Jenny Leong MP, NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing & Homelessness and Member for Newtown calls on the NSW Government to take responsibility for providing for people suffering from food insecurity and living in poverty.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (15:04): My question is directed to the Premier. In a meeting with his Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, I raised the serious issue of food insecurity and people living in poverty being unable to afford basic needs, and he informed me that this was outside of his remit. Given this, can the Premier confirm who in his Government is responsible for ensuring that families, children and vulnerable people in New South Wales are not going hungry?
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET (Epping—Premier) (15:05): I will take responsibility, as Premier. I thank the member for Newtown for her question. I thank her for the constructive engagement that she has had with the Government during the pandemic. We have seemingly agreed on many things during this pandemic, to the point where I have had to second-guess myself numerous times. The constructive way that the member for Newtown has raised issues with the Government on a whole range of issues that she is passionate about and supportive of, meant we have been able to work through those matters, and whilst not always in agreement we have reached a landing. The reality is, as she pointed out in her question, that we all share that concern in relation to food security, particularly for children. From a personal perspective, as Treasurer I worked with many Government and Opposition members to increase relief and try to be part of the solution to ensure that more children have the security of knowing where their next meal will come from.
There are around 1.2 million children in Australia living with food insecurity. There are one in six households in Australia living with food insecurity, 70 per cent skip meals, and half of those go a day without meals. This is a huge challenge and the only way we will be able to solve it is to have every part of our community working closely together: the Government, the charitable sector, the private sector and all people of goodwill. Before the COVID outbreak our Government worked to find ways to reduce food insecurity. In the 2019 budget we worked with Foodbank Australia to pioneer a landmark expansion of its School Breakfast 4 Health program. In my view, schools are a critical point of contact where we can make a real difference. It has worked in the past and it can work in the future. The program provides a start to the day for kids who need it. At the time Foodbank was running that program in around 100 schools. As I have said where things work we will look to do more and expand. The Government made another $8 million investment to support Foodbank's expansion into an additional 500 public schools across our State.
So far around 290 additional New South Wales public schools have participated in the expanded Foodbank School Breakfast 4 Health program. That investment will be an impressive one, because there is no doubt that the pandemic, as we have seen during this period, has increased the demand for food relief. It is important to note that many people who are experiencing food insecurity are in work. The Foodbank Chief Executive Officer, John Robertson, raised with me that he thought it was around 70 per cent. It is a hidden part of the pandemic. Many people who have lost their jobs, who have lost work, are doing it incredibly tough. I know that organisations such OzHarvest and Foodbank are doing an amazing job, as are the volunteers that support them every day, to provide support for families across the board. This Government will continue to work with the charitable sector to help them deliver critical services that so many rely on. Since 2011 the Government has provided Foodbank and OzHarvest with $22.4 million to extend food support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding has supported those organisations to make sure that food relief is provided to communities that are in lockdown. I am advised that between April 2020 and September 2021 Foodbank and OzHarvest have delivered the equivalent of 57 million meals.
Ms Jenny Leong: Point of order: I reiterate my question. Who in the Premier's Government is responsible for this, not who in the community is responsible? Who is responsible for it?
The SPEAKER: The Premier has answered the question.
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET: I said I am responsible. I say to the member for Newtown: Whenever those issues occur or she has ideas or views in relation to future opportunities that the New South Wales Government can take to improve food security across the State, she should raise them directly with me. The member has raised those issues with me in the past.
Ms Sophie Cotsis: She did. He said it is not in his remit.
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET: Unlike the member for Canterbury—
Ms Sophie Cotsis: There is a demarcation dispute here.
The SPEAKER: Order!
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET: Unlike the member for Canterbury, the member for Newtown has worked constructively with the Government during this pandemic. Her ideas and support, whenever it has come to social and affordable housing, food security and providing support for tenants, the Government has listened and acted and we will continue to do that in good faith going forward. We want to be a government that reaches across the aisle and works with anyone. We are not always going to agree, but when we can find common ground we should look at new ways of doing things. As the Treasurer I always conducted myself in that way when dealing with the member for Newtown. When it comes to food security, if there are ideas and opportunities that the member has going forward please continue to raise them with me directly and I will address them.