Housing Amendment (Victorian Housing Register and Other Matters) Bill 2016

9 November 2016

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to speak on the Housing Amendment (Victorian Housing Register and Other Matters) Bill 2016 and to follow the member for Polwarth, who seemed to have an interest in this area. But I need to remind members opposite that they can get up and talk with some level of concern about the issue of public housing and community housing, but they will really be talking with forked tongues, because actually their record is one of slashing funding and support for public and community housing. Indeed the Royal Commission into Family Violence actually pinpointed the fact that the Liberal Party, in government, took out $330 million in support for housing, with investment in acquisition and renewal falling from $462.8 million in 2009–10 to $131 million in 2014–15.

It is a disgusting record for those opposite. When you are talking to your mates in Canberra, have a word to Malcolm and Barnaby about this matter, because they have not lifted a finger in this space in a long time — in fact they were trying to walk away from the national system that we had in place where the states and the federal government shared responsibility for the provision of community housing. They washed their hands of that, walked out the door and, frankly, have left thousands of people on the waiting list. That is why this bill is so important.

The one thing I do agree with the member for Polwarth about — and other people have raised this — is the fact that the issue of public housing is one of the most complex and difficult issues that you have to deal with when people come to the door of your electorate office, and a lot of that is to do with the fact that there are so many people on the waiting list. It is very daunting for a constituent to come in and say, ‘I’ve been told that I may have to wait 10 years, and I am actually in dire need today’. It is also very complex and perplexing for your constituents. They say they went down to the housing office and put their name down. Then they moved house because their rent went up, so they had to move. They had a family violence crisis, or their kids changed school for some reason, so they moved out of the area; therefore they did not get the letter to say that their housing application had been reconsidered and they had been put on another list or that they have to move to another area to get on another list.

This is a very, very complex system, and often people get mucked around and left out of the loop. They move down on the public waiting list, finding themselves way back from where they think they should be. Their needs are urgent, and yet they have gone backwards, through no fault of their own in many cases. So the need for this single register, where people can go in and register what their housing needs are is really paramount in making a success of how we deal with public housing in Victoria.

There are a lot of people on the list, as I have said, but there are also a lot of homeless people out there. This is a very big issue for us as a government and as a community, I have to say. It is a community and government response that is required here. You only have to walk down Bourke Street to see people that have half a household out on the street with them. As a community and certainly as a government — and I know that the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing is acutely aware of their needs — we have to say that we require further investment in this sector so that people can have a roof over their heads. After all, having a house or shelter is a basic human right. It actually says that in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a community and as a government — and indeed the government is investing record amounts in social housing — we should be making sure that we have a full-on attack on this problem.

I said before that those opposite really do speak with forked tongues, but I have to say they speak with hypocrisy. I refer to the recent council elections. I have to say the Kingston City Council area is one where there is some concern about where people are going to live. It is a nice area to live in; we all understand that.

Mr Richardson interjected.

Ms GRALEY — The member for Mordialloc is well aware of that. He is also well aware of the fact that there was an abhorrent campaign run during the Kingston City Council elections. It is shameful. I refer to a flyer that was distributed: ‘Important Kingston council election information for Dingley Village residents’, it reads. It has a number of dot points on it, but I am going to refer to a couple of them. One of them is about a person that I do know well. He used to work for me, and I know him to be a very talented, committed person, as well as a very dedicated councillor. It reads:

Cr Staikos has been a longstanding supporter of social/public housing and as a member of the Labor Party would be required to follow party policy to densify our suburbs.

And the next dot point is:

Cr Staikos facilitated the building of social housing on the car park of the Kingston town hall, bypassing planning laws and ruining a multimillion-dollar community asset.

That is wrong, wrong, wrong, but they are right in saying that Cr Staikos is a member of the Community Housing Federation of Victoria. It goes on to say:

Both Crs Staikos and Barth are committed to the local provision of social, subsidised housing …

Well, for me, that is a reason to vote for Cr Staikos, and when did it become such a terrible thing to work for a non-government organisation that is out there providing social housing? I actually think that it is a badge of honour to go and work for an organisation like the community housing association to address the need for community housing and to address the issues of homelessness, and we as a community should be saying, ‘Well done, Cr Staikos’. But, no, this is a dirt sheet put out by — let me read who authorised this:

Authorised by Cr Paul Peulich (retiring) and Dingley Village resident, 58 Golfwood Close, Dingley Village 3172.

I do know that this is Paul Peulich, son of upper house member Inga Peulich. I would have thought Paul’s mum could have had a word to her son and said, ‘This is not on. This sort of electoral material is not acceptable’. All it does is create fear and division, and it is in very bad taste in a democratic election situation. But, above all, what it does is demonise people for the fact that they may need social housing and that Cr Staikos is actually going out of his way or doing his job in making sure that people who want to live in that local area have reasonable housing to live in.

I think that people looked at this and thought, ‘What a disgusting little item this is’, and actually they must have, because as I recall Cr Staikos did very well at the last election. In fact he bolted in. So, for the snobs opposite, that sort of election campaign material, I have got to suggest to you, is not only unacceptable — in fact quite filthy — but it does not work either. People can see through it. I commend hardworking, dedicated councillors, and I must say too members of Parliament, who support social housing and community housing — that is, the provision of housing for people who are fleeing family violence, are facing hard times, have just lost their jobs, all the sorts of reasons that many people find themselves in social housing. These people do not need to be demonised and vilified and have their politicians looking down their nose at them. Quite the opposite: they need to be supported.

We actually should have a whole-of-Parliament approach to this issue in saying that is a good space for government to be in. It is a good space for government to be spending its money in, making sure that people have shelter over their heads where they go after a day. I commend this legislation. I commend the minister that brought it to the house, but I certainly say that there is a lot to be done in making sure that people get on the waiting list and get houses sooner rather than later.