Speech given to ACT Labor Annual Conference (29 July 2017)
Today, we are each taking time out of our weekend to try and make the world a better place. The values and principles we are debating today define Labor as the party which is prepared to commit to big ideas to solve big problems.
We fight for universal health care and we should equally fight for a universal right to shelter.
There is no more fundamental human right than access to safe and secure shelter, yet in the ACT we have the second-highest rates of homelessness in the country.
How is it that we have 2000 homeless people living in Canberra, while the Federal Government has nearly 200,000 square metres of unoccupied government offices in Canberra alone?
The only thing standing between homeless people and opening up government offices is bureaucracy and a lack of political will.
In Canberra’s cold July, the lack of action in opening up those government offices, just a third of which could shelter all of Canberra’s homeless, is unacceptable and cruel.
According to the most recent Productivity Commission statistics, in the ACT we fail to provide accommodation solutions to more than 34% of people seeking accommodation support. 16% of people requiring homelessness assistance are migrants from countries where English is not the main spoken language – almost double the national average.
I acknowledge the ACT government is looking into housing affordability and homelessness, and I hope that opening up of government offices is part of that solution.
Delegates, I urge you to support this amendment.