Greens budget reply

Hon Lynn MacLaren; President; Hon Stephen Dawson


HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [3.09 pm]: I wish to continue my remarks that I began before we rose. Perhaps, as this is the first time that we have met since the federal election was held, it is appropriate to comment ever so briefly on it. It is important that we acknowledge that we have had a change of government in Canberra, which may well affect the state budget. It is equally important to acknowledge the tremendous contribution that all volunteers made on the day, handing out how-to-vote cards throughout Western Australia and working whether it was rain or shine. We had quite extreme weather on the weekend; I hear there was flooding in Kalgoorlie, so I am glad the people out there managed to survive the floods. It was a very interesting day for me at Palmyra Primary School. I acknowledge the efforts of the volunteers, staff and contractors who worked long hours that day for the Australian Electoral Commission, as they do every time there is an election. It was not that long ago that we mobilised almost the same staff to work in the state election.


It is also appropriate to acknowledge all the candidates who put themselves forward. In my area there were 11 candidates, so quite a lot of people wanted to participate in the democratic process. It was a historic Senate ballot with quite a lot of candidates vying for a Senate seat. I acknowledge that we are still waiting to hear the results of that. Anyone in this chamber who was elected to the sixth position of their region would be well aware of the stress that those individuals are undergoing as they wait to see how the preferences flow through and with whom we will end up. I am hoping our Greens Senator Scott Ludlam is re-elected, but also at risk this election is a former member of this council, Senator Louise Pratt, who I am sure is on tenterhooks as she waits to see whether she will represent the state in federal Parliament.


I think all members would also wish for me to acknowledge the efforts of the P&C associations and all the school groups that fed us during the day and raised money for their schools, whether they were having a cake stall or sausage sizzle. It is a wonderful aspect of any election that people mobilise to capture the opportunity of many people turning up at their schools on the day.


In particular I acknowledge the successful candidates in the South Metropolitan Region, Hon Melissa Parke and Hon Gary Gray. These two individuals represent a good two-thirds of the South Metropolitan Region. I know that they will continue to do their good work in Canberra as newly re-elected members. It is also important to acknowledge that two Liberals were also re-elected in the South Metropolitan Region in the seats of Swan and Tangney.


Hon Nick Goiran: Yes, Steve Irons and Dennis Jensen—and the seat of Hasluck is also in the South Metropolitan Region.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes, that ever so tiny bit of Gosnells.


Hon Nick Goiran interjected.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes, I thank Hon Nick Goiran; I appreciate that.


The PRESIDENT: I know Hon Nick Goiran was trying to help, but there is a limit to how much help the honourable member needs.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: My point was that in Canberra, the South Metropolitan Region is represented by both Labor Party members and Liberal Party members, and that was also reflected in the state election. People in the South Metropolitan Region support people in both camps, I should say. As a representative Green in this Council, it is important that I acknowledge and congratulate Adam Bandt, who was re-elected in the seat of Melbourne. He made history for us yet again in the House of Representatives. As I am sure members are aware, we were all delighted to see Adam returned as our first representative in the House of Representatives elected in a general election.


In wrapping up my comments about the federal election, I acknowledge two candidates who supported me in the state election; one is Jordan Steele-John, who contested the seat of Fremantle, and Peter Best, who contested the seat of Tangney. Both were very active and optimistic candidates throughout the campaign and managed to get the Greens’ message out to people in the south metro area. It was an extraordinary effort after the work they also put in during the state election, so I particularly acknowledge them.
No doubt as the results unfold we will have further discussions about who sits in the Senate. Two very minor parties are vying for those fifth and sixth spots and we will all learn a lot more about them, such as what they can do in Canberra to help us as Western Australians and whether they are able to represent our interests in the Senate. As the Chinese say, we live in interesting times.


I managed to find time to attend the Fremantle Candidate Forum, which was very aptly MC-ed by Peter Kennedy. It was an exciting opportunity to hear from a range of candidates. It was interesting that of the 11 candidates, only two women—and one young man, Jordan Steele-John, who is aged only 18 years—ran for the seat of Fremantle. We have a long way to go to support diversity in candidates and to get diversity of representation in seats across the state. Members will see from the final results just how dominant men will be. The male gender has seemed to get a lot of seats in Parliament.


Hon Nick Goiran: What’s the gender of your candidate in Fremantle?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: He is a man; yes, that is true. Across the state the Greens had diversity in candidates, as we always do.There are ramifications for the state budget, which we foreshadowed in the weeks leading up to the federal election. One of the ramifications is that we do not know whether we will get funding for the Metro Area Express light rail. I managed to see a piece from the Premier in which he said he hoped that if Western Australia receives roads funding from the federal government, that would free up money to pay for the MAX light rail. Let us just watch that space, members, because we, on behalf of our constituents who have voted in this government, are keen to ensure that the promises that were made in the lead-up to the election are delivered. The MAX light rail is something that people are really looking forward to.


