Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
I rise to speak on this motion brought by the member for Higgins, and I thank her for bringing this motion. I don't agree with a lot of the parts of the motion, but it concerns housing affordability. Housing costs at the moment are a key driver of the cost-of-living crisis facing Australians under this Albanese Labor government. High inflation is pushing up rents and pushing up mortgage repayments, because the RBA has been left to do all the heavy lifting on getting inflation down—whether it be the 12 interest rate rises that have seen the average Australian mortgage holder now pay $22,000 more per year than they were paying under the former coalition government, or whether it be that the average Australian renter is now playing 11½ per cent more than they were last year. To put it this way, in my electorate of Hughes the average rent on an apartment is $700 per week. If those renters were paying $700 last year, they are now paying $780 per week at least.
The motion speaks of safe and affordable housing being central to the safety and dignity of all Australians, and that is certainly the part of this motion that I do agree with. But there are some glaring silences in this motion. The member for Indi pointed it out when she said there is nothing here for the regions. It's also completely silent about incentivising private homeownership. When more Australians own their own homes, over decades and decades it has been proven that our economy is stronger. Private homeownership is a glaring omission from this government's housing policy.
Housing is unaffordable in this country because of a lack of housing stock—insufficient supply to meet demand. It's basic economics. I have spoken before in this place about the federal government incentivising state and local governments to bring about planning reforms, to cut the red tape and delays in rezoning and development applications. Before I came to this place I worked in and around the planning and environmental law jurisdictions of New South Wales. I worked in the private sector and also in the public sector.
This motion speaks of a government with an ambitious housing agenda. But ambition in and of itself is not enough. As said by Macbeth, vaulting ambition which overleaps itself and falls on the other; in other words, it is all very well for the Albanese Labor government to have ambition towards its housing policy, but, after 16 months, its housing policy has not delivered a single house. Its policy has fallen on its face. Today we've heard it has now signed up to some cosy deal to appease the Greens to get support for its troubled Housing Australia Future Fund.
What are some of the other components of this so-called ambitious housing policy? Let's look at the $2 billion accelerator fund. This was a panicked announcement payable to the states and territories on 17 June. On the face of it, it sounds very good: 'Let's incentivise state and local governments.' I agree with that. However, this fund has provided no detail as to where these houses will be located, when they will be built or who will build them. It'll do nothing for renters in the private market and nothing for Australians trying to purchase their first home. Treasury officials have confirmed that these payments, $2 billion worth, to the states and territories were not linked to any requirement to reform planning or zoning, development regulations or productivity. In other words, this is simply a blank cheque being given to the states: 'Please, you try and fix it, states, because we don't know how to as the federal Labor government.' Treasury officials confirmed that the money has been committed without even a requirement for the states and territories to nominate how many houses will be built, despite the Prime Minister saying last week there would be thousands in the coming years.
I heard the housing minister say originally there were going to be a million new homes built. I will pretty well guarantee that this will not deliver one single new house. If Labor really wanted to help Australians with their housing costs, they would look at what they could do to incentivise private homeownership. They would look at housing in the way it should be. Housing is a continuum. We get more people into private homeownership and private renters into their own homes, and then everyone can move up the housing continuum. It allows far more money to then be available for social and other affordable housing.
This is going to be a failure. The motion was probably brought with the best of intentions but it has no real deliverables.