Speeches

Speeches Chris has made in the Australian Federal Parliament.

Private Members’ Business - Social Housing

August 24, 2020

Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (10:33): I congratulate the Member for Newcastle on bringing this motion forward. I start with these words: 'With almost a million people losing their jobs, many people can no longer afford their rent. The current national shortfall of social housing is more than 433,000 properties, and it means that people who can't afford the rent in the private market can't get into social housing, and many are becoming homeless.' They're not my words; they're the words of Dr Eddie Jackson of the Liverpool City Council, speaking at the National Homelessness Week. I think he succinctly puts in perspective the distressing and desperate situation faced by many Australians today. According to the 2016 census, homelessness in Australia increased by 13.7 per cent in five years. That's approximately 116,000 Australians who experience homelessness on any given night. A housing crisis has been building up for years under this Liberal government’s inaction. We're seeing the escalation and the seriousness of this situation now reaching such a state that the Coronavirus is further impacting on homelessness.

While homelessness and housing instability are very real problems across the nation, they are particularly dire in my electorate, where we have an overrepresentation of disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals and families. According to analysis conducted by the Everybody's Home campaign, 1,700 people experienced homelessness in my electorate. In addition to that, there is a 5,400 shortfall in the social housing properties. Issues such as mental health, disability, unemployment, relationship breakdown, substance abuse, gambling, addiction and domestic violence can also put people at risk of homelessness. The risk of falling into homelessness is a real threat for these struggling families who've only been pushed further to the margins by mass job losses stemming from the challenges presenting from Coronavirus.

For many low-income households in my community the lack of social rental housing has placed an enormous strain on families who are forced to pay unacceptably high costs for housing. The inadequate supply of affordable rental housing has led to an increased number of households having to pay more than a third of their income on rent alone. It is no wonder that my electorate topped the nation in terms of rental stress. Research from the University of New South Wales Everybody's Home campaign showed that 44 per cent of households in Fowler are living in rental stress.

With the average household income in my electorate a little over $60,000, the great Australian dream of owning your own home will regrettably just remain that—a dream—for many of these families, given that they live from pay cheque to pay cheque. With many families struggling to afford the private rental market, the demand for affordable social housing is clearly stripped supply.

There is no denying the fact that homelessness perpetuates a severe housing problem across the nation, which has only been exacerbated by the current pandemic. It's a critical issue that needs to be addressed at all levels of government. To this end, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Mayor of Liverpool, Wendy Waller, and her team, who have been doing a terrific job in raising awareness about the need for greater social housing in our region. The council has participated in the Everybody's Home campaign, joining hundreds of organisations across the nation to call for the Morrison government to pledge its support to building social housing, to create jobs and address the issue of homelessness. This is an initiative that would certainly and wholeheartedly be supported on our side. As a matter of fact, it was an initiative that Labor successfully implemented as a key economic driver during the global financial crisis. The benefits were twofold. Not only did we see social housing grow by 20,000 and another 80,000 properties renovated, but we saw the substantial benefits to the economy, creating jobs and improving the lives of many Australians. After all, access to affordable, safe, sustainable housing is a basic human right.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST