Doorstop Interview – Windale – Friday 16 October 2020

SUBJECT: Social Housing.
JODIE HARRISON, STATE MEMBER FOR CHARLESTOWN: I’d like to welcome Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Housing and Pat Conroy, Member for Shortland here today. We’re here at Casie’s house in Windale, looking at some really very, very ordinary lack of maintenance that’s been happening in this particular property. But this is indicative of what’s happening in housing right across this particular suburb and right across Department of Housing, certainly in my electorate and other electorates around. I’m very pleased at what Federal Labor is doing: committing to put additional money into repairing and maintaining social housing. That’s a really important thing, and it’s going to make a huge difference to the lives of people like Casie. I’m happy to hand over to Pat.
PAT CONROY, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: As the Federal Member for Shortland for this area, it’s really important that I support every resident and support the efforts of Jodie as the State Member to fight for a better outcome for people like Casie. Thank you, Casie, for sharing your experience with us. What we’ve seen inside quite frankly, is unacceptable. No Australian should be asked to live in the conditions that Casey and her three kids are being asked to live in. It’s wrong. It’s unacceptable. And it’s really up to the state and federal governments to fix things. To have young kids growing up being exposed to black mould is just a disgrace, the health implications. And we’ve got a compact with every Australian. Every Australian is entitled to have a roof over their head, to be able to raise a family with dignity. So thank you, Casie for showing us what is failing in the system. It’s a great pleasure to have Jason up here to talk about what is going on because what Labor has announced, and Jason will go into the detail, is really, really important, because this is about a Federal Labor Government partnering with state governments to get this fixed, to get this fixed so Casie and her family can have the housing they’re entitled to, the housing that Casie pays rent for every week. And as importantly, this initiative is about getting local workers back into work, because these problems can be fixed very quickly. They’ll employ locals doing that, they’ll use local supplies picked up very quickly. This is not like those infrastructure announcements that are off in the never never that won’t deliver jobs in the next few years, that will come three or four years down the track. This is local work, delivered immediately to benefit our community, benefit families like Casie’s. So thank you Jason for coming and talking about what we’re doing.
JASON CLARE: Thanks, Pat, thanks, Jodie and particularly Casie. Thank you for allowing us into your home today and showing us the conditions that you’re forced to live in. Casie’s a mum, she’s got three beautiful kids, and they’re forced to live in a house that no one, no Australian should be forced to live in. A place full of mould, and leaks and rot. We saw the mould growing out of the floor and out of the floorboards. You could just imagine the health hazard this creates for three little kids living in a house like this, and the mould that could be potentially growing in their lungs.  It’s the reason why Casie and the kids can’t live here. They’re paying rent, but can’t live here because the conditions are just so bad. This is not on. This is Australia, and yet Aussies are forced to live in these sorts of conditions.
We’ve got a situation in Australia at the moment where tradies, who are building houses and repairing houses, are running out of work. It just doesn’t make sense that you got tradies running out of work, and you’ve got houses like this that Aussies can’t live in. It’s why Albo and Labor said the Government should put money into repairing social housing right across the country. It’s not just houses like this in Windale, there’s about 5000 homes that the Government owns or that Community Housing Organisations own in the Hunter New England area that need urgent repair and maintenance. There’s about 100,000 homes like this right across the country that need to be fixed right now and tradies who need the work. That’s why we’ve said the Government should inject half a billion dollars to do this repair work. Get state governments to put money in as well and we can repair a hell of a lot of houses like this right across the country. Places that have got mould and leaks and rot, places that Aussies can’t live in, places that are a health hazard, and you create work for tradies in almost every suburb, and every town big and small, right across the country. So I call on the Federal Government again today to do something about this, help our fellow Australians and help Australia’s tradies who are running out of work and need work here in the Hunter and right across the country.
