Thursday, 24 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail
Of course this budget was the right budget for the right times. It did try to deal with inflation. It is trying to deal with the cost of living while putting downward pressure on inflation, and we're doing that through measures such as cheaper child care, cheaper medicines, more affordable homes—which I want to talk about in a little bit—and extending paid parental leave.
We announced in the budget the housing accord, which is our aspiration for a million homes over five years from 2024 to 2029. This is an historic agreement, an intergenerational agreement, whereby we have the three tiers of government—local government, state government and federal government—working together to deliver, with the construction sector and with social housing providers, ensuring that we keep up the supply of dwellings in this country. We know that here in Australia there is a severe shortage of dwellings. When you look at the OECD average compared to what is happening in Australia in housing, we have a long way to go. We need to get more supply into the market, and is what we want to do.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 11 : 23 to 11 : 3 1
I was talking about the Housing Accord and our aspiration for a million homes from 2024 to 2029. We also had in the budget the Housing Australia Future Fund, which will create 30,000 social and affordable homes within the first five years of the fund. We're obviously working to establish that fund and to get to work on those social and affordable homes. I do want to thank the state ministers and indeed local government and social housing providers for their active engagement in terms of delivering on those 30,000 homes in the first five years of the fund.
We are also moving ahead with a national affordability and supply council to give advice to tiers of government about what else we can do to get more homes on the ground more quickly in terms of supply. We also had in the budget our regional first-home-buyer guarantee, and I can update the House to say that we now have over 1,000 applications. It was great to see earlier in the week—I think it was in the Townsville Bulletina couple going into their first home. They'll have the keys and be in that home before Christmas. This is the difference that a good government policy can make for people. It can change lives. The regional first-home-buyer guarantee is where people can get into their first home with a five per cent deposit, with the government guaranteeing the other 15 per cent. That, of course, helps them overcome that hurdle of the 20 per cent deposit. It is a terrific scheme, and I was pleased to see the number of applications hit over 1,000.
I did want to take the opportunity to talk about some of the things we are doing to support small businesses as well. We have legislated changes to unfair contract terms. This is something those on the other side talked about for nine years; we have actually legislated this in the first six months. It is so that smaller businesses can have fair terms when negotiating with big businesses and big providers. We have been working in terms of payment times. People may have seen the report about payment times between big businesses and small businesses. We know that there is a lot more work to be done there, and we're working to try and deliver on our election promise of trying to improve payment times for small businesses. We have also amended the Commonwealth Procurement Rules to make sure that small businesses get better access to the $70 billion that the government goes to tender on each year. That is with a 20 per cent target for Commonwealth procurement. So we are moving to improve things for small business.
As I said in the House earlier in the week, we have also found room in the budget to extend two measures that were due to end on 31 December. They are about the mental health and wellbeing program run by Beyond Blue. This is a free program for small businesses. They don't need to go to the GP, and they don't need to get a mental health plan. They can access the services from Beyond Blue to give them some support and, of course, from the Small Business Debt Helpline. That will help small businesses. It is targeted support from specialists in small business that can provide advice to those small businesses that have been doing it tough, and we know small businesses have been doing it tough. As we come out of the global pandemic, they are dealing with natural disasters such as floods. Our government will continue to support small businesses, we'll continue to be there for small businesses and we'll continue to make sure they are at the heart of our government's decision-making.