Red carpet for a paedophile while families are homeless
There are many things that trouble me about convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson.
There is the debate about whether such offenders are ever capable of rehabilitation (I doubt it). There is the debate about whether we are doing enough to address the causal factors that hard wire this evil behaviour, transforming a person into a predator that destroys young people’s lives.
But one issue that seems to have escaped attention is how can a convicted paedophile from Queensland move to NSW and get himself a five year lease in public housing, while almost 40,000 more worthy tenants in NSW are waiting in the queue.
I suspect the four families who were featured in last week’s Four Corners program who were being shuffled from one motel room to another, with as many as five kids, must have been wondering what they had to do to get the same opportunity as Dennis Ferguson.
We hear a lot about the failures of our public hospital system, but what is happening in public housing and how we are failing to provide for our future housing needs is worthy of equal attention.
In 2006, 7483 families were homeless, an increase of 17 per cent since 2001. Of the 105,000 Australians defined as homeless, 26 per cent or 26,790 people were in families with children and 12 per cent were under the age of 12, just like those kids we saw in the 4 Corners programme last week.
As a Coalition, we have so far supported $3.5 billion of initiatives to address homelessness and affordable housing. While we agree with the Government on many solutions, such as early intervention strategies, supporting the charitable sector’s efforts and building more shelters, we disagree on the central role of public housing as part of the solution.
95 per cent of Australians live in private housing. 97 per cent of housing construction jobs are in the private housing industry. If you want to make a difference for construction jobs and ensure there are more houses for people to live in affordably, then you need to encourage people to build more homes in the private housing market.
The Rudd Government‘s response to the challenges on housing affordability has been an almost complete reliance on public housing as the answer. We do not share this confidence.
There are more than 178,000 people waiting for public housing across Australia. Building 19,200 new public housing dwellings will not meet this demand. Nor has it ever been the principal way we have been able to reduce public housing waiting lists. We need to find them a home in private housing.
Between 1996 and the start of the global financial crisis last year, the number of people waiting for public housing in Australia declined by almost 60,000 applicants. During this same period the public rental dwelling stock also fell by around 55,000 dwellings.
Nor does spending more public money on building public housing seem to have had much impact on the number of public housing dwellings we have available in stock.
Between 2003 and 2008, $4 billion was spent in real terms on new construction in public housing by State and Territory Governments. At the end of this period we had 10,000 less public housing dwellings than when we started. It is hardly a great job application to be given a further $6 billion by the Rudd Government of more borrowed taxpayer money to repeat these same failures.
Between 1996 and 2008, around 2 million people got a job, real wages increased by more than 20 per cent, and the private sector built more than 1.7 million homes, or around 140,000 per year. However, even this was not enough, as we know that prices and rents still moved up during this period.
It is estimated by ANZ we have a shortfall of at least 200,000 homes across the country. This mismatch between supply and demand is the reason why 30 families are competing for the one house today and why rents and prices are so high, not because there is not enough public housing.
We will need to build at least 160,000 homes every year for the next ten years to rebalance the supply demand equation – an increase of more than 15 per cent. Some say this should be higher and they could be right. This is not going to happen as long as it costs $200,000 to develop a block of land in our major cities in various taxes, charges and other costs, before you lay a brick.
It is also not going to occur while we have an undeclared war between the various regulatory agencies of Government, the development industry and local communities. We need a cease fire to get these homes built.
At a community level the key is involvement and restoring trust. The failure to deliver roads, infrastructure and other services needed to support new homes either at the city fringe or in established urban areas, has crashed community trust in new development.
We also a need a real reform revolution in our sclerotic public housing sector. Government should be more interested in flesh and blood than public bricks and mortar.
It should be about giving people and families the support they need to overcome the challenges they face in putting a roof over their own heads - not perpetuating some public housing empire – which isn’t even 20th century thinking, let alone 21st.
In return for the billions of dollars we spend every year, the Federal government must require mandatory reforms from State and Local Governments to remove the blockages to housing supply and radically reform their housing agencies that have failed Australians so badly. Well, failed everyone except Dennis Ferguson of course, who remains a guest of the state.
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