Consideration in Detail – Homelessness

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (13:14): My question is to the absent Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing, who’s supposed to be here right now answering questions but hasn’t turned up. But we shouldn’t be surprised, because this is a minister who doesn’t do his job. This is a minister who has been in the job now for six months—or, to be exact, 181 days—as minister for homelessness, and he’s uttered the word ‘homelessness’ publicly on only six out of those 181 days. No wonder he won’t turn up here to answer questions about what he’s doing.

Worse than that, he even refuses to meet with organisations whose job is to help the homeless. This is a letter from Australia’s peak homelessness organisation, National Shelter. It’s a complaint to the Prime Minister about this absent minister. It’s dated 21 April, and it says they’ve been ‘unable to secure a meeting with the minister himself despite repeated requests’. Three weeks later, they got a response from the Prime Minister’s office telling them, if the minister wouldn’t meet with them, to try Minister Ruston. So two weeks ago we asked Minister Ruston in estimates, ‘Were you aware that the Prime Minister had flicked this organisation to you?’ She had no idea. But, to her credit, straight after estimates, her office picked up the phone, contacted National Shelter and organised a meeting. My question to the absent minister is: after 181 days in the job, why won’t you meet with them? Why won’t you do your job?

They’re not the only ones being ignored by this absent minister. The head of Homelessness Australia can’t get in the door. Why won’t the minister meet with them? They’ve tried and they’ve been rejected. They’ve been refused entry. Here’s another organisation: the Community Housing Industry Association, CHIA, a peak body for community housing organisations in Australia. This is another organisation that has tried to meet with this absent minister and been rejected. They have been refused a meeting. This is his job. It’s part of his job to meet with organisations who are trying to reduce homelessness and give this government some ideas about what to do.

Heaven knows they could do with some ideas, because there are more people homeless in Australia today than ever before. In some parts of Australia, there are more people sleeping rough now than before COVID. Last year, 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence got turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed—because the inn was full. That’s 27 a night. It’ll happen again tonight: another 27 mums fleeing in the middle of the night and getting turned away because there isn’t room. Last financial year, 95,000 individuals got turned away from homelessness services in this country just because the services didn’t have the resources they needed to help them. The people who are trying to help this minister fix it can’t even get in to see him.

Whenever he gets asked about this, what’s his answer? Unbelievably, he says it’s not his job. He says it’s the job of state governments. The name on the door is ‘minister for homelessness’. Why does he even have the title ‘minister for homelessness’? Why won’t he have the guts to turn up here and answer these questions? Why on earth does he deserve to keep his job?