CASIE MARTIN, SOCIAL HOUSING TENANT: I’ve lived here since December but I had to stop living here since, as the weather started getting colder. You could smell the house, it was revolting. There was dampness all through the hallway and stuff like that. It just wasn’t livable. I just couldn’t have my kids here.
JOURNALIST: And were you shocked or surprise the state of the property?
MARTIN: I was shocked.
JOURNALIST: Had you lived in social housing before?
MARTIN: No, but this was my second offer and I could not turn it down, so I took it. 
JOURNALIST: And how have you found trying to get maintenance repairs? How has that process been?
MARTIN: Very hard, very hard.
JOURNALIST: What were some of the issues you encountered? What are the difficulties been?
MARTIN: Coming out to address the actual damage through the hallway and throughout the whole house. All I keep on getting is someone is going to come out, and when they have come out, they’ve gone back and said that the problem has been resolved. The problem has not been resolved. I have had a couple of people out, that’s it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think enough being done to rectify the situation?
MARTIN: I don’t know.
JOURNALIST: And so you’re not, you’re no longer living here?
MARTIN: No, I’m pretty much staying with my mum at the moment, because I cannot have me or the kids in this livable state. It’s disgusting. And I would not expect anyone else to be living like this.
JOURNALIST: I understand that you’ve got an autoimmune disease, is that right? So the mould, I guess is a problem? What’s that like for you?
MARTIN: It hasn’t affected me now for six years. But I’ve got to get regular check-ups and stuff like that. It attacks off all my organs and last time it broke down my kidneys and liver and I was almost on dialysis. I had to spend a very long time in hospital.
JOURNALIST: So having mould in the house is a quite a concern for you?
MARTIN: Yes, not just for me, but my children as well.
CLARE: And you’ve got two premmy kids as well.
MARTIN: Yes, I’ve got two premmy babies so I’m very concerned of their health, what it could do in the long term if I were to stay here. 
JOURNALIST: It seems like the Government has overlooked in the Budget the investment in social housing. Why do you think that is?
CLARE: Well, the Federal Government says this is someone else’s responsibility. They say it’s the State Government’s responsibility. That’s just wrong, it’s all of our responsibility – the Federal Government and the State Government. Casie’s a wonderful mum, she loves her kids. She got three beautiful kids that live here, two that are premmy. She’s got her own health problems. You know, how can the Prime Minister look her and her kids in the eye and say it’s okay to live in a house like this? The Department hasn’t even come out here to say this is what we’ll do to fix it, or this is how long it’s going to take. You can see the mould growing out of the floor. I just wish the TV cameras had sort of a scratch and sniff mechanism so you could smell the house and what’s going on here. Casie’s doing her best to try and make it livable, but she’s decided, as any right-thinking person would decide, that it’s not safe to have kids there. We’ve got homes here for Aussies that need a bit of help, they should be places that don’t have mould and leaks and rot. It should be the sort of places that you’d have your mum or your dad or your kids in, and this isn’t. And we can fix it. 
This is the thing that’s strikes me as so wrongheaded. The Prime Minister knows that tradies are running out of work. There’s supposed to be 170,000 homes built every year, that’s dropped down because migration has stopped and because people don’t have a lot of money to buy a house at the moment, a lot of people are unemployed. If there’s not a lot of demand to build houses, lots of tradies are going to run out of work. But we can help stop that if we inject some money into rundown social housing, create work for local tradies and help Casie and her family and lots of other mums and dads here in Windale and right across the country.
JOURNALIST: Have you seen this type on thing across the country?
CLARE: I saw it in South Australia on the weekend, a bathroom that was black with mould. I saw it in Western Sydney a couple of weeks ago, with a wardrobe that looked like it had been painted black.  It was mould. And there was one jacket in the wardrobe, and mould was growing in the jacket. The dad who lived there with his kids had to throw all the rest of the clothes out. He’s got three little kids just like Casie, in this case a four year old, three year old, a little bub less than twelve months old. They all slept in that one bedroom where the wardrobe is black. And the Department of Housing said we can fix it in three years. Really? Is that as good as we can do in a recession where tradies are running out of work and people are living in conditions that are a health hazard?
