House debates

Wednesday, 27 November 2019


Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures) Bill 2019, Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Amendment (Near-new Dwelling Interests) Bill 2019; Second Reading

12:42 pm

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

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. If there were any doubt about the point that I was making, we have a government that is funnelling billions in public subsidies towards people who already have houses, including those who've already got several houses, and that comes at the expense of people who've got none. So, for those who sit there enjoying their massive subsidies for having their three or four houses—and we all know what's on the parliamentary register; we all know how many houses people have got—to turn around, interject and say anyone who is living in public housing doesn't have the right to an affordable house over their head because somehow that is akin to Soviet Russia shows exactly the mentality of this government and why inequality is at a 70-year high under this government. People who live in public housing have a right to a roof over their heads. They have the right to ask government for help. It is not just those who have got two, three or four houses who have the right to come in here and say, 'Give us more public subsidies so that we can buy even more.'

Everyone in this society has the right to an affordable roof over their head, whether they live in public housing, whether they're a young person trying to enter the housing market or whether they're an older woman who finds herself in her 50s in the fastest-growing group of homeless people. That is older women who find, after having their marriage end, that they don't have enough superannuation or enough to live on. Everyone in this country has the right to a roof over their head and an affordable rate. If only we could get back to thinking like that. If some continue thinking that somehow government getting involved in assisting people putting a roof over their head is Soviet Russia, as the government is claiming from the interjections we've heard that haven't been withdrawn, we will continue becoming a more unequal society. The fact is that the government cannot see that, if you've got a dollar of public money and you have a choice about how to spend it, the better thing to do, rather than continuing to allow subsidies that inflate the price of housing, like negative gearing and capital gains tax for people who've already got several houses, is instead to put that money into helping states build more public housing. We would be killing a number of birds with one stone.

We could have a construction-led economic recovery in this country by building affordable housing. The Greens have a costed plan as part of our Green New Deal to say that we will build half a million new public and affordable houses over the next decade, subsidised by winding back the unfair tax breaks for those who've already got several houses. If we as a society said, 'We need some rebalancing because young people are priced out of the housing market, and perhaps we need to redirect some of the subsidies we're giving at the moment to people who have three or four houses already and put them into building affordable housing for people at the bottom end of the market or people who are coming into the rental market, expanding the public housing stock in this country,' we'd not only help drive down rents and make housing more affordable for people but also find that Australia becomes a more equal place. It should be the job of every government and every generation to leave the country better off for the ones who come after it, but we are not at that point at the moment. We are at the point at the moment where young people don't have the money they need to buy a house, because houses have become too expensive and the work that they get is insecure. And there is not enough public housing being built for the people who are in genuine need.

For anyone who comes into an event in Melbourne, you come in down the Tullamarine Freeway and you hit the red and yellow CityLink sticks and you'll see those big tower blocks that are there in Melbourne. They were all built in about the 1960s. The state government is also responsible here, because there has not been a new build of public housing on the scale that we saw in the 1960s since the 1960s. Population has gone up but they have not built new public housing. There was an effort under the Rudd government to put some money into building new public housing but that ended up being a massive exercise in cost shifting. In a number of respects state governments just took the money and said, 'Thank you very much. We're not going to spend any more out of our own pockets.' And we didn't have the growth in new public housing we needed.

If the federal government is serious about tackling housing affordability it needs to say perhaps part of the answer is building new public housing. Work with the state governments so that there's no cost shifting, and take this money that we're currently giving in negative gearing and capital gains tax subsidies and use it to build more public housing stock. Then we could also lead a charge—and I implore the housing minister to consider this—for national rental standards where we end no-ground evictions right across the country, where we have rent caps for the people who have accepted that they may be in a rental for a very long time and where we limit the amount that landlords are able to continue to boost up and up and up the amount of rent that people pay just because they know that the market is so tight and renters have nowhere else to go. These are some meaningful things that you could do to address the housing pressure, but it requires a mind shift. It requires moving away, as the government said in their own words, from thinking that a roof above someone's head is some kind of soviet-era Stalinist plan and instead saying something very basic, which is that everyone in this country, no matter how much you earn or what age you are, has the right to a roof over their head at an affordable rate. If that was the enshrined principle then we could have rental reform, we could have housing reform and Australia could become a much more equal society.


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