Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

States and territories should spend GST and stamp duty windfalls on homeless

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson has called on the states and territories to use some of their multi-billion dollar revenue windfalls from GST, stamp duty and gambling to help Australia’s homeless people.

Senator Patterson will meet with state and territory Community Services Ministers in Melbourne on Friday where she will urge them to match the Howard Government’s contribution to the fifth Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) agreement.

Speaking in Senate Question Time today Senator Patterson said for too long states and territories had shirked their responsibility by only providing around 40% of the total funding for the programme.

“I have recently seen claims by the state and territory Ministers that the Australian Government is cutting its funding towards SAAP. I will repeat once again, we are not cutting our funding – we are increasing it by around $175 million to a $931 million package.

“The Howard Government is asking the states and territories to stop trying to skirk their financial commitment towards SAAP and shoulder their fair share of the responsibility – we have asked them to contribute the same amount as we are.

“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 a $4 billion bonus from gambling during 2002-03.

“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 will continue our financial commitment, contingent on the states and territories increasing their own funding to levels, which more closely match our contribution.

“As part of the Australian Government’s offer, we have included an amount of $106.7 million which will be invested in easing unmet demand and improving SAAP service delivery.

“This funding was specifically allocated in response to discussions I have had with the sector.

“In addition to our SAAP funding, the Australian Government also funds the states around $202.6 million over five years to deliver the Crisis Accommodation Program, which funds the construction, acquisition and maintenance of buildings for SAAP funded services,” Senator Patterson said.