House debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Pensions and Benefits, Youth Homelessness

9:56 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I recently met with six young unemployed Tasmanians who have prepared a report that should be essential reading for every state and federal politician. To that end I promised these talented young women and men that I would hand-deliver a copy of their report to the federal Treasurer, and I will also ask to table a copy at the end of this statement. Thereal youth survival report 2020 was prepared as part of Colony 47's Backswing project and shows how Tasmania's housing crisis impacts young people's lives, mental health and chances of landing a job. It brings home clearly the unsurprising need for much increased investment in social housing and for unemployment benefits to be raised permanently to above the poverty line so as to provide a genuine living income.

The report makes shocking reading. For instance, many young Tasmanians recount being homeless, breaking the law to get a place to sleep, feeling their lives were threatened due to homelessness and not being able to afford rent. They skip meals, couch surf and can't afford to see a doctor. They are genuinely in financial stress, and, of course, their mental health suffers. They write: 'I have panic attacks over money daily. I can't afford therapy or to see a doctor', and: 'Youth accommodation services are rife with young people who fall into the missing middle of mental health care. Why are we not doing more to support them?', and, 'I was made homeless at 16 when my family kicked me out, and I ended up couch surfing for a few months while I was trying to complete my year 11 exams.'

Income is obviously central to this situation. It's clear that unemployment benefits must not fall below their current level, which includes the $250 coronavirus supplement. It certainly mustn't return to Newstart's $40 a day, because when the rate of employment support is that low you're creating a hard barrier to employment and sentencing young people to a lifetime of poverty. Frankly, we are setting these young people up to fail when they can't even afford the bus fare to get to a job interview.

The federal budget, I think, was a missed opportunity to address these fundamental challenges. It simply beggars belief that Australia is headed for a $1 trillion debt, yet we have still not addressed two major causes of poverty—that is, the severe shortage of affordable and often supported accommodation and the woefully inadequate government pensions and payments, in particular for the unemployed.

The young homeless and broke men and women of this country genuinely deserve a break. Until politicians do give them that break, we let them down terribly. I seek leave to table their report.

Leave granted.