House debates

Monday, 29 July 2019

Private Members' Business

Tasmania: Housing Affordability

12:37 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) after being neglected by successive State and Federal Liberal Governments, Tasmania is now in the depths of a housing crisis;

(b) under the Liberals, the Tasmanian housing market is failing renters, first-home buyers and people at risk of homelessness;

(c) the average middle-income Tasmanian household is in rental stress, paying about 30 per cent of their income just to put a roof over their head, and 20 per cent more Tasmanians are accessing homelessness and crisis housing services than two years ago;

(d) sadly, behind these statistics, Tasmanians are hurting;

(e) the new Federal Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services wants to put a 'positive spin' on the housing crisis, which is disgraceful and shows an arrogant contempt for ordinary Tasmanians; and

(f) these unacceptable comments illustrate the failure and incompetence of the Liberals in Tasmania;

(2) calls on the Federal Government to outline a plan to address this crisis—if there is a deal with Senator Lambie, the Government should release the details; and

(3) recognises that:

(a) this continuing record of neglect is yet another example of the State and Federal Liberals failing to stand up for Tasmania; and

(b) only Labor can be trusted to take the housing crisis seriously.

The Tasmanian housing crisis is not just about low-income Tasmanians unable to afford accommodation. This is hitting middle-income Tasmanians. The housing crisis in Tasmania has become so bad that people on middle incomes cannot find anywhere to live in our state, particularly in Hobart. It has been an issue that was raised by the Speaker of the House of Assembly in Tasmania, a member of the Liberal Party, more than 15 months ago. Indeed, we've now seen two winters where Tasmanians have been left out in the cold by the federal and state Liberal governments. It got to point where the Liberal member for Clark has said, 'I will not stand by and watch what this government has done to innocent people through a lack of action. There is no leadership, and it must come from the state government.' When asked about what is happening in terms of the Liberal governments, state and federal, investing in Tasmania and one word to describe them, the term the Liberal member for Clark uses is 'incompetence'.

It is terrible what is happening in Tasmania today when it comes to housing. We saw the recently signed Hobart City Deal after three years of much fanfare. All that was in it for affordable housing was $30 million. This is not significant enough. We know that Tasmania needs millions of dollars of investment in housing from tiers of government but also from private investors. We know that what Labor did in federal government was working. We saw over $450 million invested by federal Labor in six years in the different forms of housing in Tasmania, from affordable housing to social housing, to public housing, to family violence shelters. Right across the board we invested $450 million plus in six years. We've seen absolutely nothing like that from the current federal Liberal government. They need to work with the state government to do better on this issue.

When you get phone calls in your electorate office from people who are earning $45,000 or $50,000 a year who say they cannot find anywhere to live, we have a very real problem. It is a problem that neither government seems to have been able to grapple with. It is a problem that nobody seems to have an answer to. We need all three tiers of government in Tasmania, particularly in Hobart and greater Hobart, working together to get this resolved. I would have thought the recently signed Hobart City Deal would have been the main opportunity to do that. This is where the government talks about the three tiers of government working together, setting targets and having great aims. That's what they should have done with the Hobart City Deal. Instead of doing a dud deal that included money being spent on the Antarctic continent, they should have actually worked with the other tiers of government to come up with a proper solution for the current housing crisis in Tasmania. It is simply not good enough when you've got one of your own Liberal state members who is the Speaker of the House of Assembly in Tasmania calling governments incompetent when it comes to their action on housing, because basically they have done nothing in 15 months.

This housing crisis has gone on for 15 months. Tasmanians have been left in the cold for 15 months by the state and federal Liberal governments when it comes to the housing crisis in Tasmania. There is so much more that could be done. As I said, the Hobart City Deal was a missed opportunity. They've been talking to Jacqui Lambie, allegedly, about what can happen in terms of the Tasmanian housing crisis. She has some sort of agreement with the government about investing in housing. This is a secret deal. We don't know what's in this deal. The government hasn't come clean. We don't know what they're going to do about housing in southern Tasmania or in Hobart. There was some talk at one stage about perhaps wiping some of the public housing debt that Tasmania owes the Commonwealth because half of it gets chewed up in repayments of the state government's annual allocation.

