House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

11:09 am

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

My electorate of Durack is the largest in Australia, spanning from the outskirts of Perth all the way up to Wyndham in the Kimberley. Despite the distance between each town in the total 1.4 million square kilometres and all the unique circumstances that my electorate faces, everywhere I go, everyone is suffering from a housing crisis.

Only last November I addressed this very House about the Australian dream of homeownership and the fact that it's slipping away from younger Australians. That dream is being stolen by the Albanese government. Sadly, statistics are showing our youth are losing hope about ever owning their own home. I must admit that I copped a bit of flak about that after that speech last November not because it was not true but because I didn't go far enough stressing that everyone is worse off under this current government.

Finding affordable housing is like finding a needle in a haystack. But we must find a solution. We owe it to those Australians who are trying to get their foot on the first step of the property ladder. Since those opposite were elected, rents have increased by some 26 per cent. 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.

What is this Albanese government's response to this housing crisis? Well, it's this so-called Help to Buy scheme before us today, a policy that is, frankly, too little too late. This policy was at the front and centre of those opposite's housing agenda before the last election, yet it has taken them some 20 months to bring it before the House. Despite the delay, we still have so many unanswered questions. Basic questions around eligibility and home improvements are yet to be answered. Honestly, they've had plenty of time to sort this out. It's unclear whether this Help to Buy Bill will instead force people to sell.

We know this government is not big on aspiration, but what happens once you earn over the $90,000 threshold for an individual or the $120,000 threshold for a couple? Will you be forced to sell your dream home? The reality is that Australians don't want to share ownership in their home with the government, and we know this because shared-equity schemes already exist across multiple jurisdictions in this country, and they are simply not being taken up. In New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania there are plenty of places left, but people are simply not taking up the opportunities. In fact, in New South Wales 94 per cent of places remain available. Are we really supposed to believe that Labor's very own equity scheme will drastically improve the housing crisis? I say no, it will not.

Even if this bill manages to pass parliament, which, at this stage, I don't think it will without some concessions being made to the Greens political party, the states and territories in Australia will need to pass their own legislation to participate in this scheme. I don't know how it's going to work when they've their own schemes that are not getting taken up. It's hard to see any Australian being supported by this scheme for many months, and this is despite this government's promise that it would start 1 January 2023.

This scheme is very underwhelming and contradicts the bold claims being made by those opposite. Let's remember that this is designed to support just 10,000 households per year. There are millions of Australians out there who are currently renting who are in the property market, with 85 per cent of renters hoping one day to own their own home. Even if this policy were successful, frankly, it would be just a drop in the ocean. Worse yet, this policy may contribute to further increases in the cost of housing. A similar policy introduced into the United Kingdom was found to have inflated prices by more than its subsidy value in areas where it was needed the most. So the solution from this government is a plan to legislate more inflationary pressures into the housing market. Honestly, it is just nuts!

There has been a lot of talk from the Albanese government about boosting the supply of homes. Their target of 1.2 million new homes over the next five years already now appears to be another broken promise. The Housing Industry Association has predicted that Labor will fall at least 200,000 homes short of this target. If new home builds continue at the current rate, Labor will be lucky to even get to 800,000 homes.

My electorate isn't just stuck with this hapless government over here, opposite us; it's also stuck with the incompetent WA Labor government, who are failing in their responsibility to supply social housing in Western Australia. There are significant wait times for social housing right across Durack. In the Mid West and Gascoyne regions, there is an average wait time of 133 weeks. It's 139 weeks in the Pilbara, 154 weeks in the East Kimberley and a whopping 226 weeks in the West Kimberley. While the state government brags about delivering surpluses, some of the most vulnerable people in my electorate are left waiting for years simply to get a roof over their head. They are failing to roll out the regional modular build program quickly enough, and their spot purchase program has contributed next to nothing to the number of social housing units in regional Western Australia. Frankly, it's remarkable that between June 2017 and July 2023 the number of social homes fell, despite WA's resident population increasing by over 200,000 people. The residential construction industry in WA is also going through significant turmoil, with at least 23 residential builders going into liquidation only last financial year. Dwelling approvals remain very low by historical standards, and the WA government is sitting on land that regional councils are hoping to have unlocked to house essential workers. Some towns literally have not one vacant home available and are unable to grow. While there is a serious supply issue, with fewer builds occurring than under our coalition government, there is also record demand for housing.

Under Labor we've seen the highest immigration numbers in our nation's history. In the 2022-23 period, migration added 518,000 people to Australia's population, and the Albanese government is planning for a further 1.2 million people over the next five years. Of course we need skilled workers, but that's not the full story with these numbers. In the 2022-23 period, 283,000 of these arrivals were international students. They're not here to build houses or to use their skills for other purposes, and they are competing with Australians for the limited housing supply on offer. It's no wonder the rate of rental vacancies has recently hit a record low, and it doesn't look like improving anytime soon.

Let me reiterate the madness of this approach. The government is bringing more people into the country than ever before and, at the same time, fewer houses are being built. More people, fewer houses; fewer houses, more people. Why can't those opposite understand that their strategy is driving up housing prices? It's simple economics. We know the Prime Minister is a student of economics. Maybe he needs to join some of those international students and go back to school to do a refresher course in supply and demand. This is an essential component that is driving the housing crisis, and it is in no way addressed by the bill that we are currently debating.

Only the coalition can be trusted to turn this around and restore the great Australian dream. As the member for Sturt noted in his contribution—and I note he's in the House with me—the Liberal Party has always been the party of homeownership. This legacy stems from the leadership and vision of the great Sir Robert Menzies, the founder of our great party. I'm very proud of the work that we did in government on this front. We established the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee. We established the HomeBuilder program during the pandemic and kept the construction industry afloat during a time of deep uncertainty. During our last three years in government, the coalition's housing policies assisted more than 300,000 Australians purchasing their own homes. Under our government, the number of first-home buyers reached its highest level in nearly 15 years. In our last full financial year in government, that number was close to 180,000. When we came to government in 2013, that number sat at just 100,000. Our commitment to homeownership and to that Australian dream continues, and we will take to the next election a strategy to support Australians to purchase their own home and to reinstate the Australian dream of homeownership.

This will include a sensible approach to immigration, as we need to get that balance right. I think all Australians understand that. We will do what this government has failed to do in reducing the cost of living. After all, how can a family possibly save for a home when they're living from pay cheque to pay cheque? It's simply not sustainable. We're also committed to introducing the super homebuyer scheme. This scheme will allow first-home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation up to a maximum of $50,000 to help with the purchase of their first home. This strategy will do far more to assist Australians into the housing market than the approach set out by those opposite. I believe housing will be front of mind as we head towards the next election, and Australians will be able to reflect on the terrible record of those opposite.

I'd like to switch focus very briefly by acknowledging the leadership of former prime minister Morrison. He has a legacy to be proud of, and it's not just limited to our strong record of housing. Given his valedictory speech yesterday, I'd like to thank him for his service to our nation. As former prime minister, Scott Morrison, the ex-member for Cook, arguably faced the most difficult circumstances facing a prime minister since the Second World War, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was very proud to serve in his cabinet, and I want to thank him for his support and encouragement. I'd like to thank him for his leadership and also to wish him and his family all the very best for the future.


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