House debates

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:42 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I first met Penny about six years ago. It was about 2011 or 2012. She came to a meeting that I held in Ascot Vale, a suburb in my electorate. It was a meet your local MP meeting. She came along and sat quietly for a while. Eventually she spoke up. She was quite reserved when she did. She said: 'I've never been to one of these things before, but I'm here because I went to uni and I've gone out and found work, but most my work is on contracts and it is a bit insecure. Rent is going up so much now that I can't afford to live near where I do most of my work, which is in the city. I just don't know what to do.' She was almost in tears. She said: 'I just don't think government and politicians understand. Why is it that you can do the right thing and still not be able to afford a roof over your head?' It's a very good question, and it has stayed with me for the last six years.

We are now becoming a society where doing the right thing is no longer enough. Doing the right thing will no longer guarantee that you will have a roof over your head. Part of the reason is that in this country we look at housing and our national tax system treats housing as if it were an investment class, like shares, not a human right. As a result, we've got a tax system that makes housing less affordable, all the while people are being locked out of getting a roof over their head.

What if we turned away tens of thousands of kids from schools every year? If we said to parents, 'You can't send your child to a public school because we just haven't built enough schools,' there would be an outrage, but it seems okay for us to have people sleeping on the street, people couch surfing and people homeless because the government hasn't organised to have enough affordable housing built. We need to start thinking about housing in the same way that we think about schools or think about health care. It is a public right to have a roof over your head, and if people in this country are going without one, we need to do something about it.

Mr Deputy Speaker, do you know how many rental properties in the whole of Victoria were affordable for a single person on Newstart? Zero. If you are on Newstart and you are a single person, you cannot find an affordable property in Victoria. Because youth allowance hasn't increased, students now find that pretty much all of their youth allowance goes on just paying for usually part of a room, not even a whole room. This means that they have to work around the clock to make ends meet in order to progress their studies. If you're lucky enough to finish your TAFE or university and then go out and start to look to buy, well, you are almost priced out of the market now. It is almost a dream. If we go back to the 1990s, an average house cost six times an average young person's income. Fast forward a couple of decades to now, an average house costs 12 times a young person's income.

We need to have a rethink about how we think about housing. The first thing we should do is get rid of negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions. We should phase out capital gains tax exemptions completely and get rid of negative gearing for all new properties and say to people, including those members of parliament who have multiple investment properties, 'You can only have one investment property if you want to claim it on negative gearing, because housing is a human right; it's not there for you to use as an investment class to boost your own income, with the taxpayer picking up half the tab.' If we got rid of those unfair tax breaks, we would have an extra $5 billion a year. An extra $5 billion a year would build a lot of affordable housing. If we had rent control and European-style long-term leases, we would go a long way to making life more secure and more affordable for people who can't afford to buy their own home.

The one thing that no-one seems to talk about, because it seems to be a dirty word now, the one way of bringing down rents and also increasing stock is building more public housing. Let's put some of that $5 billion into public housing, where the government says: 'If you live there, you pay 25 per cent of your income in rent. You stay there and we will look after the property.' We haven't had a large-scale public housing development built in Victoria—certainly in my area of Melbourne—since the 1960s, and as a result we have about 40,000 people on the waiting list. There is a big slab of public housing land in Flemington around the corner from me, in my electorate. The Labor government is about to knock down some of the public housing. They're about to build 820 new private developments and only 20 new public housing developments. If we're serious, let's have a rethink. Let's stop the sell-offs, build more public housing and have a national housing strategy.


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