In the period leading up to the federal election, I attended a massive rally on the front steps of Parliament House. I do not know how many other parliamentarians were present when the schools protested —


Hon Liz Behjat: Do you mean the Labor rally that was on the steps?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I know that Hon Liz Behjat was loyally supporting the Minister for Education, who is also the Leader of the House, and I believe that earlier in the day, South Metropolitan Region representative Hon Phil Edman was there. As Hon Liz Behjat pointed out, there were quite a few Labor members there to support schools. It was particularly important that south metropolitan members were there, because many of the schools flagged for potential rationalisation —


Hon Kate Doust: Cuts! Cuts!


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes, cuts.


Hon Kate Doust: Don’t be polite about it!


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Many of those schools are in the South Metropolitan Region, and I recognised lots of people in the crowd who work in those schools and live in the South Metropolitan Region. This is relevant because when I looked in the state budget for what was going to be delivered in the South Metropolitan Region, it seemed, on the face of it, to be quite substantial, but I was also dismayed because in comparison with other regions it seems as though the South Metropolitan Region might indeed be missing out. The ministerial media statement on the state budget states that the South Metropolitan Region is getting $488.2 million of funding, which is really not comparable. I am looking forward to hearing the contributions of other South Metropolitan Region members. For example, the East Metropolitan Region was awarded $864.5 million in this last state budget, and $1.4 billion was allocated to the North Metropolitan Region. It looks to me like the South Metropolitan Region is getting dramatically less money.


When we look at exactly what has been funded in our region, much of it is state infrastructure. For example, $108.5 million for the continued construction of Fiona Stanley Hospital—which will be significant throughout the state, I would imagine, as a major hospital—is part of that $488.2 million, as is $115.1 million for works at Fremantle port, which is also state infrastructure. Everyone in Western Australia depends on that port to receive significant investment so that it can continue to work efficiently.
Another piece of state infrastructure is the construction of Aubin Grove train station, which has an allocation of $16 million. Also, Perth Zoo, which I am sure people would think is not unique to the South Metropolitan Region because it is a city asset—in fact a statewide asset, if we talk to any schoolchildren—is getting $7.8 million of that capital expenditure. Perth Market Authority will also get $10 million of that money. So when we actually come down to it and start looking at what the South Metropolitan Region is getting in this budget, I could say—if we were taking a parochial approach—that we are missing out. It is surprising to hear the silence from the other South Metropolitan Region members at this point in time who are usually quick to jump in and counter me if they know something else


Hon Kate Doust: Not from this side; we’ve already made our points!


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Of course Hon Sue Ellery and Hon Kate Doust have already made their points about this, but I just wanted to say, “Show us the money.”
The South Metropolitan Region contributes to this budget, but it is missing out, particularly in relation to schools. Baldivis Secondary College and Applecross Senior High School have received funding, and Hammond Park and Golden Bay will receive funding for new primary schools—I acknowledge that that is very welcome. In addition, the largest allocation was $17.1 million for stage 1 of the redevelopment of Willetton Senior High School. When this media statement was released, we were interested in looking at how the money was going to be spent, particularly the investment in education, and it was only afterwards, really, that there was the news of significant cuts in education and the proposed rationalisation of schools; South Fremantle and Hamilton Hill Senior High Schools were particularly mentioned as schools for potential rationalisation. That is a big concern for me and my constituents, and we would like better and further information from the government on exactly what will occur. I would like to be advised about the consultation phase I have read about in the press, and I would like to get some more information about the consultation that has been held regarding the rationalisation of schools.
What I thought was an excellent article, written by Gareth Parker, appeared in The West Australian, in which he unravelled the mysteries of the education budget and told us, among other things, that because of increased funding to education over the previous years, there are now more staff per student on more expensive salaries. If that is indeed true, I suppose we need to see an increase in the education budget to cover that. Education is an important priority for Western Australian voters, and, rather than the proposed cuts and levies, we would like to see additional expenditure on schools. Education is one of the most fundamental, important pieces of infrastructure in planning for our future. As I have mentioned before, it is a priority for the Greens (WA) and our voters, and we would like to see the state government prioritise it even higher. We strongly oppose the cuts to education, and we would like to hear from the education minister about how they could possibly be justified while the population is increasing at a rapid rate, and the pressure on teachers to deliver good outcomes for literacy and numeracy remains.


