

Whilst in government, the coalition promoted a number of innovative approaches to housing finance, the acceleration of housing supply and reduction regulatory barriers. Public housing availability is an increasing issue in my electorate and I note that there are increasing numbers waiting for public housing. An article in the Australian on 6 November stated:

…while the Rudd government’s multi-billion-dollar stimulus measures to boost the nation’s social and community housing stock will eventually add 20,000 homes, it’s a drop in the bucket given that 250,000 houses are needed to meet the immediate demand, …

The West Australian reported increasing waiting lists for public houses in Western Australia. In an article in the West Australian, the Department of Housing and Works Director-General, Grahame Searle, stated that the median rental price in WA has soared $50 a week in recent years from about $160 a week four years ago, to about $360 a week now.

In conclusion, the coalition gives bipartisan support for the homeless program, but we believe that we must look at permanent solutions and will continue to do so. I recognise the work and efforts of all of the groups and individuals in my electorate who assist with homeless people and work tirelessly to support them. The Collie Rotary Club recently held a ‘sleep out with the homeless’ campaign in an effort to not only raise the profile of people who are homeless in their community but to also raise funds for a range of initiatives to support them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.