House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Questions without Notice

Tasmania: Public Housing

2:18 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. You would be aware of my correspondence alerting you to Tasmania's housing crisis, especially in Hobart. I urged you to help remedy the situation. For instance, the Commonwealth public housing debt is costing Tasmania $15 million a year in interest payments and consuming a great chunk of the state's Commonwealth public housing assistance. Indeed, it's the biggest impediment to the Tasmanian government being able to significantly increase investment in public housing and give thousands of people a home. Will you axe Tasmania's housing debt to the Commonwealth, as was done for South Australia in 2013, and in doing so help do something about the housing crisis?

2:19 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for his question and, indeed, for his letter. Our longstanding position is that housing loans provided to states must be repaid. That's the government's position. Housing is fundamental to the wellbeing of all Australians, and we're providing practical solutions across the entire spectrum of housing policy to address some of the issues raised in the honourable member's letter.

The government has committed $570 million to unlock supply, encourage more investment in affordable rental housing and deliver additional homelessness funding. Through our investment, we're supporting Australians struggling to put a roof over their head, by enabling older Australians looking to downsize their homes to put it into superannuation. We're assisting first homebuyers save for a deposit through the First Home Super Saver Scheme. That allows people, mostly young Australians, the ability to make voluntary contributions of up to $15,000 a year and $30,000 in total, within their existing contribution caps, to their superannuation account to go towards purchasing their first home. We've also tightened the rules that apply to foreign investors, so more homes are available for Australians, and we're better targeting tax concessions, to ensure people are using them correctly. Overall, our comprehensive housing affordability package will make housing more affordable for Australians in all parts of the housing market, to improve access to secure, stable and more-affordable housing.

When the coalition came to government here in the federal parliament in 2013, Tasmania had an unemployment rate with an eight in front of it. It now has a six in front of it. Over this period 16,400 more Tasmanians are in work. Those precise figures are a reduction from 8.1 per cent unemployment in September 2013 in the honourable member's state to 6.0 per cent in February this year. Our sole focus is on providing a strong economy so that more Australians have the chance to gain employment and secure their futures. City Deals in Launceston and Hobart, investment in infrastructure and projects like the new Antarctic icebreaker are all about making sure the honourable member's state is a great place in which to live, work and invest.