13 Oct 2016

On 5 October 2016 Labor convened a roundtable which included represented stakeholders from from the housing and homeless sector, unions and other interested parties. The issue of housing and homelessness is a huge economic and social issue. We have 105,000 Australians, and that’s a conservative estimate, either homeless or living in stressed housing conditions. Senator Cameron held a press conference prior to the Roundtable.


Subject/s: Housing & Homelessness; Turnbull Government’s failure to address Housing and Homelessness issues; Coalition cuts to Housing and Homelessness services.


Thank you for coming along today, I am here with John Falzon from the St Vincent de Paul Society, Adrian Pisarski from National Shelter and Andrea Galloway from Evolve Housing.

The issue of housing and homelessness is a huge economic and social issue. We have 105,000 Australians, and that’s a conservative estimate, either homeless or living in stressed housing conditions. Today Labor is convening a roundtable which will include NGOs from the housing and homeless sector, unions and other interested parties.

National Homelessness Week came and went a few weeks ago with absolutely no statement from the Government. No Minister in the Government thought it was important enough to mention homelessness in Australia. No Assistant Minister found it important enough to make any mention of it and no back bencher, to my  knowledge, made any mention of housing and homelessness during National Homelessness Week.

Since 2013 the Government has diminished support for housing and homelessness in this country. They have not provided certainty for the National Partnership Agreement. They opposed the National Rental Affordability Scheme and that provided 20,000 homes and another 50,000 houses would have been available through that approach. They cut funding to Homelessness Australia, to National Shelter, to the Community Housing Federation mainly to stop advocacy and policy development in this area.

The Government cut $44 million for capital funding for crisis accommodation for women and children facing domestic violence. They abolished the National Housing Supply Council. The abolished the PM’s Council on Homelessness. They abolished the Ministerial Advisory Council. This is a government that sees housing and homelessness purely from an approach of neglect and indifference.

On the counter position, Labor sees it as a major economic and social issue. This is a mainstream issue for all Australians. Everyone should not only have access to a job, but they should have access to housing. But unfortunately in this country the rates of home ownership are falling; they are falling for young people, they’re falling for households, and I was surprised to see that the density of home ownership in Australia is now behind the density in the UK, which most people wouldn’t even accept. There is affordability stress. People can’t get accommodation close to where they work. So this is a huge productivity issue in this country.

Housing shortages increase, social housing stock is in decline and we’re seeing a structural change from ownership to renting. There are a number of issues that we need to take up with the States; Commonwealth funding is not matched by the States; Commonwealth Rent Assistance is increasing by 7% per year, when State governments are moving their public housing stock into the community housing area. The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness expires in June ‘17, next year, and we need certainty for that National Partnership Agreement now. The Government should be dealing with it now and providing certainty to the new services that the NPAH has provided.

A number of policy issues have been raised with me. There’s terrific support anywhere I go for Labor’s position on capital gains tax and on negative gearing. It’s been raised with me that we need to do the same as in the UK and have a big push on inclusionary zoning with the developers actually helping to provide social housing if there is re-zoning taking place. I’ve been asked to look at shared equity in housing, how do we provide scale for institutional investors such as super funds so that they can play a part in increasing the housing stock in this country. Housing bonds; having a financial intermediary in place, as in the UK. Making sure the National Affordable Housing Agreement gets certainty and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Unfortunately, Malcolm Turnbull is showing no leadership and no courage in this issue. Exactly the same as he is showing no leadership and courage on other issues. We do need national leadership on housing and homelessness. There is a crisis in housing and homelessness in many areas in this country. Labor will continue to consult, starting today with the NGOs. We’re very keen to hear their views on how we can deal with this issue. We will consult with State governments and Oppositions around the country. We will consult with industry; we will consult with the financial institutions and the NGOs. Many people in the community, many people around Australia are doing it tough because they can’t get accommodation at a reasonable price. I speak to people every day on this issue and the main concern for many families is how their kids are going to afford housing, and they don’t want their kids to fall into homelessness. So this must become a mainstream issue. Malcolm Turnbull must appoint a Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Malcolm Turnbull should stop looking after his own back and start looking after Australians. Thank you.



Thursday, 6 October