CANBERRA – Ahead of the usual stoush between federal, state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra, the Turnbull Government has come to the party with homelessness funding and family court law reform proposals.
Just days after a pre-Christmas plea from more than 200 welfare agencies, the Government has reconfirmed another financial year's funding for frontline services addressing homelessness, and wants the states and territories to do the same.
It's also attempting to keep domestic violence high on the COAG agenda, proposing to make it a crime punishable by two years jail to breach personal protection injunctions issued by federal family courts.
The legislative push comes after the Queensland Premier has other ideas.
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) December 8, 2016
Annastacia Palaszczuk wants domestic violence leave to be enshrined as a national workplace right.
On homelessness, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has committed $117 million to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) to "give certainty" to providers of frontline homelessness services "while state and territory Governments continue to work together on long-term homelessness reforms".
The extended funding is expected to help around 85,000 clients, including vulnerable young people and women and children escaping domestic violence.
The NPAH represents a third of all funding addressing homelessness and has been a Commonwealth and State/Territory governments funding agreement since 2009, with Turnbull Government now calling on Premiers and Chief Ministers to match the funding through to June 2018, as well as progress reform to help Australia's vulnerable.
"It has become increasingly clear that there is an urgent need for reforming both the affordable housing and homelessness sectors," a joint statement from Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Assistant Minister Zed Seselja reads.
"Despite significant investment in housing and homelessness assistance by all governments of almost $10 billion a year—including around $6.8 billion of Commonwealth funding—housing and homelessness outcomes continue to decline".
"The number of Australians accessing homelessness services has increased by eight per cent since 2011-12 to more than 255,000 people in 2014-15".
Earlier this week, leaders and CEOs of more than 200 welfare organisations, including ACOSS, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, urged the Prime Minister to intervene urgently to reconfirm the NPAH funding and avert a 'human, economic and policy disaster'.
They warned, without secured funding before Christmas, staff would have been let go and it was estimated around 443 people in need would have been turned away every day.
More than 100,000 people, or one in 200 Australians are homeless, in boarding houses or supported accommodation.