Radio Interview with David Bevan – ABC Adelaide Mornings – Tuesday 9 March 2021


SUBJECTS: Homelessness in Adelaide; Homeless Aussies thrown back on the street after COVID; Social housing.

DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Earlier today we were talking about Kirsty and homelessness here in South Australia. We promised that we talked to Jason Clare. He’s the federal Shadow Minister for Housing. He’s in Adelaide today to talk about rough sleepers. Now, let’s hope that Kirsty and her family never get to that. Good morning, Jason Clare. Jason Clare, what do you bring to this debate here in South Australia?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I’m here in South Australia at the invitation of Nat Cook, the Shadow Minister for Human Services and Steve Georganas, who’s the Member for Adelaide, to talk to housing and homelessness providers here about what’s needed to put a roof over the head of people like Kirsty. We showed last year in the teeth of the pandemic, that if we really want to, you can significantly reduce the number of people who are sleeping rough people, who are who are homeless. We did it. A couple of hundred people were provided with short term accommodation in hotels and motels, a couple of thousands, 40,000 actually, right across the country. 

As we’re talking here in Adelaide today, the number of people sleeping on the street in Adelaide, in places like King William Street, is back to what it was this time last year, and that’s before JobKeeper ends, and before the JobSeeker supplement ends. It’s a massive missed opportunity.

BEVAN: So what should we do?

CLARE: Look in places like Victoria, where they were able to get people off the street in the in the middle of the pandemic they have still got fewer people back on the street today than they did last year, and that’s because they put the money into transitional accommodation, leasing apartments for people, and building more social housing. The Victorian Labor Government announced last year the biggest investment in social housing by any state government in history, something like $5.2 billion. 

They’re the sorts of things that we need state governments doing across the country and to be frank, we need the federal government in there as well repairing some of the broken down, old social housing that’s full of leaks and mold and rot, but also building more social housing. Let me give you an example. Here in South Australia, there’s about 1700 public housing homes that are empty, either because the state government can’t find the right people to move in or because it’s not fit for people to live in. For someone like Kirsty, who’s on the edge of homelessness, there’s a place that she could potentially move into if the government put a bit of money in now to repair those broken down homes.

BEVAN: So what do you bring to the debate come the next election, and it’s quite likely that we will have an election before the end of the year. So, are you Jason Clare, federal Shadow Minister of Housing, saying “Look, I’m going to promise X amount of dollars per capita, for public housing. If you meet this criteria, you get it. Here’s the cheque. Are we here?”

CLARE: Albo, Anthony Albanese, is a bloke who grew up in social housing so he gets it, he knows how important putting a roof over someone’s head particularly when they’re a young child.  We said back in October that, in the middle of the recession, a smart thing to do would have been to put half a billion dollars into repairing social housing. We made the announcement actually down here in Adelaide last year. And we did it at a place where the whole place was riddled with mould. Suddenly the state government reacted and they moved the gentleman who was living in that place with those awful conditions. That’s one of the things you can do: repairing places that are full of leaks and mould and rot right now. But we’ve also said you’ve got to build more social housing too.

BEVAN: But the question Jason Clare was, will you and this is an election year, will you go to the people with a policy saying “look, vote for us, and this is what you’ll get for social housing per capita (inaudible). You get this amount of dollars, it’s sitting in a bucket waiting for you”.

CLARE: Albo’s said it, I’ve said it, we’ll go to the next election with a plan to repair and build more social housing. We’ve got to do that. But in the meantime, you’ve got Scott Morrison in Canberra as Prime Minister and a government who could act now. I’ve been calling on them for nine months when hotels and hotel rooms were full right across the country with people who’ve been sleeping rough, for the National Cabinet to act and come together with a plan that you can implement right across the country to provide permanent accommodation for people. It’s such a lost opportunity. When you had so many Aussies who have been sleeping rough, some for as long as 20 years, in a hotel room where there’s an opportunity to provide services to those people then when they’re in the same place all the time for weeks or months. Now many of them are back on the street. 

The federal government could act. There’s a Budget in May. We don’t have to wait for an election. I hope that the federal government might have a change of heart. Remember, they spent $100 billion in the last Budget on infrastructure, and not one extra cent for social housing. 

BEVAN: Jason Clare. Thanks for your time.

CLARE: Thanks very much.