House debates

Thursday, 15 February 2024


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

12:39 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Absolutely, we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, the member for Jagajaga has left. I've seen the building industry from a hands-on-tools perspective, from a property development perspective and from a lawyer's perspective when all things turn to custard, so I can probably add some unique insights about where we are in relation to housing policy in this country.

There's no doubt that housing is one of the essentials. We need food, we need water and we need shelter. There is absolutely no doubt that housing is in dire straits in this country today in 2024. Whether it's the concept of the great Australian dream or whether it's someone who needs social or affordable housing, the same answer applies: Australian housing policy is in dire straits. I was in this chamber yesterday talking about affordable and social housing. There would not be a day go by where a constituent does not contact my office. Yesterday I talked a little bit about a young man who we were trying to find a home for. He was going to be evicted in just five days—four days today. Every day my office gets contacted with some very sad stories. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country are at risk of homelessness, which is incredibly sad.

We have problems in relation to our social housing, but we also have great problems in relation to young people who want to aspire to the great Australian dream. Sadly, for many young people in this country, the concept of owning your own home is so far out of reach that many of them have given up. I've got four daughters. One is buying her own home. For the others, God knows when that might happen. It is unbelievably difficult for young people now, though not impossible—I reject the concept that it's impossible—to buy their own home.

Rents have gone through the roof, as a result of this government's financial mismanagement, as have mortgages. We know that for people with mortgages, the average mortgage has gone up by $24,000 a year under this government—and that's $24,000 a year after tax. So people are struggling, with rents having gone up, to pay rent and save for a deposit. That is the greatest impediment to young people getting off the rent race and getting into home ownership. If people can't afford to pay rent and save for a deposit at the same time then it is unbelievably difficult for them. The bank of mum and dad is now, I think, the ninth-largest lender in this country because young people, more and more, are relying upon mums and dads and grandparents to financially assist them in the purchase of their first home. But if mum and dad or grandparents aren't in that situation, then young people are finding it unbelievably difficult to get off the rent race and own their own home.

This bill is called the Help to Buy Bill, but the government, in introducing it today, are introducing it over 12 months later than they said that they would. The Minister for Housing, during the election campaign, said that this policy would be up and running by the beginning of 2023. There is a huge source of disappointment in relation to this bill, because, as the shadow minister so rightly pointed out in his speech, there are so many questions that are left unanswered about this bill. As a lawyer—taking my builder's hat off and putting my lawyer's hat on—I know people need certainty. If they are entering into an agreement with the government, they need to know the terms and conditions by which this agreement will operate. This bill provides no-one with any modicum of certainty which would enable them to make a decision to jump into a long-term arrangement with the government.

We know that there are a number of these help-to-buy arrangements that the states operate, where the state governments are providing assistance in equity share arrangements with the purchase of homes. We know that they are undersubscribed, and yet this government stand up and say: 'We've got an answer on how to resolve this. We'll give you more of the same.' It is window-dressing.

A lot has been said in this place and in the media, and the Greens talk about this, but property ownership is a source of wealth. That's not something that we should be ashamed of. We shouldn't be ashamed of that. I bought my first house when I was 19 years old, as an apprentice carpenter—five years ago. Not quite! Whilst I didn't travel overseas for many, many years, that gave me the ability to buy and sell homes. I was fortunate that I was a carpenter and I was able to improve upon houses when we bought and sold. I know that most people aren't in that situation because they don't have the skills to be able to do that. I was fortunate.

But the reality is: if young people can just get a start and get out of that rent race—I just moved my daughter out of a rental over the weekend. The concept of having to hire removalists every 12 months or six months and do the bond cleans and all that sort of stuff—you don't have to worry about that when you own your own home. And, when you own your own home, and the property increases in value, that gives you wealth. That gives you the ability to invest that money or go and buy, God forbid, an investment property to try and get ahead financially and protect yourself for the future. Not only that; you're actually providing somewhere to rent for someone who can't own their own home or who is on the path to owning their own home.

The concept of investment homes in this country has become like a dirty word. Mum-and-dad investors are treated like they're some kind of evil people, like pariahs. I haven't sat down and done the sums to see how many of those opposite own investment properties, but I reckon a lot would. I don't criticise them for that, but they should also be upfront and recognise that this is a good thing; it's not something that we should be ashamed of. We're helping others live in a home, when clearly governments have dropped the ball over decades. Governments, particularly state governments, have dropped the ball over decades in social housing, and mum-and-dad investors have picked it up. That's not something we should be ashamed of.

Coming back to this bill, this bill does not provide any details to give a young family the information that they need to make an informed decision as to whether they want to enter into a long-term financial arrangement with the government—because that's exactly what they are doing with this bill. I would have thought that this housing minister would have had all these ducks in a row after 13 months of delay in bringing this bill to the House. I would have thought that we would understand questions like, 'What are the eligibility requirements?' or, 'Who is eligible to take part in this Help to Buy Bill?' Another question: 'What will happen if I get a pay rise?' Also, increasingly, more and more Australians are having to take a second job to make ends meet because of this government's financial mismanagement. Unfortunately, a growing number of people are having to get a third. What will happen when an Australian's income increases over the threshold, if they have already entered into this arrangement? Will the government come knocking on the door and say, 'Sorry, old son; you've got to sell your house'? I don't know. The detail is not in the bill.

Australians, if you are considering entering into this arrangement, read the detail. Unfortunately, there is not this detail, but you should be aware of the terms and conditions of what you're entering into. If people exceed the income cap, will the government come knocking? How many of these arrangements will be made available across the country? Will it be done on a state-by-state basis? Will it just be a national cap? Will there be a cap on the amount of the purchase price? Will that be different for a house in Wagga Wagga as opposed to a house in Sydney—will there be different treatments done on a geographical arrangement? I don't know. These sorts of details are the details that Australians should have been made aware of by this government. Details matter. It's all in the detail. I can tell you, taking my builder's hat off and putting my barrister's hat on, that's where disputes happen. It's all in the detail.

We've gotten this lame response: 'Well, the government will consider all of these things on a case-by-case basis.' Wow. How does the government treat Australians on a case-by-case basis? That just leads to all sorts of inequity arising out of this program—different people, different bureaucrats making different decisions, subjective decisions. You can't run a policy on a help-to-buy scheme, on helping Australians into housing, with no detail and with this kind of subjectivity and with, 'Well, we'll assess each case on its own merits; trust us.'

'Trust us.' Well, I'm sorry: that horse has well and truly bolted for this government, because Australians know that they cannot trust this government. They cannot trust this Prime Minister. They can't trust a word this government says. This is a government led by a man who says, 'My word is my bond,' and who has gone back on the stage 3 tax cuts. He promised us no changes to franking credits. He promised us no change to superannuation. Well, going back to investors, those people who are investing in this country should mark my words—write this down—there will be changes in relation to negative gearing and CGT treatment under this government. (Time expired)


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