Reflections on the Victorian Budget

Council of Single Mothers and their Children CEO - Jenny DavidsonThe budget released on 3 May demonstrates why Victoria is the place to be living in Australia right now. The Andrews Government has put money behind their rhetoric, backing their equity agenda with some truly landmark investments.

The $1.9 billion to fund services for people who have experienced, or are experiencing family violence is a standout that  will fund such initiatives as a dedicated prevention agency, front line services, emergency and long term housing, financial counselling, 17 support and safety hubs across the State and 5 specialist family violence courts. This is a momentous investment and an acknowledgement of the scale of this entrenched issue. While we unreservedly applaud this initiative, we know that many women escaping family violence with their children return home when the costs of housing and re-establishing kids in school, are too great to manage on a Newstart payment or minimum wage. This is the rub of State-Federal relations and we can only hope the Federal budget will commit as profoundly to a safety net with funds for women and children escaping family violence to rebuild their lives.

What other budget initiatives will translate into support for single mother families in Victoria?

  • Funds for building social housing could ease the acute shortage of affordable housing in the long term, and funds for upgrading the energy efficiency of low income households should reduce utility costs (but will it help renters?).
  • $5.7 million for the implementation of Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy includes $1.1 million for financial literacy programs for vulnerable women to improve their financial security.
  • $90m (over 2 years) for job creation, including for communities experiencing high levels of disadvantage, may result in the permanent part-time jobs that single mothers so desperately need. Only time will tell.
  • $4.3M will support 3-4 year old disadvantaged children engage with kindergarten.
  • Building new schools and school upgrades have been financed.
  • $81.1 million will be invested in more Maternal and Child Health services and targeted parenting support.

All of this is commendable and heartening. However, for a working single mother struggling to meet living and education costs, who has lost the Federal School Kids bonus at the end of 2016 and gets a tiny bit of Newstart to top up her wage, does any of this help her when times are tight? I think we will find that the answer is largely no.

The Federal budget is due out next Tuesday and I do not expect to feel heartened by it. I think there will be some concerning hits to the most disadvantaged in our community, in a continuation of the trend to balance the budget at the expense of those who can least afford it. We will be waiting with bated breath. I do not think crossing our fingers is going to be of any help.

Jenny Davidson
CEO – Council of Single Mothers and their Children

2016 State Budget

CSMC embraces the progressive budget handed down by the Andrews Labor Government last week. We gratefully acknowledge the governments commitment to addressing family violence, and supporting low income families.

In brief, this budget will see:

$148.3 million committed to the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, which will help over 200,000 disadvantaged students receive these expensive but essential parts of an education.

The expansion of a free uniform, shoes and books program run by State Schools’ Relief, so it can assist more than twice as many students every year.

$81.3 million to support the work of the Royal Commission, and to take immediate action to protect women and children and hold perpetrators accountable.

Investment in children and family services will grow by 14.4 per cent in 2015-16, compared to growth of 6.6 per cent on average over the last four years.

$40.3 million for innovative early intervention projects, reducing homelessness by helping struggling families secure affordable housing or maintain their tenancy. These projects currently support approximately 2000 clients every year.

$200 million for a dedicated Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital, with 237 beds, 39 special care nursery cots and four theatres for families in the west.

For more comprehensive budget information, see the Budget Overview

CSMC looks forward to engaging further with the government to ensure the best outcomes for Victorian single mothers and their children

Tackling housing unaffordability: a 10-point national plan

 Image courtesy of image catalog flickr cc

Hal Pawson, UNSW Australia; Bill Randolph, UNSW Australia; Judith Yates, University of Sydney; Michael Darcy, University of Western Sydney; Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney, and Vivienne Milligan, UNSW Australia

The widening cracks in Australia’s housing system can no longer be concealed. The extraordinary recent debate has laid bare both the depth of public concern and the vacuum of coherent policy to promote housing affordability. The community is clamouring for leadership and change.

Especially as it affects our major cities, housing unaffordability is not just a problem for those priced out of a decent place to live. It also damages the efficiency of the entire urban economy as lower paid workers are forced further from jobs, adding to costly traffic congestion and pushing up unemployment.

There have recently been some positive developments at the state level, such as Western Australia’s ten year commitment to supply 20,000 affordable homes for low and moderate income earners. Meanwhile, following South Australia’s lead, Victoria plans to mandate affordable housing targets for developments on public land. And in March the NSW State Premier announced a fund to generate $1bn in affordable housing investment.

