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I welcome the opportunity this evening to talk about a housing forum I recently hosted in my electorate. The forum brought together many from our community, including representatives from local aid agencies, Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services, as well as our local councillors and state members of parliament. On the table for discussion were homelessness, tenancy eviction and mortgage stress.
These are issues of huge importance to my local community. A recent report from the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal shows that 263 eviction warrants were executed in 2012-13. Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, a total of 684 evictions were executed. Let me repeat that, because it is a shocking figure—684 households within the Wyndham local government area have been evicted over the past three years. This represents the highest number for any LGA within the state—and this is only tenancy eviction. It does not include the number of local residents who are homeless, those who are desperately waiting for public housing, those at risk of foreclosure on their mortgages or those for whom meeting the rent is a week to week proposition.
Over the election campaign, while at train stations and street stalls, numerous local residents approached me about these issues, not just for themselves but out of concern for a friend, a neighbour or the wider community. I think it is because the concept of home is one we all hold very dear. Indeed, at the end of a parliamentary sitting week, I am particularly reminded of just how important it is. When these people are at risk of tenancy eviction or not being able to meet their housing payments, we know their employment, their education and the future of their family are also at risk.
Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed and so, following my election as member for Lalor, I wanted to take immediate action. I knew a forum would be the best way to bring together people from across our community—to talk about the local experiences of housing and homelessness, to discover what we have and what is missing and, ultimately, to help find a solution. The causes surrounding and affecting housing stress in our community are probably not a surprise. They range from being afraid to ask for help, to domestic violence, family breakdown and drugs and alcohol. They are the same issues that to some degree affect every community in Australia. But in a growing community like ours, where infrastructure and services can sometimes struggle to keep up, they are exacerbated. Too often residents, whatever their problem may be, do not know where to go for help and so we lose our best chance for success—early intervention.
In discussing the factors that are worsening the issue, we also spoke about how much the cuts currently being proposed by the Abbott government would hurt. The abolition of the SchoolKids Bonus and the end of the low income support bonus will only punish the most vulnerable in our community. Already constituents are contacting me afraid of what Abbott's axe will mean for their ability to meet their rent or mortgage payments, put food on the table and send their kids to school.
I have also been contacted about the ATO's draft ruling in relation to charging GST on moveable home estates. I know that Bob, a local Werribee resident, is concerned that should the changes go ahead, many—particularly seniors—may not be able to stay in their homes. Even more troubling, one of the first things Tony Abbott did as Prime Minister was to abolish the Council on Homelessness, and that was followed soon after by the axing of the National Housing Supply Council. This hardly signals a commitment to tackling housing stress.
More recently, the government has refused to commit to the National Affordable Housing Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. Under the Affordable Housing Agreement, more than $6 billion worth of assistance was supplied to low- and middle-income Australians in its first five years. Locally, under the Social Housing Initiative, we saw a helping hand extended with thirteen homes built for Wyndham families. The Partnership Agreement on Homelessness also provided funding to help those in our community at risk. There was long-term accommodation, emergency assistance and outreach for those particularly vulnerable—our young people, seniors, those with mental health concerns. And now we hear that the government is unwilling to confirm future performance reporting for the National Rental Affordability Scheme.
This is of grave concern to everyone in our community, because a home is more than four walls. I call on the coalition to affirm their commitment to tackling housing stress and homelessness, and to continue the important work undertaken by previous Labor governments.
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