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Pages tagged "Housing and Homelessness"

Question: Lead Pollution in Port Pirie

01 June 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of lead pollution at Port Pirie.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: InDaily reported yesterday that 42 public houses are located in areas of risk to children under the age of five because they are prone to lead dust. In the article it was stated that all of those 42 homes are currently occupied by at least one child aged under five. It is understood that there is a tender open for a maintenance contractor to facilitate the planning and completion of lead abatement related works in Port Pirie.

My question to the minister is: does the Malinauskas government intend to carry out the previous government's pledge to cut lead pollution at the Port Pirie smelter, and will the government rehouse affected families while the lead abatement project is taking place?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I am happy to take that on notice and refer it to my colleagues in the other place who have direct responsibility for those matters.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: when can I expect a response?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): That will be as soon as possible.

What the Community Needs to See in the New State Budget

01 June 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise today to talk about the Malinauskas government's first budget. Budgets are a statement of priorities. They reflect what a government wants to achieve over the next four years and they reflect the values of the government. We are hoping that this new government will take some real action to reduce skyrocketing inequality in our state. We are hoping that this first budget will be one that is focused on increasing the wellbeing of all South Australians and addressing our climate crisis.

To that end, it is very disappointing to see the announcement of the Malinauskas government today, via the Minister for Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, that they will be axing renewable energy programs in tomorrow's budget. That is a decision to scrap the Home Battery Scheme and to dump the Switch for Solar program in order to save $19 million. That might deliver a quick cash injection into the budget, it might improve the budget bottom line, but it is going to come at a significant cost to the South Australian community and to our environment. It is really disappointing to see those cuts being foreshadowed in the budget today.

The Greens are calling for the Malinauskas government to take some real action in terms of reducing cost-of-living pressures being faced by families. They could do this by putting more money into public housing. We know that South Australia is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. Adelaide is the second least affordable city in Australia and has a vacancy rate of just 0.2 per cent.

Every week, my office is inundated with calls from South Australians who cannot find a place to live, who cannot break into the housing market in terms of being able to afford to buy a home, who cannot access a rental and who cannot find affordable accommodation. The government needs to take action to address that by building more housing. We know that a meagre investment of 400 new homes is just not going to cut it.

We need to see the government introduce rent capping as a way of keeping rents low. We can look at what has happened in other jurisdictions around the world—places like Ireland, Spain and the US—they have done this and it is time for Adelaide to do the same. But we also need to see this government invest in our education system. We need to see a scrapping of public school fees in recognition of the fact that public education should be free for all South Australians. We know that South Australian public schools are significantly underfunded by millions of dollars each year and it is parents who are forced to pick up the slack through exorbitant school fees. That needs to change.

We need to see an emphasis on the cost of living and bringing that down. That means also trying to increase public sector wages. It is concerning that the government has foreshadowed public sector cuts in this budget. We hope that does not mean we are going to see job losses. We hope that does not mean we are going to see a reduction in salaries for our public sector workers.

The government should also be putting money into our public transport system. That has been neglected by the Liberal Party during their brief period in government, but it was also significantly neglected by the previous Labor government during their 16-year reign. The new government needs to take some action to address that: make it free and improve the infrastructure.

I talked about education. In a state like South Australia, no child should go hungry. That is why in the recent election we called for the government to provide free breakfast and free school lunches. That is something we could do if we ensured that the big end of town paid their fair share of tax. We know that there are 23,000 South Australian children who live in poverty. This state budget should take efforts to address that.

The government was elected on a platform of wanting to create a better future for all South Australians. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their commitment to do just that. I hope that they consider some of the ideas that the Greens have put on the table today.

Greens call for rent controls to rein in soaring prices

28 April 2022

The State Government should implement rent controls to get prices under control, say The Greens. 

The call comes as Anglicare’s Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot reveals only two of 1125 homes on the market in Adelaide can be afforded by an individual on the minimum wage and none could be afforded by individuals trying to live on Jobseeker. 

“Rental prices are skyrocketing out of control. While many South Australians are being locked out of the rental market, some landlords are making record profits,” said the Greens Housing Spokesperson Robert Simms MLC. 

“It’s time for the State Government to follow the lead of other jurisdictions overseas and implement rent controls to protect struggling renters. 

“This has worked in New York for years - why not Adelaide?” 