But although welcome, these initiatives will not turn the affordability problem around while tax settings continue to support existing homeowners and investors at the expense of first time buyers and renters. Moreover, apart from a brief interruption 2008-2012, the Commonwealth has been steadily winding back its explicit housing role for more than 20 years.

The post of housing minister was deleted in 2013, and just last month Government senators dismissed calls for renewed Commonwealth housing policy leadership recommended by the Senate’s extensive (2013-2015) Affordable Housing Inquiry. This complacency cannot go unchallenged.

Challenging the “best left to the market” mantra

The mantra adopted by Australian governments since the 1980s that housing provision is “best left to the market” will not wash. Government intervention already influences the housing market on a huge scale, especially through tax concessions to existing property owners, such as negative gearing. Unfortunately, these interventions largely contribute to the housing unaffordability problem rather than its solution.

But first we need to define what exactly constitutes the housing affordability challenge. In reality, it’s not a single problem, but several interrelated issues and any strategic housing plan must specifically address each of these.

Firstly, there is the problem faced by aspiring first home buyers contending with house prices escalating ahead of income growth in hot urban housing markets. The intensification of this issue is clear from the reduced home ownership rate among young adults from 53% in 1990 to just 34% in 2011 – a decline only minimally offset by the entry of well-off young households into the housing market as first-time investors.

Secondly, there is the problem of unaffordability in the private rental market affecting tenants able to keep arrears at bay only by going without basic essentials, or by tolerating unacceptable conditions such as overcrowding or disrepair. Newly published research shows that, by 2011, more than half of Australia’s low income tenants – nearly 400,000 households – were in this way being pushed into poverty by unaffordable rents.

Thirdly, there is the long-term decline in public housing and the public finance affordability challenge posed by the need to tackle this. In NSW, for example, 30-40% of all public housing is officially sub-standard.

“Why the “build more houses” approach won’t work

A factor underlying all these issues is the long-running tendency of housing construction numbers to lag behind household growth. But while action to maximise supply is unquestionably part of the required strategy, it is a lazy fallacy to claim that the solution is simply to ‘build more homes’.

Even if you could somehow double new construction in (say) 2016, this would expand overall supply of properties being put up for sale in that year only very slightly. More importantly, the growing inequality in the way housing is occupied (more and more second homes and underutilised homes) blunts any potential impact of extra supply in moderating house prices. Re-balancing demand and supply must surely therefore involve countering inefficient housing occupancy by re-tuning tax and social security settings.

Where maximising housing supply can directly ease housing unaffordability is through expanding the stock of affordable rental housing for lower income earners. Not-for-profit community housing providers – the entities best placed to help here – have expanded fast in recent years. But their potential remains constrained by the cost and terms of loan finance and by their ability to secure development sites.

Housing is different to other investment assets

Fundamentally, one of the reasons we’ve ended up in our current predicament is that the prime function of housing has transitioned from “usable facility” to “tradeable commodity and investment asset”. Policies designed to promote home ownership and rental housing provision have morphed into subsidies expanding property asset values.

Along with pro-speculative tax settings, this changed perception about the primary purpose of housing has inflated the entire urban property market. The OECD rates Australia as the fourth or fifth most “over-valued” housing market in the developed world. Property values have become detached from economic fundamentals; a longer term problem exaggerated by the boom of the past three years. As well as pushing prices beyond the reach of first home buyers, this also undermines possible market-based solutions by swelling land values which damage rental yields, undermining the scope for affordable housing. Moreover, this places Australia among those economies which, in OECD-speak, are “most vulnerable to a price correction”.

While moderated property prices could benefit national welfare, no one wants to trigger a price crash. Rather, governments need to face up to the challenge of managing a “soft landing” by phasing out the tax system’s economically and socially unjustifiable market distortions and re-directing housing subsidies to progressive effect.

