Thursday, 18 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, in October last year the government committed to renewing the Equal Remuneration Order supplement for federally funded community services, yet homelessness services—which include domestic and family violence crisis accommodation—were excluded, and, nationally, are about to lose over $56 million in funding. This is the equivalent of over 500 frontline workers, the majority of whom are women. Prime Minister, this is obviously an absurd decision—not least because homelessness services are already turning away thousands of people, many of whom are, again, women and children fleeing domestic and family violence. Prime Minister, will the government protect vulnerable women and children and commit to including the homelessness services in the ERO deal?
I'll ask the minister for homelessness, housing and other matters to add to my answer. The member will probably be aware of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement—and this goes back to a time, actually, when I was the Minister for Social Services. For many, many years—it's an initiative that began under the member for Sydney, which established a National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness—this was an agreement which was done on an annual basis. It wasn't permanent funding; it was just one-year-only funding that got rolled over one year after one year. As minister, I made that a permanent arrangement, and that meant that the many thousands of organisations across the country that are involved in supporting homelessness in this country have been given funding on an ongoing and permanent basis. This is principally the responsibility of state governments, but, through the national partnership agreement, we have continued to provide federal support on a permanent basis—and that includes to many of the areas, including the ones that you've identified in your question. I'll ask the minister to add further to my answer but simply note that the Commonwealth continues to provide $1.6 billion a year through that agreement to states and territories to support the provision of housing and homelessness services. That support is provided to the states so the states can do their job of supporting people who find themselves in these positions of homelessness. We provide support to that arrangement, but state governments are, principally, responsible for that, and we encourage them, through our significant funding support for them, to do that job.
I thank the member for Clark for his question and for his long-term interest in these matters. In addition to what the Prime Minister has just said, yes, we made the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement more certain for all of the states and territories. What the Prime Minister also concluded when he renegotiated the agreement was indexation of the agreement. So not only is there more certainty with the funding, it has now been indexed. Indeed, the funding that you're referring to, which represents about three per cent of that agreement, resulted from a temporary measure that was put in place as a result of a Fair Work Australia equal remuneration order as a transitional arrangement many years ago. What the government has done instead is provide an additional $132.6 million over three years to increase base funding for DSS grant programs impacted by this cessation of those SACS supplement payments. This new ongoing funding—