Mr Simms plans to raise the matter in parliament next week. The Greens also renewed their calls for the Government to boost investment in public housing to reduce prices. 

Greens welcome Labor housing investment, but more needed

26 April 2022

The SA Greens have welcomed the Malinauskas Labor Government's moves to restore funding to homelessness services and build 400 new public homes but have called for further housing investment in the next state budget. 

"The Labor Government's decision to restore funding to the Hutt St Centre, Catherine House and St Vincent de Paul Society is a big win for people power. The previous Liberal Government's funding cuts were righty met with outrage by the community. The Greens welcome Labor's support for these vital services," said the SA Greens Housing Spokesperson, Robert Simms MLC. 

"We also welcome the Government's boost to public housing, but 400 new public homes is simply not enough to deal with our state's housing affordability crisis. With rents continuing to soar and more South Australians living on the streets, the Greens are calling for a big investment in public housing in the first Malinauskas budget." 

Question: SA Reopening and Vaccination Rollout for the Homeless

17 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those experiencing homelessness.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Back in July, the government announced its trial COVID-19 vaccination clinic for South Australians experiencing homelessness in the city, as part of its outreach program. Given South Australia's borders are set to open next Tuesday and there are an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, it's critical that the vaccine rollout continues to prioritise some of our most vulnerable. My question to the minister therefore is: is the government confident that the 80 per cent vaccination target to trigger the reopening of our borders will be met with those experiencing homelessness?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:04): Starting my answer to the honourable member's question, there are difficulties in terms of assessing the level of vaccine take-up amongst the homeless community. One of the factors there is that people experiencing mental health issues, domestic violence, homelessness or a combination of these issues are not required to self-identify for the purpose of recording their vaccination status on the Australian immunisation record. This is for their safety and wellbeing, but it does mean that it is very difficult to determine how many people experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated.

The government is continuing to roll out a targeted campaign to deal with vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness. In the context of homelessness we are working particularly with key stakeholders, like the alliances and the larger providers of homeless services, to provide access to the vaccines. SA Health, the Ambulance Service and the sector are partnering to deliver a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness.

I was privileged to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough in July this year at Westcare, a launch that attracted national interest. Since then, the rollout has continued across the metropolitan area, with vaccination sites being used, including SHINE, mental health facilities in the Parklands, and mobile services targeting vulnerable groups, which have been active in the suburbs of Playford, Gawler, Onkaparinga and in the regions.

The Central Adelaide Local Health Network is providing vaccines to people who attend the Hutt Street Centre, with additional vaccination services provided to a range of organisations working with the homeless community, including the Salvation Army homeless service, the Western Adelaide Homelessness Service, Streetlink, Uniting Care Gawler, Fred's Van and St Vincent de Paul Society. Vaccinations have also been provided in clinics for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

The government is continuing its efforts to ensure the vaccine is widely available, and that all vulnerable cohorts are a priority. More than 2.4 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered. I want to thank all South Australians who have rolled up their sleeve to be vaccinated, and encourage those who haven't to present at one of our clinics or engage with a GP or pharmacy. The vaccine is our pathway out of the pandemic, and it has never been easier to be vaccinated.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, can the minister explain how close the government is to the 80 per cent vaccination target for people who are homeless, and can he provide specific information on what process is in place to ensure booster shots are being made available to those who are homeless?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:07): With regard to the second question of booster shots, it is certainly our anticipation that we will continue to partner within SA Health and with our partners to continue deliver vaccines into next year, including booster shots. The booster shots are particularly recommended for vulnerable communities, so it will be a particular focus with vulnerable communities. I do not have specific data in relation to the percentage of homeless people who are thought to have been vaccinated, but I will see what information I can obtain for the honourable member.

Question: Rental Affordability Report

13 October 2021 


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of rental affordability.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: A survey released yesterday by the Anti-Poverty Network of South Australia has painted a grim snapshot of the renting experience in South Australia. The report found, among other things, that one in four people have less then $14 a day, or $100 a week, after paying their rent; 77 per cent said the cost of their rent often impacted on their ability to pay their bills on time or to eat; only 7 per cent received a rent freeze or reduction during the pandemic; and 46 per cent said their house did not have adequate heating or cooling. My questions to the minister are:

  1. What action will the government be taking in relation to the report?
  2. Will the minister advocate at cabinet for rent capping and rent subsidies to support people who are struggling to pay their rent during this economic crisis?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question. Indeed, the matters of rental and issues in the rental market to a large degree rest with Attorney-General, who has responsibility for CBS, so some of those questions I will take on notice and see what response I can provide for him.

