House debates

Thursday, 15 February 2024


Help to Buy Bill 2023, Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023; Second Reading

11:03 am

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I'll take the interjection. Apparently it's a 'scare campaign'. Having basic information in the bill is not a scare campaign. Am I eligible to apply for this scheme? How on earth can that be a scare campaign? How much am I allowed to earn in order to apply for this scheme? How much can the home I'm allowed to buy be worth? Who's going to pay for the improvements? When are you going to force me to sell? At what point will you send me a letter in the mail saying, 'We are selling our 40 per cent whether you like it or not'? The truth is that there aren't particularly adequate answers to any of those questions.

That's why—to go back to where I commenced—there are shared equity schemes around this country that have available places. If you are someone who wants to own a home with a government—and I suspect most people are pretty agnostic as to whether it's a state government or the federal government that they own it with—you have access to a shared equity scheme right now. What did the geniuses do? They thought, 'We'll make some more places in a shared equity product that people already don't want, because there are available places all around the country.'

I'll finish with this, because it highlights the chaotic, dysfunctional nature of the housing agenda of this government. They went to the election saying: 'We're going to bring in a shared equity product. We're going to call it Help to Buy'. It's now going to be known as 'Forced to Sell'. That's what people out there will know this scheme as. But what they didn't tell the Australian people was: 'We've got no constitutional power to implement a shared equity scheme.' This thing, even if it passes this parliament, is not effective until the state parliaments pass legislation themselves. They didn't go to the election saying, 'We're going to implement a scheme that requires state approval'; they said, 'We're going to do this scheme.' Again, I imagine that the minister and the government had absolutely no idea about the constitutional limitations on this. I don't think, quite frankly, any state government is going to deny this scheme, because the state governments will be looking at it and thinking, 'If the feds are going to stump up $5½ billion for their own shared equity scheme, that's a little less that we've got to spend for ours.' They'll say, 'So, by all means, you guys do it.' I suspect that's right, but what an embarrassment that nowhere in the detail, or the fine print, of their election commitment did we hear 'terms and conditions subject to approval from state parliaments'. As a former housing minister, I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you would be embarrassed if you were in that position. You would feel shy about walking into this chamber with an election commitment that you'd promised—18 months late—and saying to the parliament, 'By the way, even if this thing passes, even if we all sing "Kumbaya" and pass this bill, it won't be effective until other parliaments around this country approve it. We, the Commonwealth parliament, are waiting on and relying on the approval of state parliaments before this federal government election policy can be implemented.'

To some extent, it's getting into the legal weeds of it, but it just highlights the inability of this minister to manage a really difficult portfolio. I again encourage the Prime Minister to move her on and put somebody in there that has some ideas—just some ideas. You can't just sit in your office, twiddling your thumbs thinking this is all a bit too hard, and bring in a bill 18 months late with no answers and no clarity or certainty for Australians. You can't do that in good conscience.

For all of those reasons I reiterate that, as we said before the election, we do not support this bill. We do not support this half-hearted attempt at being seen to have any concern for Australia's housing market. It shouldn't be called the Help to Buy Bill; it should be called the 'Forced to Sell Bill'—that's what this will end up being. We in good conscious will not support it.

We also invite the minister to come into the chamber and give us some clarity on the series of questions that I've asked. Before you ask anyone to vote on it, provide some clarity. What are the eligibility criteria? I know that's crazy! I know I'm asking a lot! Who's eligible to apply for this thing? What happens if you make improvements to your home? What happens if you co-own the home with the government and you go out and make a whole lot of improvements? Do you send the government an invoice for their share or not? What are the income thresholds? That is the first question. Once you tell us the answer to that, tell us: What happens if I get a pay rise and start earning more? Do you pull the rug out from underneath me at that time? It won't be good enough to say, 'We'll deal with it on a case-by-case basis.' In black and white: What happens? What's the contract? What's the certainty that I have?

Will the ATO be auditing these individuals on a yearly basis to make sure they continue to be eligible? What are your reporting obligations? What if I fall behind on my mortgage? What if I want to refinance my mortgage? If I am with a bank that jacks up my rates, can I remortgage? Am I allowed to remortgage if I've entered into one of these with you? What are the property price caps? How much is the house that I'm entitled to buy? What are the available places in each state and territory? Is it first in, best dressed or are there some other criteria? This is stuff that should be in the bill, particularly for a bill that's not been rushed to this House—a bill that has come in at a very leisurely pace, 18 months late.

I reiterate that we won't be supporting this half-hearted attempt, and we will listen very carefully and wait intently for the minister to come into this House and make clear to the parliament the answers to each and every one of those questions. No person in this House, including those opposite, can in good conscience vote for a bill without answers to each and every one of those questions. So we invite the minister and will provide the opportunity for her to do that, assuming she knows the answers—and I doubt that quite a lot. We won't be supporting this forced to sell scheme.


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