Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

States fail to agree to support the homeless

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson has expressed disappointment at the failure of the states and territories to agree to provide half the funding for an agreement to help homeless people.

The state and territory Ministers today did not agree to the Minister’s request that they fund half of the joint State/Commonwealth Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), despite the Minister offering to increase base funding if they agreed to a 50:50 split.

“I am very disappointed that the states and territories did not accept my offer, despite the fact I offered them extra base funding if they agreed to match our existing funding levels. Today they have shown their lack of commitment to Australia’s homeless.

” I would like to reassure the sector that all Ministers agreed to make every effort to conclude negotiations for a SAAP V agreement by 1 July 2005 and I will be working hard to ensure that happens.

” I provided constructive suggestions as to areas where we could negotiate, including giving my commitment to consider allowing states and territories to increase their funding progressively to 50% over the next five years.

“For too long states and territories have shirked their responsibility by only providing around 40% of the total funding for the programme.

“Homelessness is primarily a state/territory responsibility and over the past four agreements the Australian Government has consistently put in more of the funding towards SAAP. We have now offered an extra $175 million for SAAP V.

“We are well aware that the states and territories are in a position to shoulder their responsibilities towards crisis accommodation for homeless people and contribute more funding for SAAP V.

“They are now receiving record GST windfalls – more than was originally expected. In fact, GST revenue is providing the states and territories a cumulative windfall of $11.8 billion up to the financial year 2007-08. In addition they have enjoyed $4 billion from gambling during 2002-03.

“In addition to our SAAP funding, the Australian Government also funds the states over $200 million not matched by the states and territories, over five years to deliver the Crisis Accommodation Program, which funds the construction, acquisition and maintenance of buildings for SAAP funded services. We also contribute around $2 billion to assist Australians through Rent Assistance,” Senator Patterson said.