This is a really serious issue here. The federal government needs to work better with state and local governments to get a real solution. They have sat on their hands for 15 months while Tasmanians have been doing it tough, and I've got people coming into my office, as I said earlier, on $40,000 and $50,000 saying, 'I cannot find anywhere to live.' We all need to strive to do better. After six years of Liberal governments state and federal, they need to be held accountable and they need to be held responsible for the terrible housing crisis in Tasmania at the moment. They need to act.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

12:43 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak about homelessness in our country and the commitment of the assistant minister, the Hon. Luke Howarth, and the federal government to address this problem. It is important to acknowledge any person sleeping rough, living in crowded housing or experiencing housing stress. It's a concerning issue. The federal government understands that housing is integral to the welfare of every person, and that's why we're contributing more than $6 billion a year to support the states and territories. The $6 billion investment includes approximately $4.6 billion annually through the Commonwealth Rent Assistance Program, more than $1.5 billion per year through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement and $620 million over five years from 1 July 2018 in dedicated homelessness funding.

It is important to remember while the federal government is doing everything possible to address homelessness, this is a responsibility of the state and territory governments. It's in the Constitution that this is a state responsibility, so the states do need to do their share as well. That said, I think it's important for the member for Franklin to acknowledge that the state government in Tasmania has been taking steps in the right direction to tackle this problem. I wonder if the member knows about the work that has been done in her own state? It's disappointing that she seems intent on playing political games as opposed to acknowledging some of the good work being done in this space and working alongside the state government.

While this is a complex issue that affects people's everyday lives, it is vital to recognise that there are organisations and governments doing good things in this space. The Liberal Hodgman government in Tasmania is one of them. I would like members to know that this state government's first affordable action plan to tackle homelessness is already meeting and exceeding its targets. Under its first affordable action plan, the Tasmanian government has already assisted a total of 1,605 additional households into safe, secure accommodation and delivered a total of 984 affordable lots and homes to significantly boost the state's supply of housing.

Sadly, in my own state of Queensland it's not the same story. The Queensland state government has the second lowest number of public housing dwellings in the country, currently sitting at 10.3 per thousand people. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute predicts that 380,000 dwellings are required in Queensland by 2027 in order to keep up with the growing demand. As the federal member for Bonner, it is important that I'm speaking up for those who have no voice in this community. I want to see more people in my electorate who are not going to be experiencing this housing stress or having to live rough. I have built strong relationships with my local not-for-profit organisations and local community groups that are committed to working in this space. These include Rosies—Friends on the Street and the Mt Gravatt Community Centre. I am proud to not only recognise them but to work alongside them to make sure that my community is getting the support that it needs.

I'm honoured to have the assistant coming to my electorate of Bonner during National Homelessness Week to meet with these people and local organisations and to highlight the great work they are doing in the Bonner community. In the last few months, I have been collecting blankets for the inaugural Bonner blanket drive. I made the very first donation of three wool blankets, and my office has been overwhelmed by the generosity of our local community and the sheer number of people taking the time and effort to support the cause and donate blankets to help those who are doing it tough in the electorate. During National Homelessness Week the minister and I will be visiting Rosies to officially donate the blankets that have been collected in the past few months. I know it's just a drop in the ocean, but, as we all know, every little bit helps.

The other amazing organisation in my local community that deserves a mention is the Mt Gravatt Community Centre. I have been working with Deb and the team at the Mt Gravatt Community Centre for a number of years. They work within the community to support vulnerable groups of people, and they deserve more than just a mention in parliament. Earlier this year, I secured $213,631 for the community centre to fund its Ways to Wellness program to combat social isolation. In order to deliver this program, the centre needs experienced and specially trained link workers. This funding means the centre can now employ an additional link worker and administration worker to expand the program to support more people in the Mt Gravatt and wider Bonner community.

12:48 pm

Photo of Jason ClareJason Clare (Blaxland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Franklin for bringing forward this important motion. My old man always used to tell me when I was a kid, 'When you grow up, buy a house.' It was a message he repeated time after time after time. It wasn't about getting rich; it was about his worry about retiring poor, that buying a house gives you that certainty that when you retire you can afford to live a good and decent life. He wasn't unique. Mums and dads have told their kids that right around the country for generations. Wanting to own your own place is part of what we call the great Australian dream.