In terms of my responsibilities as Minister for Human Services under the SA Housing Authority, of course we have the Private Rental Assistance Program by which people can access bond and rent in advance. When they go to the housing office—or they can do this online these days—they can be assessed as to what is considered an affordable rental price for them, and they can be provided with that assistance.

People who are Centrelink beneficiaries in the private rental market also have access to commonwealth rental assistance. We saw, as all honourable members would know, legislation here during COVID to provide freezes in the rental market and some additional measures through the SACAT process to assist people who might be experiencing a potential hardship. Centrelink certainly provided support for people through the COVID process.

Some of the commentators are certainly remarking that the rental market is easing, not quite the same really tight situation we have seen. Of course, within our own public housing people's rent is capped at their income, rather than being exposed to the private rental market, so people have that particular financial advantage through being in a Housing Authority property. The other matters the honourable member has raised I will take on notice and bring back a response.

Question: Rental Affordability Scheme

22 September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Reports in The Advertiser today suggest that hundreds of South Australians are at risk of becoming homeless this year as an average of 10 properties a week come off the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This comes at a time when the rental crisis in South Australia is squeezing even moderate income earners out of the housing market. SACOSS and Shelter SA have expressed concern that low income families and individuals will be left without a roof over their heads when the NRAS program progressively comes to an end. My question to the Minister for Human Services is:

  1. What is the government doing to ensure our public housing stock is increased to ensure we don't see families end up on the street?
  2. Will the government commit to a state government rent subsidy, even as an interim measure, to avoid this impending disaster?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his interest in the issue of potential homelessness. I have been hearing impending predictions of gloom and disaster in the homelessness space for a long time. With that in mind, monitoring what's happening across the environment of the private rental, private purchase, community housing and public housing space and homelessness services is something that we are very, very mindful of through the South Australian Housing Authority.

In terms of the services that we provide, we do, of course, have the private rental assistance program, which provides a bond and rent in advance to people who are in the private rental market. In addition to that, people who are on commonwealth Centrelink benefits have access to commonwealth rental assistance to assist them in the private rental market.

The number of people in rental and mortgage stress is something that we have been very mindful of, which is why we came up with the original strategy. So the Housing Authority has been active, returning to its heritage, if you like, of not just providing public housing to people but also building affordable properties for sale, as it used to, many decades ago. The effect of that is to provide those people who get their foot in the private property market, which only ever goes up, particularly in Adelaide; it gets them out of the private rental system and reduces the demand in that space.

Bearing in mind that the private re-rental market is a very large component of what many households rely on, I did note some comments quite recently from someone in the industry that they believed that some of the demand in that space was easing. I think, as we also see the HomeBuilder grants and those projects being completed, there will be people who will move into those properties and, again, that will reduce demand on the rental market, but this is something that we constantly monitor.

As I said yesterday, I think we have been tracking the homelessness data and certainly across the state the overall data doesn't show that homelessness has been increasing. In fact, the trend data shows that it has been reducing over several years. However, we do always monitor what is happening in this space to ensure that we're providing the best suite of services available.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, will the minister commit, on behalf of the government, to introduce a state-based rent subsidy scheme. I'm not talking about the federal scheme: will the minister commit to a state-based rent subsidy scheme?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): As I said in my original response, we already have the private rental assistance program.

COVID-19 Emergency Response (No. 3)

7th September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: If it pleases the Chair, I will make some general remarks about the three amendments in their totality rather than standing up and speaking on each individually. As foreshadowed by my colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC, what these amendments are seeking to do is reinstate the provisions relating to the moratorium on rental evictions and rent increases for those who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

By way of background, members may recall that, when I started in this place in May, this was one of the first bills that came before me and the rest of this chamber for consideration. At that time, I argued for the provisions to be extended for another 12 months, up until May 2022. The Legislative Council did not agree to that; however, the government did agree to a September extension and I certainly welcomed that.

But now, as I warned at the time, we are in the situation where these provisions have expired. Indeed, they expired on 1 September so there is nothing in place, and I am very concerned, the Greens are very concerned, about the plight of people who are experiencing financial distress at the moment, in particular people who are renting. We have had lots of queries from the community to our office about this.

