Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

Letter to the Editor – The Australian – Tackling Homelessness

I was disappointed to read The Australian’s reporting of the Government’s efforts to tackle homelessness (Homeless Plan in Disarray 7/7/2009).

The Government has made an unprecedented commitment to tackling homelessness in Australia with combined investments totalling more than $7.8 billion over and above those previously provided.

This investment includes $1.2 billion in additional services and crisis accommodation for which the first payments of $14.6 million are being made to five states today – on time.

It includes $6 billion to construct 20,000 additional units of social housing and undertake 50,000 repairs to increase useable stock to help halve homelessness by 2020. Already 15,460 repairs have been completed, and new figures today show construction work has commenced on 687 new social housing dwellings across the country, while more than 7,000 new homes have been approved for construction.

It includes $150 million promised prior to the election for 600 additional units of housing for homeless families of which 48 have already been purchased and a total of 731 will be added to the total stock of housing over time.

In recognition of the increased financial need arising from the global recession, the Government has also moved decisively to double emergency relief funding – an additional $55 million over the next two years – which will go to helping families in acute crises.

This record commitment is being implemented responsibly and on time.

The fact that negotiations to maximise the benefit of the additional funding has taken additional time with three jurisdictions in no way justifies the grossly inaccurate headline your newspaper chose to use. These negotiations are directed at maximising the additional funding contributions from the states and territories. Attempts by the Commonwealth Government to ensure the highest possible funding commitments by governments at all levels to homelessness are a necessary part of meeting the targets to reduce homelessness.

Nor does it justify the paper’s failure to recognise the significant progress the Government has made in implementing its agenda to improve the lives of the 105,000 Australians who find themselves homeless on any given night.

Tanya Plibersek