JOURNALIST: This is a big issue, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority in the Government’s thinking.
CLARE: Well, they’ve ignored it totally. They’re spending millions of dollars in the Budget. What are we going to have to show for it at the end of the day? A trillion dollars in debt. What are we going to have at the end of the day? These are government owned houses. If this was an MP’s office it’d get fixed tomorrow. If it was a government department, it gets fixed tomorrow. If it was the Prime Minister’s office it would get fixed today. We own these houses, the government owns these houses and they’re just being left to rot and people to get sick in them. It’s not bloody good enough.
JOURNALIST: Could you explain Labor’s plan?
CLARE: So during the GFC, we did something very similar. The economy got smashed by an international event, tradies were losing their jobs. Then we spent about $400 million, and we were able to repair about 80,000 homes just like this right across the country. And you can do it fast, because it’s the sort of thing you don’t need planning approval for, you’ve got the list, you know where to go and it’s almost everywhere across the country. What we’re saying is we can do that again. What we said last Thursday night, what Albo said was, let’s put a half a billion dollars to repair and to maintain the same sort of homes that we repaired and maintained during the GFC. Places like this, to fix the mould, to fix the rot, to fix the leaks, exposed wires, broken roofs, broken floors. We’re calling on State Governments to do the same. I’m hoping that the State Government gets it. There was a story in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend that said they’re going to put money in the Budget to do this as well. This is a team effort. They’re owned by the Australian people and State Governments and Federal Governments, if they put their heads together and put some money in, we can repair a lot of those 100,000 homes just like this right across the country.
HARRISON: My office constantly deals with issues in relation to sewerage coming up through people’s bathroom sinks, through kitchen sinks, at back doors, black mould through their houses, beds that have to be replaced because of mould. It’s really affected people’s lives. It’s not good enough. If these were private rentals, people would be up in arms. Everyone deserves a safe and clean home to raise their families. Casie certainly does. Casie’s children deserve it. Everybody living in this suburb deserves it, and they just not getting that, they’re not getting the attention. They’re not getting the money from the State Government that’s needed to maintain their homes and property. There’s certainly not getting the oversight from this Government that’s creating the systems to allow for that needs to be fixed. Bits and pieces get fixed, there might be a tradie coming and do a bit of a job, fixing one part but that may never fix the problems and problems, the foundational problems are what needs to be fixed.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible), I think there’s about 900 social housing homes in Windale. Some of those homes were and we’ve reported on that. But there doesn’t seem to be a plan from the State Government to refresh some of the social housing in this suburb.
HARRISON: There have been some fabulous little examples, of course, from Windale for upgrades of housing and accessible housing for people who are, who are now living by themselves, they might have grown up in Windale and they’ve raise their families and they want to stay in this suburb. There is a really strong community in Windale. And people want to stay in the suburb. So there needs to be a real refresh of the housing here, and that’s just simply not happening and it’s certainly not happening anywhere near fast enough for families like Casie’s and people who as they age want to stay in their local community. They want to keep visiting their local doctor, they’ve developed a good relationship with their local community and they need a safe place to stay.
CONROY: I completely agree with what Jodie was saying about the absolute imperative of repairing housing in this area to give Australians, in particular people in Windale, the quality of life they deserve. But on the economic situation, this is why it’s so important as well. We’ve got 20,000 people in the seat of Shortland that are on the JobSeeker payment at the moment. And that JobSeeker payment is going to fall under this Government to $40 a day from the 1st of January. They urgently need work, they want to work and projects like this, if we put in $500 million that Federal Labor is talking about and the New South Wales Government matched it that will help get some of those 20,000 people into work. The Hunter and Central Coast areas have above average unemployment rates, we’re seeing this recession really whack our local economy. So this initiative will improve the quality of life for so many locals, but also get locals into work. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.