Monday, 24 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Senator McLucas. Is the minister aware that homelessness increased in Australia by 17 per cent between the 2006 and the 2011 census, with almost two-thirds of homeless people making requests to specialist homelessness services for accommodation being turned away, back onto the street? Will the government commit today to providing the resources to ensure that no-one seeking homelessness services in this way is turned away from services and support by 2020?
I thank the senator for the question. I think our government has had a very strong record when it comes to housing policy since we have been in government. We have had a circumstance where, first of all, we had a housing minister, unlike those opposite—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance: with respect to the minister, I have not asked about the legacy or the record; I asked about future policy taking us to 2020. I ask you to draw the minister to the actual question I asked.
Our government remains committed to the 2020 targets of our white paper on homelessness of halving the overall rate of homelessness and providing supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it. The ABS census data released last November shows that the rate of people sleeping rough fell by 13.5 per cent between 2006 and 2011. The rate of Indigenous homelessness has fallen by 14.5 per cent. However, the census headline figure showing an increase in the rate of homelessness of eight per cent is disappointing. The increase reflects the challenge and the complexity of homelessness.
However, more people are getting the help that they need. Specialist homelessness services provide important supports, in the form of accommodation and other assistance, to vulnerable people in times of crisis. We are committed to the continuation of current service levels and would like to reaffirm to the services sector and all stakeholders and clients that the Commonwealth's level of investment, as well as our commitment to quality and transparency, will continue. That is why we have committed up to $159 million over the next year, to be matched by the states and territories, toward a transitional agreement to continue to tackle homelessness. However, currently only four states—Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania—have committed funding to that project.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, as you have acknowledged, on any given night in Australia almost 7,000 people are sleeping rough. Has the government costed what it would take to build a permanent dwelling for every rough sleeper in Australia?
I do not have data about whether we have costed that. But the point of your question—are we going to build accommodation for every person who is sleeping rough—does not actually show an understanding of the complexity of homelessness. The complexity of homelessness means that there are people in different circumstances at any point in time who have taken different pathways to sleeping rough. Simply to say that we are going to build accommodation, just like that, does not answer the question. We need an array of services that go from short-term services to long-term permanent housing, which we have done a lot of since we have been in government.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The prefabricated structural insulated and modular housing industry offers great promise to significantly reduce housing costs and construction times and to establish a sustainable and affordable Australian housing industry. Has the government investigated the reduction in time and cost that this industry could offer to get people off the street and into permanent and high-quality housing?
You would understand that, as the representative minister, I do not have the level of detail that you are asking for. If there is further information, though, I am happy to get that for you. Your question does not acknowledge the answer I gave you, that these are locational questions. They vary around the country from time to time. There is not a simple answer to homelessness. We have to be responsive in many, many different ways. Relocatable homes may be part of the answer. I will take that on notice.