Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Constituent Statement - Common Ground

Homelessness is one of the great challenges we face in Australia. According to the last census data, almost 105,000 Australians were homeless, including nearly 7,500 families. If you are from Brisbane, as I am, you think of the Suncorp Stadium and fill it twice: that is a lot of people, and therefore a challenge for us all. In Queensland alone, the data tells us that we have the second-highest homeless population in Australia, with more than 26,000 people considered homeless.

Last year, together with many others, I participated in the St Vincent de Paul CEO Sleepout. I did that in Melbourne. This year, I did it in Brisbane. This year St Vinnies should be congratulated for the fact that they attracted more than 1,000 CEOs from across Australia who collectively raised more than $5 million for their work in dealing with the challenge of homelessness. This is something which the entire country should have as a continuing core priority.

When this government was elected, we embraced a new National Affordable Housing Agreement between the Commonwealth and the states of $6.2 billion over five years, starting in 2008-09. As part of our early and significant action to respond to the global financial crisis and keep Australia out of recession we also embarked upon a program to repair some 80,000 units of social housing, including 12,000 of those units which were, as of then, uninhabitable. We also constructed a further 19,300 new social housing dwellings. We also have more than 7,000 affordable homes and nearly 8,000 rented or available for rent under the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which is on track I am advised, to have boosted the stock of affordable housing by 50,000 units by 2015. These are important achievements. They do not solve the problem of homelessness, but they do add extra capacity nationwide. That is where we must go if we are to deal with this in the long term.

Following the CEO Sleepout, which the member for Wentworth also participated in Sydney, I also went down the road to the new facility run by Brisbane Common Ground. This is a $129 million investment with the Australian government in Common Ground facilities across Australia. In Brisbane we have invested some $40 million in this facility. It is a 146-unit permanent supported housing solution which aims to end chronic homelessness for those who are sleeping rough of an evening. Half of these units will be made available to people who are permanently homeless. They are also wheelchair accessible. This is important. On 7 July, the first people move in. Common Ground should be congratulated, as should all efforts to deal with the challenge of homelessness.


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