House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Questions without Notice

Housing Affordability

2:49 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on the discussions which took place at an important housing affordability forum this morning?

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Blair for his question. This morning I opened a housing supply and affordability workshop, with the Minister for Housing, which involved officials from state governments and from the Commonwealth government, representatives of the private sector, the National Housing Supply Council, developers and construction companies. This is one of the most important challenges we face as a nation. As our economy recovers and as our population grows, the demand for housing continues to grow. It has been the case for a long period of time that we have not been constructing enough houses. The housing supply issue, and particularly a shortage of houses, is something that has emerged in our economy over a long period of time.

Of course, we put in place a range of measures immediately on coming to government to deal with this question. Our National Rental Affordability Scheme, for example, is being rolled out and is doing a very good job. And there is our investment in social housing—a massive investment in social housing—which is not only stimulating our economy, supporting and creating jobs, but playing a very important part in putting in place a pipeline of activity for our construction sector.

But of course the underlying challenge remains to increase supply substantially given the shortage that has emerged over a long period of time. I for one can remember sitting in this House and listening to the former Treasurer talking about doing something about housing supply but then doing nothing—talking about it, blaming it all on the states and not coming to the table to work with state governments and the private sector to do something about a sustainable increase in the supply of housing. Unless the constraints to the supply side of the market are addressed, our cities simply will not adapt to meet the needs of a growing population.

In some cases we are the victim of our own success, because we are one of those economies that is growing. We are growing when other economies are going backwards. There are many economies around the world that would love to have this problem. Because this economy is growing and growing more strongly, it makes it all the more urgent that we deal with this problem that has been left to this government particularly by those opposite. That is why we have put in place those measures I was talking about before—the National Rental Affordability Scheme and the investment in social housing. But much more needs to be done, something that was squibbed by those opposite. We need planning and zoning reforms to reduce the time it takes to develop, build and deliver houses. We need to minimise the uncertainty and delay from developer charges. We need to find ways to use data from land audits to enable better use of land development. Of course, we need further work done through COAG, and this matter was put on the agenda of COAG in December. It is being progressed by planning ministers and state housing ministers and Commonwealth ministers in the weeks ahead.

We will go on carefully and responsibly building a stronger economy while those opposite simply continue to play in this House, day after day, their political games. Today they have demonstrated yet again why they are such a grave risk to the Australian economy. The statements today by Barnaby Joyce, the alternative finance spokesman from the alternative government, that Australia’s sovereign debt was at risk—or that somehow our triple A credit rating was at risk—are simply a slur on this economy and a slur on our international standing. I bet the Leader of the Opposition has not got the guts to remove him because he simply does not understand the nature of what he has done to our international reputation. Not only are those opposite a risk to the budget and to the recovery; they are a risk to our international standing.

Last night I attended the 50th anniversary of the modern RBA. At that function in Sydney there were governors of reserve banks from right around the world. There were senior people from the finance community. What they were celebrating there last night was reform in the Australian economy over a 20-year period. What we were celebrating there last night was that, as we get to the end of this year, we will be entering the 20th year of continuous growth in this country. One of the reasons that it will be the 20th year of continuous growth is the fact that this government put in place its economic stimulus precisely at the right time to avoid the recession that those opposite wanted to give this country.

In that environment, almost simultaneously with those governors from reserve banks all around the world sitting around the table, we have the finance spokesman from the alternative government putting a slur on our credit rating and suggesting that we could not meet our debt obligations, when it is the case, as every one of those governors around the table knows, that Australia has the lowest debt and the lowest deficit of any major advanced economy and just about any advanced economy. That is what Australia has. We are the envy of the world, but not to Barnaby Joyce, who simply wants to slur the great achievements that the Australian people have made in this economy over a 20-year period.