Hon Peter Collier: We increased the budget by $300 million—you know that, don’t you?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: The impact will particularly be on the loss of teachers’ aides. I think the impact on classrooms of that cut is of particular concern to our constituencies. We would like to see that decision reversed.
My previous comments in response to the budget focused on the impact on health and wellbeing and the cost of living increases that vulnerable Western Australians are coping with. In my remaining time I would like to discuss a little about the housing and transport portions of this budget. I will not go into the detail that Hon Ken Travers did because he covered many of those issues, but I want to add to what he said. I also have a few other comments on arts funding.
I am sure that Mr President is aware that Western Australia is far behind the rest of the nation in providing a roof for the most vulnerable in society. WA has experienced the largest rise in housing costs—more than any other state in Australia. Between 2006 and 2011, median rents rose 76 per cent and median mortgage repayments rose 60 per cent. Western Australia’s growing population has been named as a reason for this, but it has been far from unexpected. For some time now, these population increases have been projected, as was the housing shortage. At any glance at budgets over the years, members will see that this was predicted. In 2010–11, the Housing Authority waiting time for accommodation was 113 weeks. In the following year, it went up to 121 weeks. In 2012–13, it reached a new high of 134 weeks. It is time that resources from the boom are put into making Perth a liveable city. It is not that hard to do.
I might add that only last week the Committee for Perth released a paper on affordability of rents in the city. This issue perhaps started out as a loud noise from organisations on the front line such as Anglicare and the Western Australian Council of Social Service that deal with people suffering homelessness, but it is now being addressed by organisations such as the Committee for Perth, which recognise this as a mainstream problem. It is no longer a problem for those people who are on the edges of society; it is becoming a mainstream problem. In fact, of all Western Australians experiencing homelessness 43 per cent are staying in overcrowded dwellings, which is above the national average of 39 per cent; only 10 per cent are in supported accommodation for the homeless, which is half the national average at 20 per cent; and 10 per cent are sleeping rough, which again is above the national average of six per cent. Domestic violence and relationship problems are by far the greatest reason for homelessness in Western Australia and 43 per cent of homelessness service providers’ clients had these issues. Financial difficulties such as unemployment and housing stress, in which spending on accommodation is more than 30 per cent of household income, account for less than half of that, at 20 per cent. Rents have risen far higher and far faster than incomes over the past 10 years. The rise in the minimum wage over that time has been small compared with the rise in average wages, putting low income earners even further out of the rental market. There is no home buyers’ market for people on low incomes, and almost no rental market for them. I refer to Barry Doyle of the Community Housing Coalition. It was not that long ago we had Homeless Persons Week. It was right in the middle of the federal election and there was quite of a lot of campaigning to try to get increased support and policy responses to solve the homelessness problem. Barry Doyle pointed out that sleeping rough outdoors is the public face of a much larger problem. Most people experiencing homelessness stay in severely overcrowded homes and flats, and this insecurity makes everything else in life temporary. He also pointed out that the problem is not cyclical, but structural; it will not go away by itself and today’s low income renters are tomorrow’s seniors without a house. Safe, affordable and secure housing is fundamental. It is a fundamental first step to helping people help themselves.


In the lead-up to the budget, WACOSS called for an investment of $525 million in housing to address homelessness. That is a significant investment for a significant return. Its pre-budget submission “Stronger Together” outlines how all Western Australians should and can have access to affordable, appropriate and sustainable housing. WACOSS also pointed out in its budget analysis that the impact of funding for the national rental affordability scheme will unfortunately be limited. The additional $47.8 million to provide an extra 1 000 properties under the scheme has been allocated only from 2015–16 onwards and is to be spent over 13 years. Quite simply, that money is needed now. We need greater investment in social and affordable housing, and we want to see increased affordable housing provision in rapidly growing regional communities. We need an increase in crisis and transitional accommodation and subsidised access to private rental properties if we are not going to build public housing properties. If we are going to rely on the private sector, we need to find a way to provide financial incentives for that private sector housing provision to be affordable to low income people.


The really tricky part is moving people from temporary to permanent accommodation. We need secure housing. This will also free up crisis beds for those people who are currently sleeping rough. Again, we need more crisis beds because we have had a population increase and there is disparity in incomes. We need this, just to help people through those rough times when they have lost a job and have not found another job. Anyone who has been following the job advertisement statistics will know there has been a decline in available jobs over the last six months. Every single time a report is released, we read about a decline in the number of jobs being advertised, so we know that the employment market is getting smaller. Anyone who loses a job has very few options or opportunities to get another job—for example, a friend of mine who is turning 60 will lose her job this week. Those are the people who are at risk of homelessness. We have learned that women in their middle age who are on their own have the highest risk of homelessness. If they miss a mortgage or rent payment—by the way, their landlord also has bills to pay and needs to have rental income—they are in this precarious position. Our state is losing its ability to assist people in this position. Our state needs to provide crisis accommodation for people who need it. At a polling booth on the weekend I met a woman in her mid-60s who was handing out how-to-vote cards—it does not matter for which party. She had suffered homelessness. Even though she was a teacher and was a well-paid professional, she had been swindled out of some money and had been in the precarious position of being homeless and had been sleeping in her car, I believe, for six weeks.
We are a generous state. We are a caring state. We should have crisis accommodation for people in need. This budget, however, does not deliver that. The waiting list for priority housing is now 63 weeks, but even that figure is deceiving. Several people have come into my office who have been on the list for a long, long time. The most recent case has been on the list since February 2011. How many new houses are being built to accommodate these people who are suffering chronic homelessness? That is what we should be investing in. The total number of clients who are receiving support from homelessness service providers is 28 495 and almost two-thirds of these need accommodation. It is mind boggling to think that that many people are actually eligible and have qualified for assistance. How can we possibly meet that need? It is certainly not from the current budget allocation. There were far too many requests for services that went unassisted last year, with 15 575 requests for help unanswered. That is the equivalent of 53 requests a day from people who could not be provided with assistance. If it is difficult to hear about it, it is because this is a crisis and no-one wants to stare it in the face, but we must. At this point, when we are looking at the budget, it is fair enough to question where the money is for homelessness services. The cost of rental accommodation is the number one contributor to financial stress in low-income households. Transferred housing stress is leading to defaults on loans, the inability to pay for household utilities such as gas and electricity and increased demand for emergency relief. So what does this mean for our budget? Anglicare conducted a rental affordability snapshot and the report states —
“Private rentals are inaccessible for low income earners and those on benefits. Access to rentals for a couple on … minimum wages dropped from 6.7% to 2.6% in just one year. Overall the situation is … grim.”


