House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

9:47 am

Cameron Caldwell (Fadden, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to add my voice to the chorus of opposition to this disastrous and desperate proposal by the government. It's becoming more evident day by day that the Albanese government is long on spin and short on actual detail and genuine reform. While they say that they've got a clear plan, the stark reality is that it's the opposite. This Australian Labor Party is now introducing the legislation despite having made this policy position over 20 months ago. While Australians suffer in the midst of Labor's concurrent housing crisis and cost-of-living crisis, the introduction of this underwhelming Help to Buy scheme is simply too little too late.

The government has already failed to deliver a key election policy, it would have seemed, by the nominated start date of 1 January 2023. It won't see the light of day until well into 2024 at the earliest. Notwithstanding the limited and niche nature of this vanilla shared-equity product, election policies should be delivered in the time frame promised. The only housing policies delivering support to first home buyers are the housing policies Labor inherited from the former coalition government.

The Australian public have had enough of the government encroaching on their freedoms and involving themselves in their day-to-day lives. We've only just emerged from the COVID era, when the government took unforeseen and historic measures of intervention in people's day-to-day lives. The last thing that people want now is to have the Albanese Labor government taking a foothold in what would be their pride and joy: their place of residence, their home. When it comes to being effectively tenants in common with the Commonwealth government, who can trust anything that the Prime Minister says after the recent tax cuts backflip? If this legislation passes, how can a recipient trust that the Labor government won't change the rules after settlement? Can you imagine rolling over in the middle of the night and one of the Prime Minister's proxies, or the Prime Minister himself, is taking up 40 per cent of your bed?

Another issue is that Help to Buy also relies on the involvement of states and territories, with states being required to pass their own legislation to participate in the scheme. Labor went to the election promising to put in place a shared-equity scheme. However, they failed to explain that the scheme needs state government approval to operate. This means Labor has made yet another promise that it can't necessarily keep.

So what is this Help to Buy? It's a small, niche program open to only 10,000 households each financial year and will cost the Commonwealth $5.5 billion. What we know already is how underwhelming shared-equity schemes have been to date across Australia. These schemes are so unwanted by Australians that there are places remaining in each of the available state based schemes as we speak. For example, there are places in the New South Wales Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, Victoria's Homebuyer Fund, South Australia's HomeStart shared-equity option and Tasmania's MyHome shared-equity program. It begs the question: why on earth would the Albanese Labor government seek to introduce yet another shared-equity scheme when we know that similar schemes aren't being used by Australians? The answer is quite clear: Labor want to be seen to be doing something without actually delivering anything meaningful. They're currently panicking at the thought of being critiqued for their lack of a plan and have responded with what is effectively a very lacklustre proposal. This bill is far from the silver-bullet solution that they were promising young Australians.

Key concerns raised about the shared-equity schemes as a policy for tackling housing affordability are that they may contribute to further growth in house prices artificially, that they may encourage those for whom homeownership may not be the most suitable option to take on undue financial risk and that they divert resources from supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Those who want to buy a home want to own it themselves. They don't want the government owning a portion, and they really don't want people like the Prime Minister or the Minister for Housing sitting with them at the kitchen table. Where will it end? Will they be there when there are big moments for the family, perhaps attending funerals or weddings? If they're there for 40 per cent of your home, what's next? It hardly seems reasonable that, if you own a property jointly with the government, all the repairs and maintenance on the home are your responsibility and yet, when you sell the home, the government will come and take their proportion of that appreciated value—all the perks, none of the responsibility. Why is this not surprising coming from what is an out-of-touch Labor government?

After waiting over 20 months for this legislation, this appears to be nothing more than a box-ticking exercise for the Albanese Labor government to say that it's launched its signature housing policy. It is clear from this bare legislation that the government has failed to do the hard work, and we are once again left with more questions than answers. What are the scheme's eligibility criteria? What happens if you make improvements to your home? Will you have to send the government an invoice for repairs and maintenance when there's, for example, a leaky roof or a dripping tap? Will they help mow the lawn? What happens if you earn a cent over the $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government force the sale of your home? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure you don't earn a cent over that threshold? If you enter one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? Quite typically, there is absolutely no incentive for an Australian to get ahead because now we know that, the more you earn, the more Labor will tax you and, in addition to that, they will be asking for their share in your home back. What happens if housing prices fall and you're behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell that house for less than you paid for it? What are the property price caps? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state and territory? It's completely lacking in detail. Is this going to replace the four schemes that I mentioned earlier in my speech or add to them? We just don't know. Critically, we also don't know which lenders are participating in this scheme and the terms on which they will participate.

On this side of the House, we know that Help to Buy may soon equate to 'force to sell'. Without the right settings in place and based off this legislation, we simply don't know if they will be. What we do know is that every time a participant sells their home they face up to a 40 per cent housing tax as the government swoops in to take its share. We contrast this to the coalition's strong record of prioritising homeownership.

I haven't been in this place very long. My maiden speech is at the forefront of my mind when debating issues like homeownership for young Australians. I mentioned homeownership in my maiden speech because it is a critically important component of the lifestyle that Australians deserve. They want to seek the Australian dream, and they should have it.

In government, the coalition had a strong and proud record of supporting Australians to enter the housing market through a range of initiatives which pulled on varying economic and financial levers. We understand that owning your home is one of the most important hurdles to reaching the living standards enjoyed by retired Australians. We know that 85 per cent of renters aspire to own their own home. Homeownership offers security and stability for individuals and families. There is nothing more quintessentially Australian than owning your own home.

Over the last three years, the coalition government's housing policies have supported more than 300,000 Australians with the purchase of a home. The coalition has supported almost 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families into homeownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme, which consists of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee, with a deposit of as little as five per cent or two per cent, respectively. The coalition's Home Guarantee Scheme is now supporting one in three first home buyers.

We protected the residential construction industry with more than 137,000 HomeBuilder applications, which generated $120 billion of economic activity. We provided $2.9 billion in low-cost loans to community housing providers to support 15,000 social and affordable dwellings. This saved $470 million in interest payments to be reinvested in more affordable housing. We unlocked 6,900 social, affordable and market dwellings through the $1 billion infrastructure facility to make housing supply more responsive.

Since 1 January 2020, the home guarantee schemes have assisted almost 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families get into a home of their own with a deposit as little as five per cent or two per cent, respectively—a 2019 election commitment that has been delivered.

Of the 60,000 guarantees issued, 52 per cent have been taken up by women, which is well above the market average of 41 per cent of women entering into homeownership, according to CoreLogic data in 2021. One in five guarantees issued went to essential workers, of which almost 35 per cent were nurses and 34 per cent were teachers.

Addressing the deposit hurdle is one of the most challenging aspects of getting on the property ladder, which is why the first home buyers can accelerate their deposit savings through super with an increased release amount of up to $50,000—up from the former limit of $30,000. This means the average couple would be $20,838 better off under the coalition's First Home Super Saver Scheme than if they saved in a standard savings account. As of March 2022, around 26,800 first home buyers have released $371 million to purchase their first home. More than 21,100 of these first home buyers purchased a home after the 2019 election, following Labor's commitment to abolish the scheme.

I remind the House of the 137,000 Australian families that applied for a HomeBuilder grant of up to $25,000 if they built a new or substantially renovated home during the COVID pandemic.

HomeBuilder delivered a secure pipeline of construction work that kept hundreds of thousands of tradies and small businesses in work who would have otherwise been facing the unemployment queue. HomeBuilder broke every record, from the number of dwelling approvals to the number of commencements, and delivered $120 billion of economic activity during our most challenging time. But, importantly, it addressed the supply side of this housing issue.

The coalition government also established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, dedicated to improving housing outcomes by supporting efforts to increase the supply of homes for Australians. This included providing more than $2.9 billion of low-cost loans that saved community housing providers more than $470 million and supported more than 15,000 dwellings.

During our last three years in government, the coalition's housing policies aided more than 300,000 Australians in purchasing homes. First home buyer numbers increased from around 100,000 when the coalition came into office to nearly 180,000 in the coalition's last full financial year in government. Our commitment to first home buyers has also been reiterated with the announcement and recommitment to the super home buyer scheme, which will allow first home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation to a maximum of $50,000 to help with the purchase of their home.

Where the current Labor government seeks to encroach on your liberty, your independence and your bank account, only a coalition government will genuinely support self-determination. This bill before the House is simply not fit for purpose and definitely doesn't meet the lofty ambitious agenda that Labor insisted would be seen with them in government. The Australian people have been again led up the garden path by this Prime Minister, who desperately needs a solution. Quite frankly, this is not it. For the reasons I've outlined, I support my coalition team in opposing this bill.


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