A 10-point plan for improved housing affordability

Underpinned by a decade’s research on fixing Australia’s housing problems, we therefore propose the following priority actions for Commonwealth, State and Territory governments acting in concert:

  • Moderate speculative investment in housing by a phased reduction of existing tax incentives favouring rental investors (concessional treatment of negative gearing and capital gains tax liability)
  • Redirect the additional tax receipts accruing from reduced concessions to support provision of affordable rental housing at a range of price points and to offer appropriate incentives for prospective home buyers with limited means.
  • By developing structured financing arrangements (such as housing supply bonds backed by a government guarantee), actively engage with the super funds and other institutional players who have shown interest in investing in rental housing
  • Replace stamp duty (an inefficient tax on mobility) with a broad-based property value tax (a healthy incentive to fully utilise property assets)
  • Expand availability of more affordable hybrid ‘partial ownership’ tenures such as shared equity – to provide ‘another rung on the ladder’
  • Implement the Henry Tax Review recommendations on enhancing Rent Assistance to improve affordability for low income tenants especially in the capital city housing markets where rising rents have far outstripped the value of RA payments.
  • Reduce urban land price gradients (compounding housing inequity and economic segregation) by improving mass transit infrastructure and encouraging targeted regional development to redirect growth
  • Continue to simplify landuse planning processes to facilitate housing supply while retaining scope for community involvement and proper controls on inappropriate development
  • Require local authorities to develop local housing needs assessments and equip them with the means to secure mandated affordable housing targets within private housing development projects over a certain size
  • Develop a costed and funded plan for existing public housing to see it upgraded to a decent standard and placed on a firm financial footing within 10 years.

While not every interest group would endorse all of our proposals, most are widely supported by policymakers, academics and advocacy communities, as well as throughout the affordable housing industry. As the Senate Inquiry demonstrated beyond doubt, an increasingly dysfunctional housing system is exacting a growing toll on national welfare. This a policy area crying out for responsible bipartisan reform.

The Conversation

Hal Pawson is Associate Director – City Futures – Urban Policy and Strategy, City Futures Research Centre, Housing Policy and Practice at UNSW Australia.
Bill Randolph is Director, City Futures – Faculty Leadership, City Futures Research Centre, Urban Analytics and City Data, Infrastructure in the Built Environment at UNSW Australia.
Judith Yates is Honorary Associate Professor at University of Sydney.
Michael Darcy is Director of Urban Research Centre at University of Western Sydney.
Nicole Gurran is Professor – Urban and Regional Planning at University of Sydney.
Peter Phibbs is Chair of Urban Planning and Policy at University of Sydney.
Vivienne Milligan is Associate Professor – City Futures Research Centre, Housing Policy and Practice at UNSW Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

His Name is Man

By Tenar Dwyer and Kerry Davies

 

Three days before Man Haron Monis walked into the Lindt café in Martin Place and took 17 people hostage his conviction for using the Australian postal service to send threatening letters to war widows had been upheld in the high court.

A violent predator with a history of misogynistic abuse of women, Monis was also out on bail for charges relating to his involvement with the brutal murder and immolation of his ex wife, as well as more than 50 counts of indecent assault stemming from his time as a self-styled spiritual healer.

Despite receiving a moderate sentence of 300 hours of community service and a two-year good behaviour bond for the postal service offence, the failure to have his convictions overturned was viewed by Monis as a gross injustice. Like other violent men who claim persecution by the system, Monis was displeased with the outcome of the court and felt justified to take his outrage out on innocent people.

While his actions on Monday were no doubt terrifying for the innocent women and men caught up in his vendetta, Man Haron Monis was not connected to any known terrorist group and it would be dangerous and potentially inflammatory to conflate his actions with acts of terrorism; at least not in the traditional sense of the word.

Monis acted alone. He was a man with a self-inflated sense of importance and a belief in his own entitlement, which ultimately made him a danger to women and the community at large. By cloaking himself in the symbolism associated with extremist cults he was seeking justification for his outrage and attempting to divert attention from the fact of his own selfish motives.

In the aftermath of the siege, which left two innocent people dead, it’s fair to ask how this was allowed to happen. The same questions were asked about Adrian Bayley, a sexually violent criminal who, while out on parole, went on to brutally rape and murder Jill Meagher. It was the question on everyone’s lips after Greg Anderson took a cricket bat to Luke Batty’s head and the question countless women ask when authorities fail to protect them and their children from violent men.

Our Minister for Women and Prime Minister, Tony Abbott asked what could have been done to prevent the horrible tragedy that unfolded in Sydney this week. This is the very same Prime Minister who led the first government in 25 years to tell the UN Committee against Torture that domestic violence, men’s everyday violence against women, isn’t torture.

Tony Abbott is spending billions of taxpayer dollars fighting terrorists overseas and at home despite not one person having been killed as the result of a terrorist attack on our soil. Meanwhile, Australian women are dying in droves at the hands of violent men who move through our communities with impunity.