At the time of this research snapshot in April this year, Anglicare found —
For single people on Newstart or the Youth Allowance no properties were affordable in Perth …
There was only one affordable property for aged pension couples. That is appalling. The report went on to state that the median rental price rose 16 per cent over the past year. The report also states —
The current rental market in Western Australia is clearly beyond the affordable price range of people on benefits, pensions or a minimum wage. The level of income received by people on pensions and benefits is only sufficient to pay for extremely cheap accommodation, which simply does not exist.
Yesterday, members might have seen an article in The West Australian about the rise of grey crime; namely, that baby boomers are 50 per cent more likely to commit a crime. Why is that? Are they just getting wild in their middle years? No, it is because they are struggling to make it in a society that they have contributed taxes to for most of their working life. They are struggling now to make the rent. They are struggling to have a nice dinner in the way that they are used to and they are struggling to fill the car with petrol. So what are we doing? We are watching them go into crisis and strike out by committing crimes. What response do we have to this? This is important; these are people who have the wisdom of their years, who have worked and contributed taxes and who deserve to enjoy the benefits of our society. This is Perth!


Many women and children continue to become homeless due to domestic and family violence and they face further impoverishment as a result. As the Western Australian Council of Social Service stated in its pre-budget submission —
Women are the majority users of homelessness services in WA—escaping family and domestic violence is the major cause.
In the short term, leaving an abusive relationship involves moving house, leaving the local community, finding work, replacing possessions that have been left behind, financial hardship and even the loss of friendships and community networks. What are we doing for these people? Nothing. What does it take to provide some shelter for women and families in a time of transition to provide some safety so that they are not at risk of violent behaviour and, as we have seen, murder? It does not take that much to provide shelter, a listener and some assistance from a community law centre so that they can cope with the changes and the struggles that they face. I believe that we are a compassionate society, yet we see a budget that does not reflect this. Where are the shelters in this budget and do they go anywhere near meeting the need?


Hon Helen Morton: Do you mean the extra ones?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I mean beds; how many beds are we providing in this budget? Does the minister know?


Hon Helen Morton: Overall—in total?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: New ones.


Hon Helen Morton: There is an extra women’s shelter in Perth and an extra one in Busselton.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Is there an extra women’s shelter in Busselton? There is something in Bunbury, too; there is some accommodation.


Hon Helen Morton: It might be something that has already started up.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: But it is not crisis accommodation. Okay, so there is one. I am not trying to not acknowledge the work that the minister is doing; she is doing good work and she is providing shelters. At least there is one.


Hon Helen Morton: Are you talking about women’s shelters?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I am talking about crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence situations.


Hon Helen Morton: There is an extra one in Perth and an extra one in Busselton.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I thank the minister. How close does that come to meeting the need for crisis accommodation? We have seen escalating violence and more people who are affected by this. Do we know?


Hon Helen Morton: Other measures are involved as well, so it’s not just the shelters. An expansion of an Aboriginal-specific service is taking place as well. There are other initiatives, is what I’m saying. It is probably not a good thing for me to interject to try to give you the full story about that!


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I think the point is that WACOSS acknowledged through its sector survey of the people who assist people fleeing from these situations that there is an unmet need. I, as one member—I know there are several other members—would like to know how far our state budget is going this year and in the out years to address that unmet need. It is something that really strikes our heart, is it not, to think of a woman or a man in that vulnerable position who is escaping domestic violence—any parent escaping domestic violence with children? It is a difficult need to meet, is it not, to provide a shelter for parents and their children? I know that one initiative is, instead of removing the family from the home, to remove the perpetrator from the home and ensure that that perpetrator does not return to the home to put that family at further risk. But that is difficult. I know it is a complex problem; there is no easy answer. But one of the answers is to provide more shelter, more crisis accommodation and more crisis services. I really do not mind paying my taxes to help those vulnerable people and to ensure that our government invests more in those crisis services. We do not want people sitting in that position for longer than they need to, and they will need support to get out of that position and to build their security and their self-esteem. In some cases, they might even have to overcome injuries due to assault, while building their family and getting the kids safe in school again. This is something that I believe we should invest in because it harms society long into the future if we do not support people in crisis. I think the minister agrees with me, which is why she is nodding, and I am making the point that we need more funds invested in this. If the minister would like to go into detail about the funds that this government has invested in meeting that unmet need, she would have my rapt attention.
Having made those points quite clearly, I will just mention a couple of other programs that we looked for in the budget to see whether they are funded. One of those programs is the Re-entry Link. That program was studied in 2008 by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, which looked at the cost-effectiveness of housing programs for adults in Perth and the south west of WA. The housing affordability crisis has worsened since then, which is confirmed by census figures and the rising costs of rent relative to the smaller increase in wages. There are programs that are cost effective. Homelessness programs produce positive outcomes for their clients at a relatively low cost and can reduce health, justice and police expenditure. Here we have at last some numbers to argue from an economic rationalist perspective. Among the programs covered by the study was the WA Department of Corrective Services’ Re-entry Link, which provides transitional support to prisoners exiting jail who are at risk of homelessness due to the lack of stable housing.


