Is Victoria spending 10 times more on new prisons than on new public housing?

By Tiffanie Turnbull and James Lane

The Statement

“This budget is spending almost 10 times more on new prisons than it is on new public housing."

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam. June 3, 2019.

The Analysis

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam has criticised the state government for announcing more new funding in the budget for prisons than public housing while 80,000 Victorians sit on waiting lists.

AAP FactCheck examined Ms Ratnam’s claim that prisons are to receive almost 10 times more additional funding than public housing.

A spokesperson for Ms Ratnam says her claim was based on figures from Treasurer Tim Pallas’ budget speech, and clarified that the Greens leader was referring to new promises of funding in the two areas of prisons and public housing.

Victoria's growing prison population is a key political issue. In June last year Victoria had 7666 prisoners, a seven per cent increase from 2017 - the second largest rise behind NSW, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The state also has Australia’s third largest adult prisoner population at 18 per cent and 50 per cent (3846 prisoners) of Victoria’s inmates have previously been imprisoned under sentence. [2]

For prison spending Victoria is above the national average of $109,821 and the fourth-most expensive prison system in the OECD, according to the Institute for Public Affairs. Victoria spends $131,400 per prisoner each year with only Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands spending more on each inmate, data from 2015 showed. [3]

A shortage of public housing has become a national policy issue. Last year a report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute found decades of inadequate investment has left Australia a shortfall of 433,000 social houses and units with 36,000 needed yearly over the next two decades to meet the future need. [4]

A Productivity Commission report in 2018 found the Victorian government spent an annual $82 per person on social housing, less than half the national average. As of June 2018 there were 82,500 people on the state's public housing list, which was growing by 500 names each month. The report from the Victorian parliament's Legal and Social Issues Committee report noted that more than 60 per cent of the state's public housing was more than 30 years old, with around 20 per cent of stock more than 50 years old. [5] [6]

In 2019-20 state budget the Andrews Labor government allocated $1.8 billion extra funds to build and upgrade Victoria’s prison facilities, a commitment that Mr Pallas announced in his budget speech on May 27. In the same speech, Mr Pallas also committed $209 million more to build 1000 new public housing properties. [7]

Based on these numbers, the Victorian government has announced 8.6 times more fresh funding for prisons than public housing.

AAP FactCheck concludes Ms Ratnam’s claim the Victorian budget includes 10 times more new spending for prisons than public housing is mostly true, however she has rounded the figure of 8.6 up to 10 rather than nine.

The Verdict

  • Mostly True - Mostly accurate, but there is a minor error or problem.

The References

1. ‘Victoria criticised for $2bn prison spend while neglecting social housing’. by Luke Henriques-Gomes. The Guardian. June 3, 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/03/victoria-criticised-for-2bn-prison-spend-while-neglecting-social-housing

2. ‘4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2018. Prisoner Characteristics Australia’. Australian Bureau of Statistics. December 6, 2018: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4517.0~2018~Main%20Features~Victoria~22

3. ‘Victoria's 'madhouse' prisons are expensive, but are they making the state more dangerous?’, by Sarah Farnsworth. ABC. November 5, 2018: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-05/victoria-prison-system-costly-crowded/10454444

4. ‘Social housing needs to treble over the next 20 years through direct investment’. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. November 15, 2018: https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/29053/AHURI-MEDIA-RELEASE-Social-housing-needs-to-treble-over-the-next-20-year-through-direct-investment-15-November-2018.pdf

5. A report by the Productivity Commission found the state government spends an annual $82 per Victorian on social housing, less than half the national average. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/lack-of-social-housing-a-blot-on-victoria-20190129-p50ube.html

6.‘Inquiry into the Public Housing Renewal Program’. Parliament of Victoria. June 2018: https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/SCLSI/Public_Housing_Renewal_Program/LSIC_58-11_PHRP_Text_WEB.pdf

7. ‘Victorian Budget 19/20 - Treasurer’s Speech’ (Pages 10 & 11). Victorian Government. May 27, 2019: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/budgetfiles201920.budget.vic.gov.au/2019-20+State+Budget+-+Treasurer's+Speech.pdf

  • First published June 3, 2019 17:22 AEST