Monday’s siege and its tragic outcome is just one of countless stories that highlight the consequences of inaction from the police, media and our governments to hold men accountable for the overwhelming sense of entitlement that leads to these acts of violence. If Man Haron Monis’ history of abuse and hatred of women had been treated with the gravity it deserved we could have avoided the horror we witnessed this week and innocent people would not have lost their lives.

The apathy toward men’s violence against women has to end NOW. The consequences of inaction are deadly. This year alone 73 Australian women have died as a result of men’s violence. The majority of those women have died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner.

What our leaders and protective services don’t seem to understand is for far too many Australian women there is only one terrorist.

His name is man.

 

 

 

 

Single Mothers and the 2014 Victorian State Election

Image credit: justgrimes flickrcc

Image credit: justgrimes flickrcc

By Tenar Dwyer

 

With the Victorian state election just days away we are still waiting to hear back from both the Liberal and Labor parties on where they stand on issues affecting single mothers. CSMC has made numerous attempts at contacting members of both parties but getting a response has proved almost impossible.

Last week we wrote again, this time to both leaders asking to meet, but getting a face to face meeting this close to the election will be a pretty tall order.

Danielle Green, Shadow Minister for Women and Member for Yan Yean, did come to visit our offices earlier this year to assure single mother families state Labor hasn’t forgotten women and their children. Danielle is a single mother herself so she understands how tough it can be trying to make ends meet. She knows her life could have been very different if she hadn’t had access to income support when she was a new single mum struggling to get by.

You will find details of Labor’s election platform here: http://www.viclabor.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Victorian-Labor-Platform-2014.pdf

For members in Danielle Green’s electorate you can find more information at: http://daniellegreen.org.au/

Liberal Minister for Women and Member for Bayswater, Heidi Victoria is also a single mother and we are sure she too understands the challenges of balancing work with raising children. Sadly however, unlike Labor, her party doesn’t support quotas to ensure equal representation of women in office. Heidi herself has been quoted as saying, “By our nature, obviously women are the nurturers in more circumstances than not, so for us to say that there’s going to be equality in Parliament is perhaps naive.”   It’s disappointing the Minister takes this position particularly given she is a single mother as most women know raising children shouldn’t be a barrier to our social, political and economic participation. The systemic barriers to women’s participation in politics and to obtaining positions of power and influence also can’t be ignored. The only way we are ever going to change the status quo is to put in quotas that ensure women are given equal representation.

CSMC’s interactions with Heidi Victoria’s office earlier this year were also disappointing. When we called to follow up on the list of questions we sent to the Minister in July the staff member who took our call told us we had confused the Minister’s role. Despite her office being the Office for Women’s Affairs we were told single mothers didn’t fall under the Minister for Women’s portfolio because she represented working women and women in politics and business. Apparently single mothers don’t work, don’t hold any positions in office and don’t run businesses and it’s not the Minister for Women’s role to address the hard issues facing many Victorian women.

To be fair the issues impacting single mothers and their children crosses multiple portfolios and many levels of government, so we understand how difficult it would be for one Minister to answer all our questions, but it does highlight how vast the barriers are that impact on women’s economic and social participation. Even so the ministerial staffer’s response to our call was a very telling and overt display of the discrimination single mothers experience every day: that we are seen as irrelevant.

For more information on what the Liberal Party is standing for this election go to: https://vic.liberal.org.au/AboutUs/Whatwestandfor

Further information can be also be found at: https://vic.liberal.org.au/

You can learn more about Heidi Victoria here: http://www.heidivictoria.com.au/

Family violence an election issue

Family violence is on the agenda for both the major parties as the Victorian community gets more and more vocal about this deadly epidemic.  Labor announced early on they will be calling for a Royal Commission into family violence if they get elected while the Liberal party has just announced they will increase penalties for breaching family violence intervention orders to up to four years in prison.

Information on Labor’s pledge to establish Australia’s first Royal Commission into family violence can be found here: https://www.viclabor.com.au/media-releases/labor-to-establish-royal-commission-into-family-violence/

Information on the Liberal party’s family violence policy can be found at: https://vic.liberal.org.au/Policies/SaferVictoria/FamilyViolence

CSMC members standing as Independents

Outside the major parties there are a number of single mothers running as independents in this election whose platform and policies you might like to check out.