As an example, the cost for single male homelessness assistance is only $4 652 per client compared with the average heath and justice cost of $10 212 above the normal population rate while homeless. That is a handy number to plug into our database when we are trying to work out how cost effective it would be to help a person who is homeless, in particular a person who has been in touch with the corrective services department by having been in custody at some point and now is homeless.
People experiencing homelessness use more health services than average. In Western Australia, women clients used $6 779 more in health costs than average in the 12 months prior to support. Single men used casualty and emergency departments almost four times more than average and made nine times more use of ambulance services. Homelessness also adds to the cost of justice services. The police and court costs of responding to domestic violence for women clients were $2 992 greater than average in the 12 months prior to support. Better housing, increased quality of life and feelings of safety are the effective outcomes of homelessness programs. Over the 12 months of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute study, the number of people in paid employment doubled. The study identified that the potential annual whole-of-government savings are at least twice as large as the annual cost of delivering effective homelessness programs. How many banks offer a deal like that?


Homelessness Australia, which is the national peak body for homelessness in Australia, has called the Greens’ homelessness action plan a good start and says it hopes that other parties will make similar commitments. The Greens’ plan includes an emergency package to build new homes, including modular housing. It also aims to double the current funding to specialist homelessness services across Australia. In calling for a tripartisan commitment, Narelle Clay, AM, the national chairperson of Homelessness Australia, has said —


We hope that other parties can make similar commitments. We can end homelessness for people in Australia but to do that we need to keep focusing on the solutions. The focus needs to stay on housing provision, homelessness services and job creation.
By the way, Narelle Clay has received a Member of the Order of Australia award for distinguished service to the community through social justice advocacy and the provision of accommodation, housing and support for homeless people, especially young people.
In the lead-up to the federal election, the independent federal Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed that signing a new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and doubling the funding under that agreement would cost $275 million per annum. The Greens would like to see the state match its proportion of funding based on the original partnership signed in 2009. This is what the Greens have costed, and it is a responsible policy initiative. What we have not yet seen is what this state government will do with that partnership agreement. I was in Bunbury recently and spoke to a group of students from Edith Cowan University, and they reminded me how important this agreement is, because the south west is one of the areas that is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. Such an investment in the national partnership agreement will get us on track to providing by 2020 an emergency package to house every person currently sleeping without adequate shelter. It includes a50 per cent target of modular or prefabricated housing, which is both significantly faster and more affordable to build. It will also, by the way, put more Australians in work, because the idea is that these prefabricated housing modules will be manufactured in Australia. The Greens’ plan also proposes a doubling of the current funding for specialist homelessness services.


Our priority is to provide not only secure long-term housing, but also the intensive support and services needed to help people maintain their tenancy and address the problems that lead to homelessness in the first place. We need to address the causes of homelessness, because if we are able to deal with homelessness at the structural level, the problem will not become cyclical and recurring. Bricks and mortar alone will not solve this problem. We need to provide the support and services that people need to deal with their housing needs. All members would have heard many times on the television news stories about people who have failed to maintain their tenancy and have done their three strikes, and more, and who have been evicted and thrown out onto the streets because there is no crisis accommodation available for them. This is now a recurring incident in Western Australia—the boom state, the state that has a strong economy and a high rate of mining production, and the state that is supposed to be looking pretty. Yet the ugly side of this state is that people are being thrown out of their homes and onto the streets because they cannot maintain their tenancy. As I have outlined, we have not invested enough in the provision of services to assist people to maintain their tenancy. If we could assist people to maintain their tenancy so that they had stable housing and their kids could continue to go to the same school and they could go to the same job every day, all of society would benefit from that.
As is my way, I want to congratulate the government on what it has done well. The Minister for Planning, Hon John Day, and the Minister for Housing, Hon Bill Marmion, have announced a planning reform that will open the door to the provision of more flexible housing options. I am particularly interested in this announcement, because it is being modelled in Fremantle. What we are doing—maybe I should not use the word “we” too loosely here—what this state government is doing is allowing people to build a granny flat in their backyard. Homeowners will be able to rent out their granny flat—or “Fonzie” flat, which is a new word for me—to people such as students, single people and fly in, fly out workers. This will fulfil a commitment that was made by the government in the 2013 state election. This is a welcome initiative. Instead of people having to incur the rising costs of living in a new suburb on the fringes of the city, these granny flats will be built on the existing footprint of our urban zone and will be made available as affordable rental accommodation. In the past, the planning rules prohibited this. The new rules will allow for an increase in the amount of floor space that is provided in a granny flat. Many years ago, I had a rental property in Shepherd Street, Hilton. There was a granny flat at the back of that property, and a student at Murdoch University was living in that granny flat. She only needed a little kitchen and one bedroom, so this was an affordable housing option for her. This planning reform that this government is delivering will help provide affordable accommodation within our existing footprint as opposed to having to build new suburbs on the urban fringe.
Mr President, may I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage?


