Jenny Leong MP calls for investment in Housing and the Public Sector in the wake of COVID-19

Jenny Leong MP, Greens Member for Newtown has called on the Government to focus on investment in public, social and affordable housing to address homelessness and create jobs in the wake of COVID-19.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (17:29:30): On behalf the Greens I contribute to this debate on job creation. I acknowledge the impact on working people in all sectors as a result of the pandemic. While all have suffered, not all have been provided with the same level of support or assistance to ease the impact of the pandemic. This must be rectified in how we look to recover. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the loss of livelihoods for some is less of a problem than for others, because some have access to safety nets and supports where others do not. The grave situation international students and non-citizens face, when it comes to those who have lost significant income or lost their jobs and now face even more uncertain futures, cannot be ignored and underestimated. Temporary visa holders, international students, people seeking asylum and those left without visa status have been left stranded without adequate support.

Any talk of job creation in this State needs to include anyone who considers New South Wales to be their home. It needs to include support for those who do not have work. This includes making sure that these people can access government services and supports, that they know they can access Medicare, that there are increased communications in multiple languages about the latest restrictions, and inclusion in the existing measures providing for citizens that need financial support who cannot get jobs. Any talk of job creation also needs to include the arts and creative industries. Jobs for artists, creatives, producers, makers, musos and those workings in the event and entertainment industry need as much priority and investment as the areas of construction and manufacturing. We need a radical and compassion‑driven overhaul of our existing system.

This crisis has shown us that there is enough food for everybody. There is enough shelter and government money for everybody, if we choose to use it to prioritise people and their care in a crisis. We must start talking seriously about the idea of a guaranteed adequate income or, as my Greens colleague in the other place, the Hon. Abigail Boyd, is specifically advocating for, a universal wellbeing payment. Nationally, The Greens are setting out a recovery plan that seeks to provide access to employment or free education and liveable income for young people as a way to move us through this crisis into a more equitable society. We need a green new deal to tackle the existing inequality crisis and the climate emergency that, while it is no longer on the front page of the paper, is still a crisis that we are all facing.

We know that by building new social and affordable housing the economy can be stimulated and that crucial jobs in the housing and construction industry can be maintained. The NSW Council of Social Service, Community Housing Industry Association NSW, the NSW Tenants Union, Shelter NSW and Homelessness NSW have launched a report by Access Economics calling on the New South Wales Government to invest in social and affordable housing by building 5,000 new homes per year. This would support 18,000 construction jobs and address the backlog of the public housing waiting list and demand for affordable housing. The Government could implement that plan today; that would be true job creation. At a local, State and Federal level, The Greens are absolutely committed to a massive investment in building and purchasing of more housing—housing that is publicly owned, affordable, sustainable and contributes to addressing the needs of job creation and that provides everyone with a place to call home.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention that nurses, paramedics, teachers, bus drivers, frontline emergency service workers and public servants have been rallying at a safe physical distance from each other outside of Parliament today. They were rallying with their unions against this Government's attempts to cut their pay. Public service workers are the ones who keep our public institution strong. They are the compassion and the care that we need in this time of crisis. What thanks for this extraordinary effort are these workers getting from this Liberal-Nationals Government? A pay cut. Talk about a slap in the face, when people should be getting a pat on the back. We should not only talk about job creation. We should also talk about the people who already have their jobs being protected with adequate wages and conditions. The Greens absolutely oppose these pay cuts to public servants. We will continue to work in the New South Wales Parliament and in the community to make sure that we are part of the campaign to stop them.

We will support the amendment moved by Labor in this Chamber. Recovering from this pandemic gives us the opportunity to address inequality that was present before this crisis hit—inequality that is present now. We can do this by working together to make sure that everybody is looked after and that jobs are not the determinant of whether people have access to basic services in this State.

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