Kate Borland is a single mother and CSMC member running for a seat in Melbourne. You can find details about Kate here: http://www.mypolitician.com.au/federal/candidate/kate-borland or via her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KateBorlandSavePublicHousing

Rosemary West, one of the founding members of CSMC, is standing as an Independent for the seat of Mordialloc. You can find details of Rosemary’s campaign here: Rosemary West 2014 Election Flyer

Crystal James is another single mother running as an Independent for the Southern Metro region. Crystal recently joined CSMC as a Board Director. For more information on Crystal’s platform go to:  https://www.facebook.com/CrystalforSouthern?fref=ts

Whatever happens on Saturday CSMC will continue to advocate for the rights of single mother families and to bring awareness to the issues impacting our families.

2014 Victorian state election: where do the major parties stand on issues affecting women parenting alone?

The 2014 Victorian state election is bearing down on us and considering the current national political climate the outcome is likely to be close.

Federally, with the LNP claiming victory in 2013, we saw an immediate, hard shift to the political right and a steady march toward policies and tough budget measures calculated to drive vulnerable Australians, including women (and particularly women parenting alone), deeper into hardship and poverty. With this in mind, it becomes even more important for single mother families to know where our state politicians stand on issues affecting the women and children of Victoria.

To help us identify how their policies will potentially impact women parenting alone, CSMC approached state representatives for all three major political parties requesting feedback on a list of questions relevant to issues affecting our members. Currently we have only received comment from the Victorian Greens; however we do have a meeting scheduled with the Shadow Minister for Women, Danielle Green to hear more about Labor’s policies for women and their children.

At CSMC’s initial contact with the State Liberals in July we were advised to send our questions to the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Heidi Victoria, as well as to the Minister for Children, Wendy Lovell. When neither of these Ministers responded we were told we should be addressing our questions to the Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge. Almost two months later we are still waiting for a response from Minister Wooldridge.

In our interaction with the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Heidi Victoria’s office we were told, like many others we were confused about the Minister’s role. The staffer we spoke to told us the Minister for Women’s Affairs wasn’t there to represent issues of equity for women overall, but represented working women and women in business and government. The implications of this conversation being single mothers are all on welfare, don’t work, don’t own businesses and aren’t represented in government, therefore are not the concern of the Minister.

It is deeply troubling to think our politicians could be so out of touch with the lives of the people they represent. Women who parent alone are growing in number, are progressively more politically savvy and represent up to 20% of the vote in some constituencies.

As a cohort we are growing increasingly tired of politicians who hear ‘single mother’ and see us only as people on welfare and not as women who are unfailingly stepping up to the job of parenting alone when our relationships break down, as well as contributing members of the Australian community who make significant financial and personal sacrifices to ensure our children thrive despite the great odds stacked against us.

On behalf of our members, CSMC would sincerely like to thank the Victorian Greens for taking the time to respectfully respond to our questions and to Danielle Green from the Victorian Labor Party for following up on our concerns and making a time to meet with us.

You can find the Greens answers to our questions below and we will keep you posted on further developments with the other political parties, including our forthcoming meeting with the Shadow Minister for Women so you are able to inform your vote at the state election come November.

How will your party work to ensure single parent families are raised out of poverty, regardless of their source of income?

There are a number of ways to raise single parents out of poverty.  One way is to ensure the government payments are adequate for stay-at-home parents to live off.

As you will know, the Australian Greens have provided a strong voice for single mothers, being the only party to oppose the cuts to Centrelink single parent payments. We have also advocated for a $50 increase in the Newstart payment.

Rather than providing adequate support to single parent households, the Abbott Government is only making things worse. Single parents families will be unfairly impacted by the budget, with ACOSS finding that single parent households on low incomes are $50 per week worse off as a result of cuts to family payments alone.

Cuts to family payments and the single parenting payment, the loss of the pensioner education supplement (again) as well as the increased costs of medication and visits to the doctor will all have a substantial impact on the household budget. NATSEM suggest some single parent families will lose more than 14% of their disposable income as a result of budget measures.

The Greens will not sit by while the Government keeps punishing single parents and making it harder for them to afford the absolute essentials like rent, food, utilities bills and school costs. Since budget night, the Australian Greens have been steadfast in opposing any budget measure that punishes vulnerable people.

The Australian Greens are moving ahead with legislation to reverse the cuts to single parents by the Howard and Gillard Governments. We are consulting on draft legislation that will see single parents remain eligible for parenting payments until their youngest child turns 16, rather than the current limit of 8.