But, for a lot of people in Australia, it's becoming harder and harder. Back in the eighties, when I was at high school, the cost of the average house was three or four times average income. Now, in places like Sydney for example, it can be as high as 12 times average income. What that has meant is that more and more people are losing hope in that great Australian dream, or opting out of the system. The percentage of Aussies today who own their own home, or own a mortgage for that home, is at its lowest level since Robert Menzies was Prime Minister back in the 1960s. In particular, amongst young people—people in their 20s and 30s—the number who are buying their own home has just gone off a cliff.

For people who have a mortgage, who have made the choice to buy a home, it's tough as well. The RBA put out a report recently that showed that the number of people in Australia that are behind in their mortgage today is at its greatest level since the global financial crisis. If you're renting it's not much better either. The latest data shows that almost half of all Australians on low incomes that rent are in rental stress: in other words, more than 30 per cent of their income goes just to pay the rent. Then there's the sharpest and most difficult challenge of all. That's people who can't afford to get a mortgage, can't afford to rent and don't have a roof over their head. There are more people homeless today in Australia than ever before.

It's fair to say this is a crisis. It's a crisis right across the country. There are not many issues that are more important than this. There are not many places in Australia where this challenge is bigger or more acute than Tasmania. It might surprise people that are watching this debate or listening to it, but it's Tasmania where this challenge is most ferocious. There's been a population boom in Tasmania over the last few years, as well as more tourists coming to town and more students coming to study. Airbnb has created its own challenges, particularly in Hobart. Off the back of that you have seen housing prices go up rapidly, the cost of rent go up and the number of people that are homeless go through the roof. In some parts of Hobart at the moment you have house prices that have gone up by 75 per cent in the last few years. Rental affordability in Hobart is worse than Sydney. Think about that. As a Sydneysider I find that hard to believe, but it's true. The housing affordability index that came out last year showed that Tassie is the worst state in Australia for housing stress. Why? Rents have gone up dramatically. The cost of rent in places like Hobart is almost as expensive as Sydney or Melbourne. But average incomes are much, much lower. It also means, as a result, that you have more people on the street or sleeping in cars. I heard a story when I was down in Tasmania recently about people having to put their kids in the car and sleep on the outskirts of town. They have got a job but they can't find affordable accommodation. It was a story told to me by Hobart City Mission and Shelter Tasmania. There is a big jump in the number of people in that situation. In fact, there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of people that have been knocking on the door of crisis accommodation over the last few years. There's just not enough crisis accommodation to meet that need.

The state government really hasn't done enough. They built about 300 affordable accommodation houses in the last five years. The last state Labor government built 2,000. So that is 300 under the Libs in the last five years and 2,000 here. There is an opportunity for the federal government to do something. Jacqui Lambie has said she's got a deal with the government. Mathias Cormann has said he will deliver on that deal in the next six to eight weeks. We call on the government to make good on that. If you don't, the Tasmanian people will be very angry that they have been dudded by this government.

12:53 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great pleasure for me to rise in support of my good friend and colleague, the assistant minister, Minister Howarth. I note the comments from the member for Blaxland about advice from his father. I would certainly like to relay some of my own. My father was a fairly quiet gentleman and still is. When he gave advice, it was always not that direct. As a kid, and as I grew up, every time I would ask him a question about something serious, like purchasing a property or a car or something else, he might say something like, 'You may be right.' As I got older I discovered that that meant, 'You were wrong—completely wrong—and in fact you should never have done that and it was the wrong thing to do.' It took a long time for me to establish exactly what that advice meant, but I am still very pleased that I was able to get it, because I know there are lots of people out there who don't have that opportunity.

When we talk about housing and affordability, we should look at the key drivers, particularly within the economy. One of the best things we can do as a government is ensure that the economy continues to maintain its strength—that there are opportunities for jobs, opportunities for all individuals to have a job and be employed and pay their own way. Whilst this private member's motion is about the elements in Tasmania—I will get to the motion in a moment—in my own electorate housing is much cheaper than it is in other places. It's genuinely is. You can buy a good house for under $300,000. You can live near the beach. There are great schools and great opportunities. Our biggest problem is jobs.