The PRESIDENT: Member, you do not need to seek leave, because you have unlimited time, as per the standing order and the interpretation of it that was made by the Chair in the last session.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Thank you, Mr President. So should I continue now?


The PRESIDENT: Yes. I was just indicating to the member in front of you —


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: —that he needs to go out of the chamber this way.


The PRESIDENT: Yes.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: By the way, just because I have unlimited time does not mean I am going to take all day. I do intend to complete my remarks in the next 20 minutes or so,


Mr President, so that members can time their workday.


Hon Ken Baston: Take as long as you want, member.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: No, I think I will have made my points.
There is a lot to say about housing and homelessness services and there is more material that I would like to discuss, but I will move on from that at this point, because I am sure there will be other opportunities to address the housing crisis—it is not going away. Perhaps we will see more and more debates on exactly what are the answers to the provision of housing and homelessness services. I welcome them and I can assure members that I will have a lot to contribute to those debates, one of which is coming up soon, when we will debate the increase to the first home owners grant. Some comments will be made about the impact of halving the first home owners grant.
will be taken up and appropriately funded, because it is a great idea. It will help to not only reduce our dependency on coal-fired power stations, but also provide cheaper energy for people who need it most. I know that there are some structural problems to overcome and I am hoping that Western Power and/or Synergy manage to overcome them sooner rather than later.


Another factor that the Western Australian Council of Social Service mentioned during its post-budget analysis was that it could not locate where the child health nurses were. My staff were also unable to locate that in the budget. The child health nurses program was a good initiative of the previous government and I am surprised that it has been dropped from the state budget. If, indeed, the child health nurses are still in the state budget and we have neglected to locate them somehow in the tremendous volume of information, I would appreciate it if the Leader of the House or one of his ministers could provide me with that information.


The Department for Child Protection and Family Support also suffered from these budget cuts. There was a rationalisation of $645 000 each year for a total of $2.6 million and a reprioritisation, all in this year, of $1 million. The foremost principle in our minds about these changes must be: where is the evidence-based need for restructuring services, or is it just an attempt to find a cut somewhere? It would be nice to see the evidence on why we are restructuring those services and why we are making those cuts. The message from WACOSS is that in order to look at the question of whether changes will lead to better service outcomes, the process for restructuring needs to be based on consultation with end users and service providers.


WACOSS also looks at complex needs, because that is one of the ways to address the causes of homelessness and mental illness and the need for the costly services that the government provides. In its post-budget analysis, WACOSS made the point that the budget for the Department of Corrective Services seems to be a bottomless pit, but there is a lack of funding for new initiatives to prevent crime and recidivism. To me, that seems to be the wrong priority. We cannot really pump enough money into prisons to stop people from committing crime, but if we invest in programs to stop recidivism and prevent crime, we can then reduce the need to spend all that money on prisons.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, also known in Australia as R U OK? Day. I have reflected on this and I am hoping to raise it during non-government business time on Thursday. Members may like to prepare some comments on it because I think that is something every member may want to contribute to. The Mental Health Commission’s budget shows significant anticipated growth and spending on public in-patient mental health services. The budget papers indicate significant growth in the purchase of non-government mental health and drug and alcohol services from 2012–13 to 2013–14. I was very concerned to see that there is little further growth over the forward estimates. I am sure that we will continue to need to expend state funding on mental health services, so I wonder why growth has disappeared from the forward estimates, and I want to express my concern about that. In fact, the Greens believe that we should have increased funding for the promotion of mental health and wellbeing and, where possible, the prevention and early identification of mental illness. I will go into this more on Thursday, but one of the suicide prevention programs that the last government initiated was a program called Living Proud. I would like to know the fate of that program after the cuts. Will the Living Proud program continue? It had a wrap-up at the end of last year and an evaluation was underway. I wonder if that program is continuing, as I think it is a very worthy program. From what I hear, everyone who has been involved in it has said that it has great outcomes, and I have respect for the people in that industry and sector.


Under the category of trying to address the causes of things and trying to look at better ways to deliver affordable housing and affordable transport in our city, together with Senator Scott Ludlam, we produced a series of documents called “Transforming Perth”. This was intended to regenerate transport corridors as a network of high street precincts. I draw this to members’ attention because it is a concept that can address some of the problems that have been highlighted so far in my contribution to the budget debate. Together with the Property Council of Australia and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, the Greens developed an ambitious report that demonstrates that Perth can accommodate its projected population growth within the existing urban footprint of the city. It can do this while also providing a blueprint for vastly improved public transport and boosting affordable housing and local business. That is a win–win–win situation! The report, “Transforming Perth”, is a study into the development potential along our activity corridors that have been identified by “Directions 2031: Draft Spatial Framework for Perth and Peel”. It applies world’s best planning principles to solve our public transport, planning and housing affordability problems. If we get urban planning right, we can deliver affordable housing to our growing population, take traffic jams off the streets, boost local businesses, reduce pollution and free the people of Perth from car dependency in an age of peak oil. Perth’s urban footprint is already bigger than several major European and US cities combined, but it accommodates only 1.8 million people. The study takes account of seven of Perth’s 18 planned rapid transit corridors and identifies the potential to build between 94 500 and 252 000 new homes, depending on the mix of medium and high-density development. With exclusively medium-density development, the seven corridors will accommodate 84 per cent of Perth’s infill target of 154 000 dwellings to 2031.


