House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

12:49 pm

Photo of Colin BoyceColin Boyce (Flynn, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. Housing is no doubt one of the most significant issues even in my electorate of Flynn and throughout Australia. Many communities have vacancy rates of less than one per cent, leaving families filled with stress and anxiety about keeping a roof over their heads.

In the midst of the housing crisis, the underwhelming Help to Buy Bill is too little too late. Help to Buy relies on the involvement of states and territories, with states 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 have failed to explain that that scheme needs state government approval to operate. This means that Labor has made yet another promise that it can't necessarily meet—not that the states will withhold their approval, because, after all, the Albanese government is offering to pick up the cost by funding a shared-equity scheme when the majority of states already offer shared-equity products. Help to Buy is a small, niche program with only about 10,000 households each financial year, and it will cost the Commonwealth $5.5 billion.

What we know already is how underwhelming these shared-equity schemes are. These schemes are so unwanted by Australians that there are places remaining in each of the available state-based schemes already. The Labor 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 such as for a leaky roof? What happens if you earn a cent above $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government forced the sale of your home? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure they don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of the shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? What happens if housing prices fall 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 and territory? What lenders are participating in the scheme? What does the affordable house even mean, and what defines 'affordable housing'? Help to Buy can equal 'forced to sell'. 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. A similar scheme in the UK was found to inflate the price of houses more than its subsidy value in areas where it was needed most.

The Labor government can claim to be supportive of building more homes, but their policies say otherwise. Chris Bowen announced in Gladstone in 2023 that 215 of Australia's largest carbon emitters would be required to cut their emissions by 4.9 per cent and each year till 2030 to help reach its climate emissions targets. As this safeguard mechanism or carbon tax begins to take its toll, impacted businesses will be forced to pass on their costs to consumers, adding fuel to the flame of Labor's cost-of-living crisis. This will see the cost of everything from food to housing skyrocket when families can least afford it. Two hundred and fifteen of the largest industrial facilities affected by the safeguard mechanism, 28 are operating in the electorate of Capricornia and 18 in the electorate of Flynn. Around 30 per cent of these targeted facilities are in Central Queensland. One of the targeted facilities in my electorate is to Cement Australia facility at Fisherman's Landing. It is the largest cement kiln in Australia. If Labor is going to impose these taxes onto these critical industries, of course they are going to have to pass on their costs to consumers, so concrete will become more expensive and therefore houses will become more expensive. We are seeing new home builds become more expensive amid the cost of energy-intensive resources such as cement, glass, and aluminium all increasing.

Since Labor's safeguard mechanism was announced, I have called it an attack on heavy industry and the thousands of workers that work in the sector, and it has proved to be exactly that. It has also proven to be an attack on housing. Aussie manufacturers rely on cheap energy to make things on shore, but Labor's continued demonisation of gas and coal, broken promises to bring down power prices and the implementation of things like safeguard mechanism will force more Australian Manufacturing offshore. This means fewer jobs for Australians and fewer jobs for my local community, and seeing exactly that. It will also mean fewer products to build houses with. An article by ABC Wide Bay quotes from an interview with Jesse Zielke, a builder in the Bundaberg region. Jesse said:

We've still got some products that we're struggling to get when we need them, particularly concrete.

Those products that do require a lot of energy also take up a lot of room on a truck, so the fuel required to get the bricks and concrete to site is definitely still rising in price.

Mr Zielke also raised the challenge of sourcing labour, which remains difficult.

There is a high record of immigration under Labor's 'big Australia' policy, confirmed by the ABS. Record overseas immigration added 518,000 people to Australia's population in the 2022-23 financial year, according to the ABS statistics. Jenny Dobak, head of migration statistics at the ABS, said overseas migration was at a 'record high'. This is 8,000 more people than Labor's forecast on Monday, an increase of 2,000 people a day in just four days, and 118,000 more people than the government forecast in the May budget. People will be asking Labor: where will all these people live? Migrant arrivals increased 73 per cent, to 730,000, from 437,000 arrivals a year ago. International students accounted for 283,000 arrivals, an increase of 100 per cent. Labor say they don't want a big Australia, but under the Albanese government 900,000 people will arrive over two years and 1.625 million people will arrive over five years. Labor will not commit to reducing their record immigration levels, as Australians endure cost-of-living pressures, housing shortages and rent hikes.

Experts continue to make the link between Labor's 'big Australia' and the housing crisis. For example, AMP Deputy Chief Economist Diana Mousina said:

The high pace of immigration is not compatible with the level of housing supply that we have in this country. We're just not building enough homes to keep up with our population growth.