However, there is good news on the horizon. We have had a change. There is a positive trend right now. In fact, in the last 12 months the unemployment rate for the Wide Bay statistical region has dropped from 9.6 per cent a year ago to 7.3 per cent. I think anyone in this place would consider that that is a move in the right direction. Our youth unemployment has dropped from 28 per cent to around 18 per cent. That is a significant and substantial change, and I think that is because of a combination of reasons. The first one is that we are investing locally in job-driving parts of the economy. We have substantial and significant infrastructure investments right across the board. This government has committed $100 billion over the next 10 years.

When we look at that, what does that mean, and why does it have an effect on this PMB? Well, the reality is straightforward: every single individual who is there and employed has the opportunity to purchase their own house. If those houses are built, it will provide more rental opportunities for those who are looking for those rental opportunities locally.

Once again, in one of my former roles I actually used to have not a large cane farm but a reasonable-sized cane far, along with the rest of my family, and I clearly remember a gentleman and his dog who used to sleep rough in his car at the end of my road. Every morning I got into the habit of getting up, going out the front, looking to see if the gentleman was up and giving him a wave to make sure he was okay. He'd wave back, and we'd move on. As a little bit of an aside in the time I've got left, I did take up that opportunity for a different car at one stage, and unfortunately I found a young couple in an amorous embrace which I think I shouldn't have interrupted!

Let's go back to the elements of the PMB. Locally there is a very, very strong provision of regional housing from an organisation called Regional Housing Limited. I acknowledge the work that they are doing. They have more than 200 local houses that they provide for those people who find themselves in difficult circumstances. One of the reasons I am mentioning them is I want to support the fact that they were very supportive of the cashless debit card rollout. I know there are those opposite who speak frankly against it. They are entitled to their view, but I want to give one example of an individual's circumstances as justification for this rollout.

Regional Housing Limited have a client, who will remain unnamed. They have a disability, and Regional Housing Limited have struggled to keep them in housing for 10 years. The reason for it is very straightforward: every second Thursday someone would come down, wake that individual up early in the morning, take them down to the teller machine, make them take their money out of the teller machine and steal it. As a result, that individual couldn't pay their rent. Now the cashless debit card ensures that that will never happen again and that Regional Housing Limited will be able to keep that individual in housing for the remainder of their time, and I think that is a very, very positive change.

In Tasmania we know the Hodgman Liberal government announced, in July 2019, that they have set four-year targets to assist an additional 1,600 households with their housing needs. That includes a supply of 941 affordable land lots and homes, 372 of which would have been new social housing dwellings. These targets, having been met or exceeded, have assisted a total of 1,605 individual households into safe, secure accommodation that meets their needs; delivered a total of 985 affordable lots and homes; and significantly boosted supply of social housing, with 453 new dwellings being delivered. I think that is a very positive story. It is a positive message for the people of Tasmania. I congratulate the Hodgman Liberal government, and I congratulate, of course, the assistant minister, Mr Howarth, on the work that he is doing.

12:58 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to thank the member for Franklin for bringing this motion on. It's my great pleasure to second it. To the previous speaker, Mr Pitt: you can try and put as much positive spin on this as you like, but you can't put lipstick on a pig!

Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, I'd like to talk to you about Scott. Scott's in his mid-40s. He's articulate and polite. He's a good guy, and he's homeless. Scott's the new face of homelessness in Hobart. He's relatively young, employable and keen to work. Now, I note here that Tasmania's unemployment rate is now 6.9 per cent, and we lost 6,200 full-time jobs in the last 12 months. The jobs are not there.

Scott is just poor—cripplingly poor. He's one of more than two million Australians who would like to have a go but can't get a go. It's something that the Prime Minister seems blind to—that many people require assistance in order to have a go. It's easier to have a go when your parents support you, when you have a job already or when you have somewhere to live. It's not so easy to have a go when you're struggling to simply stay warm on the streets. Scott's not after a handout, just a hand up. He lives in a memorial park next to the Bridgewater Bridge near my office. Before that, he lived under the nearby Jordan River Bridge, where on some nights he was joined by up to 30 other homeless people desperate to take advantage of the modicum of shelter from the elements.