I encourage members to have a look at this study; it is available on the web. If members were to look at the proposals for their areas, they will see that they are in line with the Western Australian Planning Commission’s Directions 2031. All it does is take it one step further by identifying exactly where we can build medium and high-density housing along transit corridors. This will save many suburbs from the pressures of high density where it is inappropriate. There are places in our city that should not have high-density housing—for example, places like Ferndale, where the Ferndale oval is being proposed to have high-density housing built on it; and my own area of East Fremantle, where the area of the A-class reserve is proposed for some further aged-care facilities and high-density or medium-density housing. I know that A-class reserves and public open spaces throughout the city are being looked at and considered for further high-density development. We do not have to do that throughout the city; we can identify strategic areas. In fact, the blueprint that the planning minister has provided—namely, Directions 2031—already goes some way to identifying the areas. I acknowledge the tremendous work of the then minister for planning, Alannah MacTiernan, in developing Network City, which was also a similar plan identifying these activity centres and linking them with rapid transit corridors. It showed that we can house all the growing population that we are anticipating to host in Western Australia.


I will make a few comments on forest products because, as a Greens member who is handling 50 per cent of the portfolios in this house, I wanted to comment that we are looking at the new forest management plan. I highlight that the Auditor General’s report on forest management was very critical of the Forest Products Commission. It highlighted a lack of transparency and accountability. The competitiveness of forest products sales has dropped over recent years with products being sold by private treaty. Anyone who has paid attention in this chamber would know that I have been asking questions trying to ascertain about the sale of native forest logs, where they are ending up and how much we are being paid for them. It is a fair enough question to ask. This is state forest; it is our property, and it is being sold and we deserve to know how much it is being sold for. As the Auditor General has pointed out, it is really hard to figure it out because of the lack of transparency. However, the Forest Products Commission continues to receive $600 000 every year for computers, plant and equipment. In 2008–09, it received $751 000; in 2009–10, it received $800 0000; in 2010–11, it received $800 000; and in 2011–12, it received $600 000. That is a lot of money for that kind of thing. In each subsequent year through to 2016–17, it will still receive $600 000 for computers, plant and equipment. That seems a bit strange to me. I want to know how long it takes to update information technology equipment and other infrastructure. Does it really take a decade to do it? How long will this unsustainable industry be propped up? We are paying for that and what is it being spent on?


Greens members are not the only ones who commented on the initiatives of this government’s budget for water and water efficiency. I believe the Western Australian Council of Social Service made the point that each year the Water Corporation discharges more than 100 billion litres of treated wastewater from its treatment plants in the Perth–Peel area into the ocean. Overall, only 7.9 per cent of treated wastewater in this region has been re-used, compared with much higher rates of wastewater recycling in country areas of WA. It averages more than 50 per cent of wastewater recycling—good for you, country WA! The Greens propose to raise the water recycling target for the Perth–Peel region to 30 per cent by 2020, but there are no initiatives in the budget that attempt to achieve that figure. We support the development of these systems for recycling re-used water; it is an important sustainability measure, especially considering our growing metropolitan population and our drying climate.


There were some things we welcomed in the transport budget; namely, the investment in light rail and cycling. The good news is that Roe Highway stage 8, the highway through the Beeliar wetlands, has no funding attached currently. We hope that funding does not come from the federal government either. I was concerned about the allocation of $118 million for the High Street widening, which will begin in 2014–15. Many of my constituents have worked for many years towards getting a better transport solution in the area of Fremantle. We believe the government can save a lot of money by cancelling this widening project altogether.


