The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed an election commitment from the Canberra Liberals to establish a commission examining poverty in the ACT.
ACTCOSS CEO Emma Campbell said the organisation welcomes the announcement but awaits further details of the commission. She said the taskforce must conduct a full analysis to understand the Canberra demographic changes, increasing complexity of needs and the changed Canberra geography that has “led to gaps in service provision for many vulnerable people”.
“High averages in the ACT mask the persistent poverty experienced by many Canberrans,” Dr Campbell said.
“We know that the main drivers of poverty are housing costs and incomes. The ACT has some of the highest housing costs in Australia.”
Dr Campbell pointed to the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot, which has consistently found a severe lack of private rentals available to people on low incomes, even after increases in Commonwealth support due to COVID-19.
“Figures from Homelessness Australia and Everybody’s Home have shown that the ACT has a shortfall of 3,000 social housing dwellings in the ACT, while almost 1,600 Canberrans are homeless,” she said.
Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe said the taskforce would look at rental affordability in the Capital.
“Unlike other cities, poverty is not as obvious or visible in Canberra. However, in every suburb and in almost every street there are people living below the poverty line,” Mr Coe said.
“As we consider the post-COVID period, we must be prepared to rebuild and reshape to ensure that disadvantage is not further entrenched.”
Mr Coe said he has written to former Labor ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope to request he chair the commission. The Canberra Liberals announced on Wednesday 2 September that Mr Stanhope has agreed to the request.
Mr Coe said the commission would develop a “comprehensive strategy” to treat the causes and symptoms of poverty in Canberra and should report on those causes and symptoms “before the end of the summer”.
“A Canberra Liberals Government will establish this task group later this year and I encourage other parties to make the same commitment,” he said.