Monday, 8 February 2016
Last Friday morning I spent some time with Drew, who is a Big Issue vendor, at Central Station. TheBig Issue, as members will know, is a magazine that is sold by people who are homeless to support themselves and it also raises awareness of homelessness in Australia.
It continues to shock me that there are around 100,000 Australians who are homeless on any one night and around six per cent of them are sleeping rough. In my electorate in central Sydney, obviously, the issue of homelessness is a compelling and obvious one.
Drew and I were at Central Station across the road from Belmore Park where every night a tent city springs up. It is extraordinary that in a country as wealthy as Australia and a city as advanced as Sydney we continue to see people sleeping rough, because there is nowhere for them to go. That is the reason that when Labor were in government we had our homelessness white paper and invested substantially in homelessness prevention and alleviation, and in issues around affordable housing. When we were in government we invested in the National Rental Affordability Scheme to build 50,000 affordable rental homes, invested $6 billion in social housing to build 21,600 new public housing dwellings and provided $550 million for additional homelessness services.
In my electorate we saw the building of Common Ground in Camperdown—a fantastic, beautiful new facility where half the people are ordinary low-income earners and the other half are rough sleepers who have been moved in, essentially, straight from the street. I visited there a few months ago to see how well that is operating. We also built Annie Green Court in Redfern for frail, aged homeless people. It is wonderful to see these two physical manifestations in my electorate alone, and I know that across Australia members were proud to open new facilities in their electorates.
The other important issue is the services that go with these new buildings. We invested through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which now provides for an extra 180 services, including in my electorate. One example is Platform 70 in Woolloomooloo. Woolloomooloo was in my electorate before it was redistributed out, and it has now been redistributed back in. In its first year Platform 70 got 38 rough sleepers into permanent homes and an evaluation carried out by the UNSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found a 94 per cent tenancy retention rate. Sadly, much of this funding has been cut under the current government, including $88 million for new building.