We know that there is significant rental stress being experienced in the community. We know that we are in the middle of a rental affordability crisis here in South Australia because there is not enough affordable housing available. People who are renting are finding it really, really difficult to find accommodation, which means of course that it is vitally important that we do not see people being evicted in the middle of this economic crisis.

To give the chamber a bit of an insight into some of the experiences of our constituents, I have been given some information from the Anti-Poverty Network in South Australia. They have shared some testimonies with me from people who are experiencing rental stress. These are de-identified, but I will read some of the stories onto Hansard because I think it is important that members get some of this information in terms of understanding the importance of these provisions. In terms of the impact of rent increases, this is what one person reported:

Once my rent has been paid I have $50 left for a fortnight to pay…electricity, gas, food, petrol, and other costs such as medication, as I suffer from lung conditions. The amount I have left is seriously not realistic, it is not enough to live on, let alone eat. The stress of enduring this each and every day has taken a toll on my emotional and physical wellbeing.

Another has said:

I have three daughters, [one] 9 [another] 2 and [another] almost 2, it stresses me to no end wondering if I'll be able to afford to feed them after paying rent. We've had our power disconnected so many times I've lost count, just because I pay rent first. Once in particular, it was cut off at 5pm, when our youngest was still a newborn.

Another says:

My partner and I can only afford to pay rent because we are splitting costs with my two adult children, who too cannot afford to rent on their own. We, and they, are stuck co-renting even though they would like to have their own place, and my partner and I would enjoy living our lives without adult children.

Of course, we know that is becoming all too common—the scenario of ageing parents having younger adult children coming to live with them, something I am sure is not desirable for many parents as well as their children. As much as I love my mum and dad, I would not enjoy bunking up with them and I know that is the situation for many in the community. But alas, that is the situation they find themselves in because of this rental affordability crisis. Another says:

I have to meal plan all the way down to pieces of fruit to meet nutritional guidelines for my kids. I often go without so my kids can have what they need. we never go out. Every cent is spent on living costs.

Finally, another constituent has said:

I pay $350 a week for a house that's falling apart and I'm to scared to say anything in case I end up homeless with 3 kids—1 being newborn.

These are just some of the stories of people who are experiencing financial stress, people who are renting and will be hard hit if these provisions are not extended.

Just to talk very briefly about the exact nature of what I am proposing here in terms of the amendments, members will note the reference to backdating the provisions so they would take effect from 2 September, because the measures expired on 1 September. So it would apply to people from that period up until the end of December. As I stated from the outset, it is certainly my preference and that of the Greens that the provisions be extended up until May, but I recognise that there was not the support to do that and that is why I am proposing December.

These provisions are aligned with the other elements of the bill and, to the Hon. Connie Bonaros' point, I think this is a fair compromise and one that would certainly give people who are experiencing financial hardship some confidence and some security as we head into the second half of the year, recognising that we are still very much in the throes of this pandemic and the associated economic crisis.

Question: Vaccination Rollout

7th September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:50): I seek leave to make a brief statement before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for these experiencing homelessness.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Back in July, the government announced its trial COVID-19 vaccination clinic for South Australians experiencing homelessness in the city as part of its outreach program. With an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, organisations that support homeless people are calling for them to be prioritised as part of the rollout. My questions to the minister are:

  1. How many people experiencing homelessness have received their first and second vaccination?
  2. What is the process for ensuring that follow-up appointments for full vaccinations are kept?
  3. What is the timeline for moving beyond a trial phase that is confined simply to the city?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:51): I thank the honourable member for his question. The Marshall government is determined to ensure that every South Australian has access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to keep our state safe and our economy strong. We have a particular focus on vulnerable people in our community.

SA Health has been working with the new homelessness alliances to ensure that service providers are engaged in the planning for the delivery of the vaccine in the homeless sector. The alliances include providers who deliver services to homeless people, from those sleeping rough, couch surfing or sleeping in cars, to those suffering domestic and family violence.

The rollout will continue in partnership with the sector, SA Health and SA Ambulance, with a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness. It was my privilege, on 9 July 2021, to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough at Westcare in Wright Street. It was particularly my privilege because my father was the superintendent at Westcare for some years.