Other ways to lift single parents out of poverty are addressed in subsequent questions.

How does your party plan to increase the availability of secure family friendly jobs with predictable working hours? 

The Greens understand that having a job with good workplace conditions is incredibly important to families, particularly single parents, for whom juggling the responsibilities of work and home is even more demanding and challenging.

Workplace conditions, like wages and government allowances, are controlled by federal laws. The Australian Greens believe workplace laws should provide better work-life balance, with people having more control over their working arrangements and enforceable rights to flexible working practices, balanced against the legitimate operational needs of the employer. People should also have legal protection against working excessive hours.

The Australia Greens are also strong advocates of equal pay for equal work. Australian men are said to earn 17.1% more than Australian women, and men are said to be paid 10% more in the same professions.

In Victoria, in July our unemployment rate hit 7%, the highest rate since 2001. This is the tenth month in a row that unemployment in Victoria has been above 6 per cent. With the closure of many manufacturing industries and a high population growth rate, it’s clear that more needs to be done to create new jobs.

The Victorian Greens have a number of election policies that will generate jobs. Two already announced include: our plan to build 50 new trams for the network, which will create around 500 local jobs; and our plan for a Victorian Cash for Containers scheme, which will create over 1,200 jobs. Closer to the election the Greens will announce more specific commitments which will lead to job creation.

How will your party guarantee all children are able to participate fully in their education, ensuring all aspects of schooling – uniforms, equipment, fees and school activities including camps and excursions – are affordable?

The Greens understand that for single parents, schooling can be expensive and extra-curricular activities can be unaffordable.

The Victorian Greens support elimination of all fees for ‘non-core’ activities charged by public schools. This can be achieved through increased funding and reinstating the Education Maintenance Allowance. This allowance should be paid at a level sufficient to ensure that all students can afford to participate in the full range of extracurricular activities including but not limited to camps, excursions and instrumental music.

How does your party plan to assist single mothers to study and train for careers that offer secure employment and opportunity for career growth?

The Greens believe people are entitled to well-funded and high quality, life-long public education and training.

For decades, TAFE has provided quality, low cost education and training to Victorians of all ages and backgrounds to give them the skills to get meaningful jobs. TAFE plays a critical role in supporting women to train and obtain skills to get quality jobs.

In 2009, the former Labor government introduced market contestability to VET. This led to a sudden rise in the number of private training organisations and a blow out in the VET budget.

Instead of reining in the funding of the new private providers, many of whom were rorting the system in 2012, the Coalition government slashed TAFE budgets.

This has led to campus and course closures across Victoria, higher student fees, less student concessions and the loss of thousands of dedicated TAFE staff.

As a result, VET students of all ages are struggling with the everyday cost of basics such as food and transport, and are concerned about their accumulating debt.

The Greens understand the importance of TAFE. Colleen Hartland, Greens MP for the western suburbs, received her first qualification at age 40 as a TAFE student.

The Greens will restore core public TAFE funding and reinstate TAFE as the primary, low cost provider of VET in Victoria.

The Greens support will ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable training opportunities.

How does your party plan to increase the availability of affordable, secure housing for single mother families?

The housing affordability crisis in Australia has come to define this generation. Successive governments have failed to keep up with the housing needs of a diverse, growing and ageing population. And this Victorian Coalition Government is no exception.

Despite 34,000 people currently facing years on the public housing waiting list, the Napthine Government has become the lowest funder of social housing per head of population of any state or territory in Australia. The Coalition provides just $74 for social housing per head of population, compared to $165 in NSW and $265 per person in South Australia, our two closest neighbours.

The Coalition Government’s long awaited social housing framework failed to provide any vision or make any investment to increase the number of public housing dwellings to meet the growing need. Further it has cut funding to highly successful programs, such as the Social Housing Advocacy and Support Program (SHASP).

The Greens stand for increased investment to build new social housing dwellings that are affordable, sustainable, safe, secure and suited to client needs. We support restoring funding of SHASP and expanding programs to help prevent homelessness.

Affordable private rental housing is also essential. An increasing number of Victorians will rent for life. However, currently less than one per cent of rental properties in Melbourne are affordable to a single person on Newstart, and less than two per cent to a single parent with one child.

To increase the number of affordable rental properties, the Greens are standing for minimum targets for provision of affordable housing in urban renewal precincts, such as Fisherman’s bend, Richmond Station and E-Gate in Docklands.

