Parliamentary housing inquiries: Background and resources for submissions

You may already be aware that two inquiries into housing have recently commenced:

Each community in NSW has its own housing and homelessness issues, and I hope that there will be submissions to both inquiries that highlight those local challenges and the potential solutions. If you are considering preparing a submission then you might find some of these general resources helpful in providing supporting evidence:

  1. The Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing.
  2. Australians for Affordable Housing has a lot of great papers on housing stress and affordability issues.
  3. The Grattan Institute’s Cities program has produced several reports on housing policy, including Renovating housing policy, Tomorrows suburbs: Building flexible neighbourhoods and Getting the housing we want.
  4. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) produces a tremendous amount of research and literature reviews.
  5. Saul Eslake’s recent presentation to the 122nd Annual Henry George Commemorative dinner, 50 Years of Housing Failure, raises some important issues about housing and the impacts of tax policies and ineffective programs.
  6. Shelter NSW provides a range of information relevant to affordable and social housing, and some of the presentations from their Housing Crossroads conference earlier this year are especially useful.
  7. A Productivity Commission working paper on Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia highlights many of the issues relating to social and economic disadvantage, including how housing can be related to poverty and other obstacles to wellbeing.
  8. The Australian Greens’ Homelessness Action Plan also identifies some policy options to deliver more housing and reduce homelessness.

If you are after any additional information about housing issues, please feel free to contact my office and we will attempt to assist you.

Fact sheet: Troubling proposals in new child protection legislation

Have you heard about the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill?

The NSW Government has introduced proposed changes to the child protection system that the Premier himself labelled as “radical”. These changes were initially outlined in a discussion paper released in late 2012 and have caused concern among many stakeholders.

Read the Bill

What are the key changes in the Bill?

  • New agreements and court orders for early interventions that aim to improve parenting capacity in at-risk families, including before a child is born. [Sections 38A-38E]
  • Fixed timeframes to make a decision about whether children who have been removed from their family have a realistic chance of being restored. [Section 83]
  • A hierarchy of preferred ‘permanency’ options which considers adoption whenever a non-Aboriginal child cannot be in the care of a family member. [Section 10A and related sections]

What should you be concerned about if these proposals become law?

  • Although some additional funding has been promised for early intervention services, a much greater focus on investment in targeted supports for vulnerable families is required. Agreements and orders put requirements and risk of removal onto parents without any guarantee that appropriate services and assistance will be available.
  • The timeframes are unrealistic and don’t reflect the time needed to help people change their lives. As Minister Goward herself said, “You can’t say to somebody with drug and alcohol addiction, ‘Right, you’ve got three months to sort yourself out’, because you are setting them up to fail.”
  • Adoption is not a solution to the high number of children in out-of-home care, does not guarantee more stability or better outcomes compared to well-managed and supported foster care. Adoption severs the existing family connections and although it is called “open adoption”, parents have no input and limited capacity for contact with their children once the process has been finalised.
  • Although the Government states that the Aboriginal placement principles remain in place, the other amendments to promote adoption risk weakening these principles and could result in culturally inappropriate orders for adoption of Aboriginal children.

Where can you find out more?

What can you do about these proposals?

Write to Minister Goward about your concerns and ask her to reconsider. Write to your local MP and the members of the Legislative Council raising your concerns and asking them to ensure any legislation supports families with early action. Send copies to my office.

Download this Fact Sheet

Shock at further destruction of irreplaceable Old Growth Forest

North Coast Greens MP, Jan Barham, is shocked and saddened by the planned logging of a stand of Old Growth Forest in Koreelah State Forest.

“Having raised the matter in Parliament and met with the Minister’s staff, I had hoped to secure protection of this significant stand of ancient trees and a comprehensive review by Government, Ms Barham said.

“These trees are known to support many threatened species, including Albert’s Lyrebird, Sooty Owl, Marbled Frogmouth, Yellow-bellied Glider and Fleay’s Barred Frog, all of which will be adversely impacted by logging. I also doubt that many people have seen trees this large and marvelled at their majestic size. It is an unnecessary loss.”

“I understand Forestry Corporation’s regional manager advised yesterday of their intention to commence logging, and that the only protection would be for trees with a diameter of at least 1.8 metres. The Forestry Corporation’s own evidence from studies of Terania Creek in 1981 shows that trees this large could be as much as 1,500 years old.”

“The Government has also made it clear to NEFA representatives that unauthorised persons are not permitted on site. While the Government wants to avoid the public gaze, it has only been through the efforts of forest ecologists and activists that we have been made aware of the loss of these irreplaceable natural treasures,” Ms Barham concluded.

A massive ancient tree from Koreelah State Forest
(Photograph provided by Dailan Pugh.)

NSW Public Libraries Funding – GIPA Treasure Trove

Recently we received our Government Information (Public Access) request on the 2012 funding review of NSW public libraries. To access the full suite of released documents click here.

We have analysed the documents provided under the GIPA request and developed a short presentation which you can check out by clicking “Start Prezi” below (or by clicking here).

The NSW Legislative Council recently passed my motion on Public Library funding. Watch the video of the debate here.

The text of the motion is below. To read the full debate, click here.

The Hon. JAN BARHAM [10.48 a.m.]: I move:

        (1) That this House notes that:
          (a) libraries are a fundamental part of the educational and cultural vibrancy of community;
          (b) libraries provide life learning and opportunities for social interaction;
          (c) under the terms of the Library Act 1939 the State Library of New South Wales administers the Government’s Public Library Grants and Subsidies program, which provides funding on an annual basis to local authorities to assist in the provision of public library services throughout New South Wales;
          (d) Arts NSW via State cultural institutions manages significant cultural heritage collections and provides services and programs throughout the State, and together these institutions provide a unique and irreplaceable archive of the State’s history and contemporary culture; and
          (e) the Library Act 1939 and the library regulation state that:
            (i) “State and Local Government authorities work collaboratively together to enable public libraries in New South Wales to meet the evolving needs and demands of the community”;
            (ii) the age of a collection is a key consideration when determining the adequacy of a public library;
            (iii) the Library Council of NSW “Age of Collections” standards state that at least 49 per cent of the collection has been purchased in the last five years and 90 per cent of the collection has been purchased in the last 10 years; and
            (iv) the size of a public library’s collection should respond to the changing and growing size of a community.
      (2) That this House notes that:
          (a) in 1939 New South Wales councils were eligible for a subsidy from the Government for the provision of library services, and under section 13 (2) (b) of the original Library Act 1939 the subsidy was set at one shilling per resident within the council area;
          (b) in 1952 the subsidy rate under the Library Act was set at one shilling and sixpence per resident within a council area;
          (c) in 1979-80, $8,478,905 was spent by the Government on public library services while total local government expenditure in 1980 was $27,517,031;
          (d) in 2010-11 expenditure by local government on public library services was $314,284,780, whereas expenditure by the Government was $25,538,000, which includes $2 million for the Country Library Fund; and
          (e) from 1979-80 to 2010-11 the percentage of funding provided by local government to public libraries increased from 74.6 per cent of the total funding on an annual basis to 92.5 per cent, while Government funding decreased from 23.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent on an annual basis.
        (3) That this House calls on the Government to:
          (a) review the subsidy rate of $1.85 prescribed in the Library Regulation 2010 and index the subsidy rate to the consumer price index [CPI]; and
          (b) review restoring Government funding for public libraries from the current 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent.