House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

10:30 am

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Services) Share this | Hansard source

There are a lot of important issues on the minds of people living across the north-west, the west coast and King Island in the great state of Tasmania. Some very hard conversations are taking place across dinner tables or in workplaces that haven't been had for generations. They are conversations about not being able to get ahead; conversations about families not being able to keep their heads above water; conversations about not being able to afford to put food on the table, or not being able to afford to put petrol in the car; conversations about taking out a loan to get their kids back to school or to pay an electricity bill or to pay other bills that are stacking up; and conversations about needing to take a second or third job in order to get by, and being put on a never-ending waitlist for a childcare place. Without doubt, putting a roof over their heads is important on their list.

It's sad but true that one in three Tasmanians now believe that they will never own their own home; they've put that out of their mind. Whether it's buying or renting, the property market has never been so unaffordable or the rental market as tight as it is right now in Tasmania. When we start talking about regional Tasmania, housing is even more scarce.

The issue of housing is challenging. I have no doubt that all of us, on all sides of this place, acknowledge these complex challenges as a shared responsibility across all levels of government. This only adds to the complexity of implementing effective solutions. There's no quick fix. But, I'm afraid, the Albanese government certainly has a responsibility to be part of the solution. Those living across my electorate in the north-west, on the west coast and on King Island just want this government to do its job: nothing more but absolutely nothing less than they were elected to do. We're facing a housing crisis in my state; that's for certain. It's almost a daily front-page headline splashed across every newspaper in the country, and certainly across my state in Tasmania. Government's job is to develop effective policy based on evidence and analysis. Government's job is to have done the work to be certain that the policies being put before the parliament are effective in solving these problems.

Families across the nation are struggling with homelessness, or the threat of homelessness, or are unable to afford a home. They deserve assurance that this policy will produce the outcomes it seeks. Unfortunately, it does not. Firstly, it's not enough. This Help to Buy Bill 2023 offers a niche program that categorically fails to address the real and pressing need in the housing market. It fails to address the market. It's not going to have a real impact on increasing the supply of our national housing stock. We all understand the critical shortages, but is this the bill that the Albanese government should be introducing in response to our crisis? At best it is available to 10,000 households each financial year. The bill makes no sense. The Housing Industry Association has just confirmed that Labor will have a shortfall of at least 200,000 homes of its 1.2 million homes promised to the Australian people. Labor will need to build 20,000 homes per month in order to meet the 1.2 million target. What is their response? To introduce bills that promise to supply 10,000 households a year. The response does not match the crisis, but it must.

Another reason that this is bad policy—and I certainly don't agree with this approach—is that the policy doesn't seek to improve homeownership. It is a policy that moves desperate, would-be homeowners into co-ownership with the federal government. Having a government own part of your property is hardly the Aussie dream. Right across the country, would-be homeowners have seen straight through this. They've seen it for the rubbish that it is, because there are already schemes like this operating at the state level, and many states, in fact, have implemented them. They just don't work. Places remain unfilled in New South Wales's Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, in Victoria's Homebuyer Fund, in South Australia's HomeStart Shared Equity Option and, in my home state of Tasmania, in the MyHome shared-equity program. Australians just aren't interested in this type of scheme. It's stupid. In the minds of Australians, they think, 'Co-owning your home, the roof over your head, with the government—what could possibly go wrong!'

Where I live, they want less government intervention in their lives, not more. The MyHome shared-equity program in Tasmania was launched on 1 July 2022. Through this program, just 200 Tasmanians have been approved. Now, I'm not going to begrudge those 200 families getting into the housing market in Tasmania, absolutely not. But when one in three Tasmanians believe that they will never be able to afford their own home—and they're looking for help—this niche scheme just isn't enough. There are more questions than answers with this policy. This is simply another example—and they're starting to stack up right now—of this government not doing the work required and the analysis required of the market prior to developing legislation and rushing it through this place.

Important questions on this program remain unanswered, such as: 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 for a leaky roof or something like that? What happens if you earn a cent above the $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government force the sale of your home? What happens there? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure that you don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? What happens if the house price falls and you are behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell your 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 or territory? What lenders are participating in the scheme? The questions go on and on and on.

This is the most significant, important, crucial and risky decision that families can make, particularly in these trying times, and these questions need to be answered in their minds before they go through and formulate that decision and apply that risk-mitigation strategy onto their decision. But these questions have been left unanswered.

Labor continue to break promise after promise that they made in the lead-up to the 2022 election. They promised to build 1.2 million homes over five years from 1 July 2024. Well, it's now likely that they will fall hundreds of thousands of homes short of that target, and the data backs it in. In fact, they're likely to deliver no more than 200,000 homes fewer than what was delivered during the last five calendar years under the former coalition government. Between 2017 and 2021, under the former coalition government, we built 1,029,043 homes across Australia. This was during a pandemic—the worst health and economic crisis in 100 years. It was an incredible achievement. Contrast this with this government's phase. Not only has it failed to contribute to the housing crisis solution, but, under this government, rents have increased 26 per cent in an already inflated environment. First home buyers and new home approvals remain at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Lending for new homes remains at a shameful 20-year low, and we've recently seen the weakest quarter of construction in more than a decade. Despite all of this, this government believes now is the time to implement its big migration plan.

Lack of affordable housing is a national crisis that requires real and meaningful responses from this government. The Albanese government has had two years in order to make up its mind and formulate this bill and to ensure not only that it is fit for purpose but that this policy makes a real difference. This bill is not what this country needs. Those living across the north-west of Tasmania, on the West Coast and on King Island, rightly expect much more to be done by this Labor government in order to support them getting a roof over their head.


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