House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

12:07 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Hansard source

It's great to be able to speak here today on housing, homelessness and some of the issues that Australians are experiencing around the country. Homelessness, in particular, has gone through the roof under the Albanese Labor government in the last two years. It's just skyrocketed.

The coalition will oppose the Help to Buy Bill 2023. The reason why is that we think $5.5 billion could be better spent elsewhere. As the member for Barker just said, very correctly, this is bad policy. This is policy on the run. When you talk about the minister, I really think that she has no idea what she's doing in this portfolio. When you speak about the HAFF, she doesn't even know how it was going to be invested. In giving more social housing to the states, how is she going to reduce the maintenance bill through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement? For Queensland, where I come from, every dollar that we give is spent on maintenance, every year. There isn't one new social house; they spend all the money we give them on maintenance. What is the minister going to do about that? No idea. Labor's record has seen homelessness increase considerably. In the midst of a housing crisis, this underwhelming Help to Buy scheme is too little too late. The Australian dream is to own your own home, not one with the government. They don't want to own it with the government.

The problems with the scheme have been pointed out during this debate. First of all, it needs all the state governments to approve it. But the states already have help-to-buy schemes. They already have schemes that are very similar to this one. Guess what? Not all of the places are full; a lot of those places are still empty. The member for Wannon said earlier—and I agree—that the federal government is going to give a whole lot of money to the states in order to get them to sign up for this scheme, and what are they going to do with that cash? We don't know. They'll probably use it to replace or invest into their existing schemes, which currently are not full. Only a Labor government would come in and go, 'Well, if we've got these schemes all around the country in different states and they're currently not full, we're going to bring in another scheme on top of that.'

What happens if wages go up? The Leader of the House, the minister for industrial relations, comes into this place every day in question time, spruiking how wages are going up. Mind you, they're not keeping up with inflation. But he comes in every day, saying, 'Wages are going up. We're doing this; we're doing that,' but what happens if you go above $90,000 and you're in a help-to-buy scheme? Does that mean the house then has to be sold? Could it be sold at a loss? These are questions that neither the minister nor anyone else in the government has addressed during this debate.

What about insurance costs? Who is paying for the insurance? We've seen insurance under the Albanese Labor government go through the roof. It is not just rents and mortgages; insurance has gone up considerably. So, if the government owns 30 or 40 per cent of the house, are they going to pay 30 or 40 per cent of the insurance bill? What about the rates bill or the local council? Are they going to pay 30 to 40 per cent of the rates bill? There are no answers. What about repairs and maintenance? Something might need upgrading. Are they going to pay 30 to 40 per cent of that bill, or is that all on the person that has 60 to 70 per cent of the ownership? Will the Australian Taxation Office be auditing income to ensure they don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? These are all questions unanswered by this Labor government. What lenders are participating in the scheme? How many of the 40,000 places will be available to each state and territory? What are the property price caps? None of this has been communicated.

Let's face it: Labor's record when it comes to housing and homelessness is pretty atrocious. I'm not talking just about the Albanese Labor government; I'm also talking about state Labor governments. In Queensland the Palaszczuk and Miles Labor governments have a particularly shocking record. Homelessness has increased. It's gone through the roof in the last two years. There wouldn't be a member in this House of Representatives who hasn't seen more rough sleepers starting to emerge around the country. The member for Lindsay agrees. The member for Herbert agrees. We're seeing it all over the place. I'm sure we'd also see it in Victoria. It is partly because of the 12 interest rate rises that we've seen under the Albanese Labor government. When the coalition was in, there was one interest rate rise. Then we had 12 consecutive interest rate rises.

At the same time, we have Labor governments—not just the Albanese Labor government here but around the country—talking down negative gearing. We know that the Prime Minister and the Albanese Labor government do not like negative gearing. We hear it from their coalition partners, the Greens. The Albanese Labor government can't get one piece of legislation through this parliament without the support of the Greens in the other place, so the Greens have been continually barking on, for the last year and a half, encouraging them to break the stage 3 tax cuts after the Prime Minister and the Treasurer said they wouldn't. They said 100 times they wouldn't. Eventually, they caved in to the Greens and broke it. What they don't tell you is that people earning over $135,000—a lot of public servants in Canberra and others, a lot of small-business people who work hard—will see their taxes go up by seven to 15 per cent under this government, and they're given a lousy three per cent at the bottom and. Who in Australia has ever heard someone saying, at 19 cents in the dollar, they're paying too much tax? But this government's big idea was to reduce that to 16 cents. That's the Prime Minister 's big plan for stage 3 tax cuts. The truth is no-one in this country would be getting a tax cut if it weren't for the coalition government, and this is all very relevant because the cost of living is going through the roof and we're seeing more homeless people. Meanwhile, Labor are out there spending half a billion dollars on Voice campaigns.

We know that in 2019 the Labor government took to the election that they were going to get rid of negative gearing. They were going to change it. Now their coalition partners in the Senate—the Greens—are asking them to do exactly the same thing. Guess what? Ninety per cent of the housing in this country is owned by the private sector. If you can't negatively gear it when interest rates are going through the roof, what does that mean for rents? It means that there will be more rent increases because if you can't take a loss against your income when interest rates are going through the roof, rents will go up. It will also mean—as this government talks down negative gearing and increasing taxes on people earning over $135,000—the very mums and dads and the very people who are more likely to build an additional investment home, and that's exactly what we need at the moment.

We've got 1.5 million migrants coming in under this government over the next few years. Three times higher than what it was under the former coalition government when we were bringing in 160,000 a year. They're bringing in all these people with nowhere to live. We've got homelessness going through the roof, and at the same time they're talking down negative gearing and putting up taxes on median income earners who earn over $135,000. How are they incentivising people to build an investment property to help out in the middle of this housing crisis? It's not good.

The reality is that the minister has no idea. The coalition's record has been particularly good. In the last three years of the coalition government, we had 300,000 Australians purchasing homes. That's a hundred thousand per year. This scheme helps 10,000 people a year—10 per cent of what the former government was doing. NHFIC was a landmark coalition achievement that delivered $2.9 billion in low-cost loans to community housing. We know that the state Labor government in Queensland hates community housing. Palecek and Miles have done nothing for 10 years up there. Now, finally, they're starting to look into it. Why did they hate it? Because Campbell Newman, the former premier up there, liked it. 'Oh, we can't do anything that the coalition did up here.' The coalition federal government helped 21,000 people into social and affordable housing in our term. That would be more people, by the way.

Labor has changed the name of NHFIC to Housing Australia to somehow take ownership of it. Guess what? It's a coalition policy that they've adopted. Good on them for doing so, but at the end of the day that's what's been working. Under the coalition, first home buyers reached their highest levels in 15 years. More than 60,000 people in Australia—first home buyers and single parent families, predominantly women—were supported into home ownership through the Morrison government and through the coalition government through various home guarantee schemes. They are still running today, and that's good. We want to expand them further when we come back to government.

The First Home Super Saver Scheme, which some of the members that have been here a few terms voted against, assisted 27,600 first home buyers in accelerating their deposit through superannuation—another good scheme of the coalition. Over 137,000 HomeBuilder applications were processed. That absolutely turbocharged supply. That's what we need when you're bringing in 1.5 million migrants in the next few years and when you're talking down negative gearing and pushing up interest rates like this government has done.

We've seen homelessness go through the roof. When we talk about homelessness, this is this record of the coalition. We get the figures for homelessness through the census every five years. The last census was done in 2021, before that it was 2016. In that time, the population increased significantly. Guess what? While the coalition were in government there were 564 less rough sleepers in Australia in the 2021 census than there was in 2016.


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