Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (21:19): (1544) My adjournment this evening is for Minister Pakula in the other place. Last week the federal government announced that they will be ending financial support for COVID-affected businesses and individuals in Victoria once we reach 80 per cent double dose rates. These payments have provided a lifeline to Victorians during these lockdowns. The end of these payments is coming at a time of great uncertainty. We still face the prospect of restrictions in the weeks ahead, and with the diminishing financial support this could be very scary for many.
It is our understanding that the Victorian business support packages will also be ending at the end of October. This is despite the fact that we know capacity limits, movement restrictions and travel bans will continue to damage Victorian businesses well into the next year. This is too soon and ignores the experience of Victorian businesses.
Prior to this pandemic Victoria was already in the midst of the homelessness crisis. The ABS found nearly 24 800 people were experiencing homelessness in Victoria on census night in 2016. With rents continuing to increase further, it is even more difficult for at-risk Victorians to access safe and affordable housing. Infrastructure Victoria found only 11.5 per cent of all Victorian rentals are affordable to someone receiving Centrelink benefits. The coronavirus supplements to JobSeeker and support payments were critical in staving off a new recession-induced homelessness crisis through last year’s and this year’s colder months. However, this is a problem that has only been deferred rather than solved. As these payments are cut back, many will be in need of assistance.
Earlier this year I visited Box Hill Community Information and Support, an emergency relief organisation that provides those in need with food and essentials. During this visit I learned that last year when JobKeeper and JobSeeker COVID supplement payments were in place their organisation saw a significant decline in the number of people seeking emergency services, despite remaining open in an essential service throughout all the lockdowns. Unfortunately when the support payments ended last year the demand for emergency food and supplies increased again. Why should our most vulnerable have to rely on food banks when the payments stop? Nobody in Australia should have to be making choices between medication, bills, food and having a roof over their heads. We need a plan and supports in place for when these payments come to an end. In my own industry we are struggling with the legacy debts of the reforms of 2017. We cannot let people slip through the cracks again. So the action I seek is: will the government implement a plan to support Victorians who will face incredible financial hardships once these COVID support payments end?