Friday, December 07, 2007

some sadness, some hope

the secret cave

One of the saddest things, to me, about the recent election was the decimation of the Democrats. It doesn't look, at this stage, as if they're going to recover from this. Much of my feeling is personal - I've been a reasonably regular reader of Andrew Bartlett's blog, and particularly relied on and admired his take on immigration and refugee issues, as well as welfare-to-work and other meannesses of the former regime, and I went to uni with Natasha and always liked her, even though I felt a little sceptical later about her self-transformation into a media-savvy, possibly style-over-substance operator. Hoping she's happily out of it now.

A day or two after the election, I was out in the park adjoining our community housing block with Courtney. She’d met another five-year-old there, so I was released from playing pirates with her. They’d run off together behind the bushes along the fence-line separating our block from the park, but Courtney soon came rushing back to get me to check out their discovery. Courtney called it a secret cave. A lot of clothes had been laid out over a bed-sized piece of ground surrounded by shrubbery.

As it happened, when I came inside I turned on the TV, and Kevin Rudd was talking about having instructed his members to go out and visit a homeless shelter in their area, paying particular attention to turn-away rates, said to be as high as 90% in some areas.

Also as it happened, I'd had lunch the day before with a social worker friend whose principal job is to try to secure housing for the marginalised. He launched into a scathing attack on the neglect of public housing by the Howard government over the last decade. According to this pre-election media release from Tanya Plibersek, the Howard government has ripped $3 billion out of the last three Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements, while state governments have made substantial efforts to maintain or increase housing stock. The media release is important too, for spelling out, however vaguely, what an incoming Labor government would do about the situation:

With housing affordability at record lows it is more important than ever to maintain a strong housing safety net for the most disadvantaged Australians.

With vacancy rates plummeting and rents projected to increase on average by 28 per cent across the country by the end of the decade, more Australians are at risk of becoming homeless.

Only Labor has put forward serious solutions to address the housing affordability crisis.

Labor has committed to investing $600 million in a National Rental Affordability Scheme to stimulate the construction of up to 50,000 new affordable rental properties across Australia, for rent to low-income households at 20 per cent below market rates.

A Rudd Labor government will also protect existing public housing funding levels when it replaces the CSHA with a National Affordable Housing Agreement in July 2008 and work with the states and territories to boost the supply of public, community and crisis housing.

Tanya Plibersek is presented here as the new minister for housing in the outer cabinet, while Jenny Macklin is presented as the minister for housing in the inner cabinet, so I don't know how that works. Anyway, the above promises give us something to work with, and something to keep the pollies to over the next year or two, though I doubt it will be enough, especially at the crisis end of things. A real positive thing, though, is the sense of commitment after so many years of indifference and neglect.



At 11:38 pm , Blogger cerebralmum said...

I was sad at the demise of the Democrats too but I think it had already come years ago. I was sorry when Natasha was pushed into the leadership before, I think, she was ready. I'm sure she said at the time that she didn't want it yet.

There is a lot of rebuilding to do, which is a shame because the Dems had come so far.

The photo above is heartbreaking. Howard's record is shameful. And here's to hoping, conservatively, for some improvement in the future.

At 8:40 pm , Blogger Clinton Barnes said...

Being sad won't bring us back..

At 11:16 pm , Blogger Stewart said...

Hopefully you're not quite gone yet.

For a small party, leadership is so important - but I don't really understand the psychology of leadership. In fact I don't trust strong leaders, so I have problems with the whole leadership thing. I understand the popularity of Bob Brown as a leader, I think, but I can't vote for the Greens, I find them too uncompromising and ideologically rigid. I'm basically a pragmatist and i'm attracted to can-do people who are able to work with a variety of diverse groups. The trouble is, people who are prepared to compromise and shift ground in politics often get it in the neck from both sides for having 'betrayed their values', or for not really standing for anything.
Apart from personnel and leadership problems, the dems have found the middle ground a bit of a tight squeeze with labor's shift to the right over the years. On environmental issues they've always been more to the left, but the Greens are already there, flag firmly planted...

At 12:18 pm , Blogger sarah said...

Should the new Labour government deal better than their predecessors with the issues leading to homelessness, I would have more cause for hope than I do upon hearing ministers are to visit a homeless shelter or two.

At 9:29 am , Blogger Stewart said...

Good to hear from you Sarah. As I wrote, they have a press release from late October making specific promises which can always be referred to.


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