South Australia's vaccine rollout program continues to gather momentum as vaccine supply increases. Some of the points I was making in my previous answer are directly relevant here too. We have been working with different service providers to work out what would work best for their particular service group. For example, in relation to one service we provided specific clinics at the Women's and Children's Hospital. In the northern suburbs a dedicated Aboriginal clinic has been established, and we continue to look at opportunities to expand service provision to the Aboriginal community.

In relation to the point the honourable member makes about second doses, one of the strategies to facilitate the completion of the vaccine cycle is for an outreach service to come back at the relevant time after their first visit. Also, SA Health does continue to provide a call-back service through the local health networks to promote the need for a second dose. In our regions, SA Health is working with local providers of services and offering the vaccine across several sites.

On the point the honourable member made in terms of coverage, it is difficult to determine how many homeless people have been vaccinated as it is not an identifier used for recording purposes in the Australian immunisation register. The Marshall government will continue in our efforts to ensure that it is widely available.

Homeless people continue to be a priority for this government during the pandemic. Members would recall that during the first wave the honourable Minister for Human Services facilitated hotel accommodation to protect homeless citizens. We are all in this together, and none of us are safe from the virus until we are all safe from the virus.

The honourable member expressed concern first of all that it was a pilot and secondly that we were being city focused. This issue was raised on 9 July. It was never a pilot in the sense that we were seeing whether we liked the idea. The fact is we are committed to outreach services, as I said in my previous answer. It was a pilot in the sense that, there being an outreach service from the mass vaccination clinic at Wayville, did this model work?

The fact that the model does work is reflected in the fact that we are continuing to deliver these types of services. For example, last week our mobile vaccination clinics visited a range of sites, including sites at which homeless people would often be engaged. We had mobile vaccination clinics at Central DASA, the Hutt St Centre, Westcare Day Centre, Common Ground, Aldinga Community Centre, the Noarlunga Aboriginal Family Clinic, the Hackham West Community Centre and the Christies Downs Community House.

I am delighted that we are now moving into the period where supplies of the vaccine are significantly increasing, because that will give us even more opportunities to reach out to vulnerable communities or vaccine hesitant communities.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:56): Supplementary: I thank the minister for his comprehensive response. I note his statement that it is difficult to—

The PRESIDENT: Question, please.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I note his statement that it is difficult to get data on people who are experiencing homelessness and those who have received the vaccination.

The PRESIDENT: Question, the Hon. Mr Simms.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Will he give an undertaking, however, that he will share the information that he does have with this place?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:57): I certainly will see if I can get further information. As I said, the AIR data doesn't record immunisation, so we would have to be using other means.

Question: Rental Moratorium

26 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of the rental moratorium on evictions for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In May, the parliament provided renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 with a reprieve when it extended the moratorium on evictions until 1 September. We know that the pandemic and associated economic crisis has coincided with a rental affordability crisis in our state with more and more South Australians struggling to find affordable housing. My question to the minister is: what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no South Australians will be evicted into homelessness come 1 September?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for his question which sits within the Residential Tenancies Act, an act committed to the Attorney-General, but I will attempt to answer it as best I can, knowing as I do that there are some Housing Authority tenants who appear before SACAT. I should say that my understanding of the way that SACAT operates is that they always take individual circumstances into account, and they have a policy that they do not evict into homelessness. So that is a check and balance, if you like, from that point of view.

The advice that I have from the Attorney in relation to the residential tenancies provisions in the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 is that there has been a significant reduction in reliance on those provisions. For the first six months they were relied on daily; however, towards the end of last year, there has been a gradual decline in them being relevant. It is now anticipated that these provisions may be relied on once to twice per week.

It should also be noted that SACAT already has power to suspend evictions for up to 90 days, which is more than sufficient to deal with those matters. It is only in very rare, extreme cases that SACAT would consider suspending eviction for longer than 90 days under the provisions of the COVID act. I will seek further details from the Attorney in relation to this and bring that back to the chamber, if there is more detail that we can provide.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:40): Supplementary: noting the minister's response, will the minister be advocating to the Attorney-General that the protections that are in place for renters who are experiencing financial hardship be extended?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): We take advice from organisations such as community and business services and, indeed, from SACAT. If their advice is that there is no need to continue to extend it further then we would take that advice on board. I think in my original answer I indicated that there is little use of these provisions, and they do need to be lifted at some stage. We would take that on advice from those agencies.