Scott is cold—bitterly cold. It has been below freezing overnight in recent weeks. He can't wash. He's isolated from the local community, and he's living with the shame, as unwarranted as it is, that comes with being homeless. Scott can't be housed by Housing Tasmania because he has a debt with the agency. It's a debt he accrued because he could not afford to balance the rent with the other growing cost-of-living demands. We all know that Newstart is impossible to live on. It's a whirlpool of poverty and despair that is all but impossible to escape. You can't get a job. You can't afford the rent, so you lose the accommodation. You can't wash or afford transport, so you can't get a job, so you can't get housing, so you get sick and you get dirty, and now you're unable to work, you lose hope and you get mentally unwell. At what point do we as a society acknowledge that we have a role to play other than providing bandaids in the form of op shops, soup kitchens and charity GP caravans? With the greatest respect for Mr Vasta, as well-intentioned as he is, blanket drives won't solve homelessness. Secure shelter short-circuits so much of the cycle.

My electorate statistically is not the worst when it comes to homelessness, but every homeless person in my electorate is a person, not a statistic. Every one of them, like Scott, needs and deserves a place to live. Who decided that a place to live was a reward for doing well in life rather than being a simple human right, a necessary and fundamental part of the compact that comes with being a member of a democratic society? Tasmania's shelters are full. Tasmania's crisis accommodation is full. Tasmania's public housing waiting lists are overflowing. Private rentals are scarce and cripplingly experience. The housing crisis is the result of many factors. No doubt we can write about the causalities: the fractured nature of increasingly insecure and low-paid work, family breakdowns, mental illness, governments' failures over decades to build enough public housing, and the suffocation of funding for charities and support agencies. They are arguments for another time. Right now, today, we have hundreds of thousands of Australians without a roof over their head, and we have in Canberra and Hobart governments with the means to do something about it.

All it takes is money and determination—money that has a cash rate of nearly zero per cent interest—and governments with the ability to borrow and to repay borrowings over decades. Those opposite may raise their eyebrows when I say, 'All it takes is money,' as if money grows on trees, as if we can throw it about willy-nilly. We need to be tough with budgets; we need to show physical discipline; we need to cut our cloth—we've heard all the cliches. But where was the fiscal discipline in handing half a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation or to the bloke with the beach shack for the security on Manus or in the $180 million to open and close Christmas Island within a week? We have the money. It's how you choose to use it that is the difference. We do not need more summits; we need land. We do not need more reviews; we need materials. We do not need more press conference; we needs homes built, and we need it done now.

1:03 pm

Photo of Bridget ArcherBridget Archer (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Homelessness and the risk of homelessness are issues that have long affected Tasmanians and, indeed, Australians under state and federal governments of all political persuasions. This is because, as the member for Lyons pointed out, the causes of homelessness and disadvantage generally are many and varied and do not only relate to the housing market. As mayor of Georgetown, I spent a considerable amount of time in the past few years engaging with service providers in this space, particularly with Vinnies, and I've participated in their sleep-out for the past four years to raise both funds and awareness of the challenges faced by homeless Tasmanians. I would like to take this opportunity to commend Vinnies and the many other organisations and their volunteers—especially Michael Doherty and his team in my home town—who work tirelessly every day to help vulnerable Tasmanians.

It's an important issue for me personally, as my own experiences have taught me that homelessness can happen to anyone and for a range of reasons: family violence, relationship breakdown, illness, mental health challenges, as well as the accessibility and availability of housing. It is disappointing that the member for Franklin seeks to attempt to politicise this issue rather than choosing to approach the issue in a non-partisan way. It is my view that this issue needs all stakeholders working together collaboratively, recognising the complexity of the challenges and formulating long-term solutions. I acknowledge that the member has some experience in regard to this portfolio area, and I would be interested in discussing her views.

The federal government is taking action. There are no silver bullets to make housing more affordable, but by adopting a comprehensive approach we can make a difference. Some of the measures the government is taking to create more housing supply include providing over $1.5 billion annually to support housing and homelessness services. The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement took effect on 1 July 2018. It provides $7.8 billion in funding over the next five years. This includes $620 million in dedicated homelessness funding, which will be ongoing and indexed for the first time; establishing a $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility to provide finance for infrastructure to unlock new housing supplies; creating an online Commonwealth land registry detailing sites that can be made available for residential development; and establishing a new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation to provide long-term, low-cost finance to support more affordable housing.