Often rental properties are expensive to run as they have old, inefficient heating and hot water systems and are riddled with holes that let out the heat. They can also be insecure, with tenancy not guaranteed in the long term.

The Victorian Greens have introduced legislation into parliament to create minimum standards for rental properties in relation to repair, comfort, safety, facilities and energy efficiency. If passed, this law would also remove the ability for landlords to evict renters without giving a lawful reason. The aim is just for basic, decent accommodation for everyone.

The Greens believe the housing affordability crisis and years-long waiting list for public housing are unacceptable in a modern and prosperous economy.

What does your party plan to do to increase access to flexible and affordable childcare for single mother families across Victoria?

The Greens understand the provision of quality, affordable, and flexible care is a necessity for mothers.

Many families are also struggling to find the quality and affordable childcare they need. Investment is needed to ensure as many Victorian children as possible get the best start in life.

Instead of helping families meet the rising costs of childcare, Labor and the Abbott Government have made it harder for parents to make ends meet.

The Abbott Government has frozen the level of family income at which the maximum child care benefit subsidy can be claimed at $42,000 a year for the next three years and wants to continue to pause the maximum rebate at $7500 per child.

The Australian Greens opposed the Abbott Government’s cuts to the child care benefit as they are going to take an extra $57 a week from low income families.

Unfortunately Labor teamed up with the Liberals to pass this through the Australian Senate.

We need to stand up for working families, not punish them by making childcare unaffordable.

The Australian Greens will continue to stand up for single mothers and families to make child care more affordable.

Not only does child care need to be affordable, it needs to be available and in some areas there are long and growing wait lists. We know there has been a boom in Victoria’s population with 2,100 new Victorians each week. As a result there is a shortage of child care services in some areas.

To bring down waiting lists the Victorian Greens are standing for greater investment in child care centres in growth areas and areas of high socio-economic need.

When will legal aid funding be increased to ensure women have access to legal representation for the full extent of their family law proceedings?

The Greens strongly support increasing funding to legal aid and have advocated for this in the face of cuts by the Napthine Government in recent years.

We believe that both community legal centres and legal aid must have secure funds, in both criminal and civil jurisdictions, to ensure access to justice for all Victorians.

Women, in particular have suffered as a result of cuts to legal aid and community legal centres. Women have greater need for these services for family law proceedings and proceedings relating to family violence.

The Greens are standing for a greater range of specialist services available at court to victims of family violence so as to provide an integrated response at their first point of contact with the justice system.

What will your party do to protect women and children experiencing family violence?

In Australia one in three women over the age of 15 will experience physical assault and one in five will experience sexual assault.

In the face of worsening violence, the Liberal Government’s response has been totally inadequate, with measly funding and few reforms to address the issue. We can do so much more to make woman safe from violence. We need serious investment to make meaningful change.

The Greens are standing for:

  • Investment in a comprehensive family violence prevention strategy
  • Increased provision ofsupport services for crisis response, case management, women’s health, housing, legal assistance and court support.
  • Appropriate resourcing of multi-agency risk-management services partnerships in all regions, that focus on keeping women safe from high risk, violent offenders.
  • Reinstatement of funding for the Victorian Systemic Review of Family Violence Death at the Coroner’s Court to review.

The Greens are committed to reforms that will ensure men are held to account for their violence, and women are supported and protected.

Labor have committed to a Royal Commission into deaths which result from family violence. Will you back Labor’s commitment and what will you do to ensure this is still set up if the Liberal Party gains government?

The Greens support the Royal Commission; however we do not want it to provide a smokescreen for delaying investment in solutions now.

Royal Commissions take time – often years to complete. We already well understand many of the problems and solutions to family violence. We cannot afford to wait for the outcomes of the Royal Commission before acting. We will pressure a Labor Government, not only to carry out the Royal Commission, but to make meaningful investment in the short term in chronically underfunded family violence support services.

If the Liberal Party gains government, we will support Labor efforts in parliament to move ahead with the Royal Commission, as well as pressure them to invest in further services.

Will your party establish a ministerial reference group to ensure single mother families are represented in policy development on issues that affect them?

The Greens are strong advocates of meaningful consultation with the community sector in relation to policy reforms that affect the communities they represent and provide services to. Too often, the government’s so-called consultation has in fact involved providing information to groups about government plans after they have been decided on.

The Greens support the establishment of ministerial reference groups in relation to a range of areas, including policies that affect single parents and mothers.