Brendan Coates and Trent Wilshere, from the Grattan Institute's immigration policy work, said:

Slowing migration would help vulnerable Australians whose rents are rising today.

Qualitas Group Managing Director Andrew Schwartz said:

… the most sensible solution is a short-term reduction in migration to release some pressure in the economy, to give homeowners and renters a break and to buy some time to allow our housing infrastructure to catch up with demand.

The former Treasurer Peter Costello said:

That is an enormous adjustment for an economy to bring in 500,000-600,000 people. If they're in family groups … we're talking about another 200,000 homes. No wonder we've got rental shortages in Australia.

ANZ Chief Executive Shayne Elliott said:

Immigration is a really big driver of housing demand and from our perspective, from one of the largest providers of home loans in the market, it's a material driver.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said:

Strong population growth has added to demand for rental properties, particularly in major cities …

The financial adviser and journalist Alan Kohler said:

… the government is doing the opposite—it's doing its bit to increase inflation and make life tougher for borrowers, in two ways: through "cost-of-living relief" subsidies and, most of all, through immigration.

The former Deputy Secretary of the Department Of Immigration Abul Rizvi said:

The problem for the Albanese Government is that it cannot deny the blow out in net migration under its watch.

Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said:

The rapid recovery in immigration is adding to the pressures in the housing market.

AMP Chief Economist Shane Oliver said:

Current immigration levels are running well in excess of the ability of the housing industry to supply enough homes exacerbating an acute housing shortage and poor housing affordability.

We need to be thinking about policies that support the Australian dream of homeownership. Since 1 January 2020, the home guarantee schemes, consisting of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee, have assisted almost 60,000 first home buyers and single-parent families get into a home of their own, with a deposit of as little as five per cent or two per cent—a 2019 election commitment that has been delivered. Fifty-two per cent of the 60,000 guarantees issued have been taken up by women, well above the market average of 41 per cent of women entering homeownership. One in five guarantees issued went to essential workers. Almost 35 per cent were nurses and 34 per cent were teachers. Eighty-five per cent of family home guarantees were used by single-parent mothers.

Addressing the deposit hurdle is the most challenging aspect on the property ladder, which is why first home buyers can accelerate their deposit savings through super with an increased released amount of up to $50,000 from $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 $370 million to purchase their first home, and 21,000 of these first home buyers purchased a home after the 2019 election, following Labor's commitment to abolish the scheme.

More than 137,000 Australian families applied for the HomeBuilder grant of up to $25,000 if they built a new or substantially renovated a 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. They would have otherwise been facing an unemployment queue. HomeBuilder broke every record, from the number of dwelling approvals to the number of commencements delivered—$120 billion of economic activity during our most challenging time.

The housing crisis is an issue that needs cooperation from all three levels of government—local, state and federal. States and councils need to introduce policies that unlock land for development and make the development of new housing stock less expensive. All too often we have seen local governments lock up land and prevent housing developments while imposing a list of demands on property developers and ultimately treating them like cash cows. The coalition brought a comprehensive housing policy to the 2022 election and, if re-elected, the coalition would have: established the super homebuyer scheme to allow first home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, up to a maximum $50,000, to help with the purchase of their first home; given Australians over the age of 55 the ability to invest up to $300,000 per person of their superannuation fund outside the existing contribution caps from the proceeds of selling their primary residence; doubled the asset test exemption for two years when pensioners downsize their family home, giving them more time to plan for the future; and helped more first home buyers get over the deposit hurdle by raising the number of low-deposit guarantees for first home buyers to $35,000 each financial year.

The coalition government also committed to delivering increased property price caps for home guarantee schemes to ensure Australians continue to have a choice when purchasing their home. We will increase the supply of new homes in regional areas by incentivising the purchase of new home builds, providing 10,000 low-deposit guarantees, each financial year for those moving to or within regional areas. This includes non-first-home buyers and permanent residents. We will expand homeownership opportunities for single-parent families by increasing the number of low-deposit guarantees for single-parent families to buy a home with a deposit of as little as two per cent to 5,000 each financial year and support greater investment in affordable housing, with an additional $2 billion of low-cost financing for social and affordable dwellings, bringing total low-cost financing to $5.5 billion, supporting around 27,500 dwellings.

I wish to conclude by saying that the Help to Buy Bill 2023 does not provide solutions that are in the national interest. That's why we oppose the bill.


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