House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

1:18 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. When I was looking at the bill here in front of me, I thought we might have had a typo. It's actually 2024, last time I looked. We're nearly into the third month of 2024. Upon doing a bit of research into the aspirations of this bill to help 1.2 million people into homes, it seems to me that this is a bit of window-dressing, a bit of looking like you're doing something when you're not really doing something. Quite frankly, if this were of such an urgent nature, this legislation would have come into the House last year when it was drafted, and we would have dealt with it by now. Owning a home is important, but I'm not sure owning a home with the federal government as your partner is the way to go about it.

There are so many unanswered questions around how this works. If you want to put another storey on and expand the house, what happens with the value of the federal government's contribution, that 40 per cent, if you want to sell sometime down the track?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not opposed to schemes that help people get into homes. I'm remined of my time when I was mayor of Gwydir Shire back in 2004. Gwydir Shire had a homeownership scheme in partnership with the credit union. I suppose that's the advantage of living in a small community. You can assess what are largely younger couples that were solidly employed and good citizens but did not have that required deposit. For the assistance the council gave to help them into that home there was a slightly higher interest rate. Once the repayment schedules were being met, largely those people transferred over to a commercial lender. Twenty years on, many of those younger people then are well established now. They own most of their own home. As they look into their future, their retirement will be much more solid.

One thing I've learnt in 16 years in this job is that, for retirees, if you don't own your own home, life is much harder—incredibly so—than it is for those that do own their own home. We need to encourage people to be able to do this. I think the proposal the coalition had to allow people to use part of their superannuation—their own money—to help get the deposit to get onto the housing treadmill is a good, sensible solution. Once people make that big step—and I know it is quite a nervous time for people to make that step to purchase a home, but my observation and experience is that, the sooner you do that and the younger you are, the better the chance you've got of securing a house at the right price. There's a lot of social housing across the Parkes electorate, and one of the issues we find is that people are living in homes that they don't own and have absolutely no possibility of owning. There is a higher incidence of maintenance costs and general upkeep of those homes compared to people who own their homes. Some years ago in the town of Bourke, I was at the opening of a couple of new homes that were part of a scheme where people were able to get into them with a lower deposit. Rather than being social housing, they were actually from day one paying off their own home. Drive around the streets of Bourke now, 10 years later, and those homes stand out in the way they're presented: the pride and the way people have looked after them, because it's actually their home, not a rental home.

It is an issue, and homeownership is important, but I also think that there's got to be a bit of realism. Not everyone can own a home with a water view or close to where they might want to be in some of the more salubrious parts of town. Sometimes it's important that you buy a home that you can afford. I know numerous people of my generation who live in the city who are probably on their third home now. Their first home might have been a flat or a unit. They've paid them off and worked through them. I won't talk about the first home that I took my new bride too when I got married, because there are enough log cabin stories in this place as it is. I used to say that the mice didn't have to slow back to second gear to go through the holes in the floor, and a new bride with a brown snake with its head out the knot in the wall is not a good start to a marriage! All jokes aside, people can start off in a humble home and work their way up. They don't need to have the McMansion as their first home, and I think that's part of the issue that we're dealing with.

We've got some realistic and pressing issues in my electorate. One of them—would you believe it in an electorate that's half of New South Wales—is availability of land. In Broken Hill and Lake Cargelligo, this is really significant because Broken Hill, at the moment, is under a period of boom. During the pandemic, tourism blossomed in Broken Hill because people couldn't travel overseas. There's a large stored compressed-air battery being constructed in a disused mineshaft, the first of its kind in Australia, which will provide genuine 24/7 renewable energy to that area, and it's going to employ a lot of people. We've got a cobalt mine that is being developed. There's a magnetite mine as well as the other existing mining sector. So Broken Hill is in desperate need of new houses, but it's under western lands lease. It's surrounded by land that has a native title claim over it. I know that the community out there's very frustrated that they live in a vast landscape, and they can't expand the city. So much so that the council was actually involved in an auction that sold up a lot of the disused houses in the town to try and encourage people to come in and either renovate older homes or demolish them and build newer ones on existing blocks. This was because you can't buy land.

Lake Cargelligo's very similar. It's one of the most picturesque towns in the Parkes electorate with magnificent waterfront land that could be ideal to build houses on, but there are issues around native title, western lands lease and other things which are making it very difficult to actually open up that land. The irony of it is, in a sparsely populated part of Australia, access to land should not be an issue.

But there are other bright spots. I was at a regional development conference put on by the Orana RDA last Tuesday, and we heard a presentation from a representative of the Maas Group, which was started by Wes Maas. It's an iconic inspirational story for western New South Wales. Wes Maas came home from playing football for south Sydney with enough money to buy a second-hand truck and he borrowed the money, I think, for the bobcat. At the age of 41 or 42, his company is worth over a billion dollars. The Maas Group now have 8,000 blocks of land around many regional centres—Dubbo, Orange, Mudgee and I think up in Rockhampton in Queensland—and they are building houses as quickly as they can.

If this government wanted to help in that situation, we'd be doing more to encourage our young people into apprenticeships. The apprentice scheme that the previous government had was very popular. It encouraged young people into the trades. In my electorate, in the last year or so since Labor came to power, we've seen a significant drop in young people taking up those apprenticeships. And so, part of the issue is that people can have the money to buy a house, and, in most towns, there is land, but we are really struggling to find a skilled workforce that can construct the homes that we need.

There are a lot of other issues that the government could be dealing with that would stimulate the construction and purchase of homes without setting up a scheme where lying next to you in bed is the federal government as a part owner in your home. So we certainly think that this proposal is not to be supported. I won't be voting for this bill, for that very reason. I ask the government to go back to the drawing board and look at some practical, sensible solutions to help Australians own their own home. It is an important aspiration. It is securing the future of the next generations, and they need to be able to do that.


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