Thursday, 24 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss Treasury's budget measures and ask for some clarifications. Firstly, the inclusion of Measuring what matters, the discussion paper on the wellbeing economy, is a great start. It's a step in the right direction to start considering the broader picture of what prosperity would look like in the long term. It will be really vital that this is built on broad community engagement and views about what we value and what we think a successful country looks like, rather than just sitting in Treasury. While it may take longer to build consensus on what we care about than it would for Treasury to adapt a predesigned model from another jurisdiction, this engagement work is essential in rebuilding trust in our democracy and building a common understanding of the context in which we'll need to make difficult decisions. My first question is: has Treasury allocated any funding to support community engagement on setting a common vision to underpin a wellbeing budget?
Secondly, I would like to know whether Treasury is being resourced to undertake the longer term tax reform that we desperately need. A stalemate over genuine tax reform has evolved between the major parties over the last 30 years, with ideology overriding facts and evidence. Every Australian loses because of this. Our tax system's robustness is in continual decline, which increasingly undermines our ability to provide essential services and a reasonable social safety net at both the federal and the state and territory levels. The government has the opportunity to build on the wellbeing framework proposed to seek a consensus on where we want to be in 20 years. This would enable us to make the harder decisions about the trade-offs in our tax system.
I'd like to thank the government for the focus on the housing shortage in the budget, but I have two questions about how this might work. The government has said it will invest $10 billion in the Housing Australia Future Fund, which will generate funds to build social and affordable homes. Can the Assistant Treasurer please explain the modelling undertaken for this $10 billion allocation? How does the chosen level of allocation relate to forecast demand for housing, which is significantly higher than 30,000 homes?
The government has also said it will provide $350 million over five years to support funding of an additional 10,000 affordable homes under a Housing Accord. The announcement was accompanied with grand statements of how the government's shared ambition with all levels of government, institutional investors and the construction sector was to build one million homes between 2024 and 2029. Can the Treasurer please outline how the Housing Accord will actually work in an environment of labour shortages, delayed supply chains and the rising cost of materials? What financing model can deliver one million homes with a relatively small investment from government? Do the increasing stresses on the construction industry change this aspirational figure?
I'd also be keen to understand more about the $36.1 million commitment to 'Restoring Treasury's Capability on Climate Risks and Opportunities'. My initial response is horror that it's going to cost $29.8 million to restore capability for Treasury officials to model climate risks and opportunities. It seems surprising that at this point in history this skill set doesn't already exist, but, given this is where we are, could the Treasurer please outline how this figure will be spent? How do you restore capability? Is this being allocated to training or to acquire new skilled employees? And how will the success of this funding be measured?
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 11:43 to 11:56