We believe we should be moving freight on rail, not trucks, and in our view the widening of that road is not necessary. We could have spent more on light rail, but the government did allocate money—that is, $432 million—for the MAX light rail. We know now with the new federal government that has been elected, we will not get the $500 million or whatever was hoped from that government. It is a matter of public record that the Greens’ view was that the government should have asked for that money up-front; that is, we should have gone to the state election knowing whether or not it was deliverable. However, we find ourselves with a plan for a rail, a commitment of some funds, and an outstanding amount of funds that we hope will be delivered in some way soon. However, it is also hoped that it will not be at the cost of other very important infrastructure.
I will now refer to the government’s bike plan, which was another exciting initiative of the previous government. On top of the initial $20 million provided in the 2012–13 budget, an additional $15 million is provided to continue to develop and improve cycling infrastructure. I have asked questions in this Parliament about how much was unspent and why it was unspent. The answer from the minister was that it took a longer time than the government had thought to work out how to maintain these paths. I am hoping that the efficiency with the maintenance of those paths and the delivery of that new cycling network will be much quicker and have a higher priority. I would also like to know whether the online program called BikeFail has assisted in identifying some of the priorities for maintenance and repair of cycling infrastructure. The “Western Australian Bicycle Network Plan 2012–2021” asked for significant funding, but the allocation in the budget is quite different. I will follow that up through parliamentary questions. As I have said before, the bike plan is a great idea; we just need to see it funded and implemented.
One program that has been cut is the RAC-housed road user coordinator. One of the barriers to delivering better bike infrastructure has been getting people together. It is under road safety, so it is under Western Australia Police, but we also need the Department of Transport involved to be able to identify the networks. Sometimes bike paths go through parks. A lot of people, including bike-user groups, need to come together to identify how funding should be spent. The state government funded, through the RAC, a very effective program aimed at vulnerable road users. That funding has now been cut. That is a concern, because we do not know whether the good work in developing those networks will continue. The road trauma trust account was defunded by over $3 million in the state budget. I believe the road user coordinator was funded out of that. We are incredibly concerned about that cut. The state government acknowledges in its budget that, due to population growth and urban sprawl, there has been an increase in the number of drivers on the roads. We would like to see the number of cyclists increase as well.


I want to finish on a happy note; I suppose it is good news and bad news. The bad news concerns an organisation in Fremantle, the Film and Television Institute WA Inc. Arts funding had a great lobby group in the lead-up to the state election. The group wants some of its “asks” answered. It would like funding for some of the programs it put forward. One ask, which was not supported in this budget, was the indexation of arts organisation funding. That will have a tremendous impact on groups such as these. I assisted the Indigo Journal many years ago. From that experience, I know that if an organisation does not have a secured amount of funding, it cannot really plan long into the future. It results in that precarious situation of not being able to flourish and grow, and not being able to use developed programs into the second and third years. Once a program is developed, repeating it is when an organisation really gets the benefit of its investment in starting a new program. Indexation of arts funding is critical to continue those programs in a sustainable fashion. I was disappointed to see that the indexation of arts funding was not there.


I will finish on some good news: Country Arts WA received $24 million over three years to support the development of regional arts. This was a historical moment that will have far-reaching impacts on the state. I have a photo of what equates to a “quad-partisan” approach. The picture is of the Minister for Culture and the Arts, Hon John Day; Hon Brendon Grylls; Mr John Hyde, MLA, former shadow minister for the arts; and my good self. All of us supported this call for funding, and we managed to achieve it. On that note, I might reflect a little more on the good news that we have heard! Country Arts WA, in association with the Chamber of Arts and Culture, put forward an amazingly effective lobbying strategy. I would really like to go to one of their classes about how to get things done. They got that money. Hon Col Holt wants to say something about that money; I am not sure what he might want to say about it.


Hon Col Holt interjected.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It is good news.


Hon Col Holt: I know where the commitment came from, don’t worry about that.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: There is some money somewhere, in a bucket of money that is handed out from time to time! They got it. Since I have minutes remaining, I want to briefly mention the animal welfare unit. In 2011–12, the budget estimate for the animal welfare unit was $900 000. In 2012–13, the forward estimate is still $900 000; the same through to 2014–15. The problem is there are not enough inspectors, as we have identified.


Hon Col Holt interjected.


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It is probably zero. The animal welfare unit is a good thing. Where it sits, under Agriculture and Food, is not so good. Also, the amount of funding it receives leaves it in a permanent state of ineffectiveness because there are not enough inspectors. Quite a lot of analysis has been done on this. The state government should have put more resources into animal welfare, especially considering it seems hell-bent on defending the live export industry and defending other farming practices in which animal welfare might need to be investigated. Why not invest more in the animal welfare unit? I was sad to see that it is still underfunded. It also still exists underneath the Minister for Agriculture and Food, which we believe is a clear conflict of interest.


Hon Ken Baston: Where do we put it?


Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I do not know—why not have it totally independent?


I made the point that the Film and Television Institute has not received funding. That is bad news. We also lobbied for a centre for Fremantle performing arts. Fremantle is a whole other issue.
In closing, the green economy would be one that we would prepare well for the future. We would reduce environmental debt. We would invest in the community and invest in caring. The efficient delivery of services is one of the themes that the government is running in this budget. If we are naming this correctly, should we really have those public service cuts? Why is it considered irresponsible to leave monetary debt for the next generation but it is okay to leave an environmental debt? If we transfer environmental protection responsibility from the federal government to the state government, how will that be funded? If we already receive a cut out of GST revenue, how will we possibly fund environmental protection if the federal government devolves its powers to us? In looking at the priority that has been placed on environmental protection by the Barnett government, I assure members we will not see anything in there to give us confidence that our environment will be protected. Warning sign: let us hope that environmental protection remains a federal government responsibility or it is adequately funded at a state level. This is a debt that will go long into the future—in not only this budget cycle, but also the next budget cycle and budget cycles for generations to come.