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Poverty Inquiry

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Ms Lee for moving this very important motion.

I support the commissioning of an independent inquiry into the prevalence of poverty in Canberra without reservation. As the motion notes, 38,000 Canberrans are currently living in poverty. Almost one-quarter of these are children.

But these are not just numbers to me. As a member for Ginninderra, I am acutely aware that a disproportionate number of the territory’s working poor and struggling families live in my electorate. For me, this issue is personal. These are my neighbours and my friends. These are the people who have twice chosen me to be their voice in this place. I honour them today by speaking on their behalf in support of this motion.

Let me give some figures. According to the latest census data, residents in the Ginninderra Electorate have the lowest average incomes in the ACT. This is true across the categories of personal income, family income, and household income. The average family in Belconnen earns almost 21 per cent less than the average family in Mr Barr and Mr Rattenbury’s electorate. As everyone understands, that’s a huge difference.

Despite working hard, far too many Belconnen residents are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. In 2016, 8.9 per cent of households in my electorate were in rental stress, paying more than 30 per cent of household income in rent. Five years later, that figure had ballooned to 25.1 per cent. Think about that. Six years ago, one in 11 households in my electorate was experiencing rental stress; now it has nearly tripled to become one in four. This is the highest rate across the ACT, and unless something changes, by the next census, half or more of all renters in my electorate could easily be in rental stress. During the same time, the percentage of Belconnen households in mortgage stress has surged by 70 per cent.

Figures such as these give us a high-level snapshot of poverty in the ACT, but we need to know more. We need to understand the rates and drivers of poverty here in the nation’s capital. We need to have solid data – not just ideologically informed guesses – regarding the relationship between poverty and economic conditions, including fiscal policy. And then we need a government that will get serious – really serious – about mechanisms to address and reduce poverty in Canberra.

Robust, Canberra-specific data are necessary to get the mechanisms right. Lack of interest in generating such data is an admission by those opposite that they aren’t genuinely serious about the 38,000 Canberrans currently living in poverty … or the thousands of others who will inevitably join them as cost-of-living increases continue to hit lower-income residents hard.

On behalf of the residents of Ginninderra, I wholeheartedly commend this motion to the Assembly. Thank you.


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