There are measures to help first home buyers by providing a tax cut on their home deposit savings, and we are helping older Australians to downsize by enabling them to make a non-concessional contribution of up to $300,000 into their super fund from the proceeds of the sale of their principal home. That will free up housing for families. Representations to the government by the member for Clark have resulted in a $30 million commitment to the Hobart City Deal to help address pressures in Hobart. The Tasmanian Liberal government are also working hard to address this issue, with one of the most integrated housing and homelessness systems in the country. The system is designed to provide tailored solutions to meet individual needs. The state government's affordable housing strategy for the next four years has a focus on construction of affordable homes, more land released in key areas and supported accommodation for target groups. In the four years to 2019, 1,605 households have been assisted into safe, secure accommodation, including 453 new social housing dwellings. In the north of the state a new youth-at-risk centre will provide short-term accommodation and a range of therapeutic and social supports to assist young people at risk of homelessness. The state government will also work with Anglicare to complete an extension of Thyne House, which also supports and empowers young Tasmanians. In addition, the state government is committed to working with Magnolia Place to expand their women's shelter, supporting women out of crisis and into stable accommodation.

These are just some of the ways that state and federal governments are working together with other key stakeholders to address these important challenges. I'm advised that the member for Franklin has not raised these issues directly with the assistant minister to date. He has indicated to me that he would certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue directly with the member for Franklin, should she wish to pursue this in a constructive way. I also extend an invitation to the member for Franklin and any other Tasmanian members or senators who may be interested in meeting with me to work through this together with a view to creating some more solutions.

1:07 pm

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to thank very much the member for Franklin for bringing this private member's motion to the House. The fact that those on the other side cannot see that this is a crisis demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of the issues. If I can lift a line from Sir Humphrey Appleby, housing is an area where this government's preferred policy position is not to have one.

That wasn't always the case. The Menzies government in particular and the Liberal governments that followed borrowed Labor's policy and did quite well with housing. As an example, when I was first buying a house at the age of 25, the cost of that house was approximately twice my income that year. One of my children recently bought a house in Sydney for 14 times his annual income. By the 1970s Australia had record rates of home ownership and one of the highest home ownership rates in the developed world. Levels have now fallen to the lowest level since the 1950s, with the most dramatic declines in recent times being among those 25 to 34 years of age and 35 to 45 years of age. Those rates of decline are accelerating for many groups, including for Australians nearing retirement age. A simple indicator of the pressing need for action is that the number of older Australians living in lower-income rental households is expected to grow by 115 per cent from 195,000 in 2001 to 419,000 in 2026. That is only one of a number of growing and worrying trends.

Commonwealth rent assistance to low-income renters has not kept pace with rising rents. Anglicare once again reported this year that only a tiny fraction—less than five per cent—of properties listed for private rental across Australia are within the reach of welfare recipients. There's a growing mismatch nationally between the sort of housing available and the demands of an increasing diverse and ageing Australian population. Families have being getting smaller just as our houses have been getting larger, and social housing is falling as a proportion of our national housing stock.

In Tasmania, it's worse than on the mainland. As at 30 June 2018, about 140,000 Australians were on waiting lists for public housing. In Tasmania, the figure is at record highs and still growing despite feeble and belated action by the state government. In June this year, the chief executive of TasCOSS, Kym Goodes, categorised Tasmania as losing ground when it comes to housing the homeless. The number of people on the waiting lists has increased, and this is the largest in any reported period they've seen. The number of people being housed has also decreased. You'd think the Hodgman's government's federal coalition mates might have helped them out but apparently not. It takes a deal with Jacqui Lambie to get some action happening, we're told.

An honourable member: Allegedly.

Allegedly. Different scripts, same unhappy ending I suspect. How can it be that, after 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, the more than doubling of national wealth and increases to real income since the 1970s, a smaller share of Australians are able to afford a home than 40 years ago? Housing is one of the primary social determinates of health and also educational attainment. The government turns its back and ignores this. Why does it take, again, a Jacqui Lambie supposed motion to get some action?

For the past six years, the federal coalition has sat on its hands, sat on the sidelines and, like some delusional Australian rugby fan, hoped for a miracle. The only miracle we've seen is that things are not a lot worse, as they could have been. We're not praying for deliverance. The government's been leaning on the rather tired and overegged mantra that it's a supply problem. It's definitely not. In my electorate, developers have been given ample time and room to develop housing lots but they don't release them, aiming to keep the prices high and unaffordable. And this is happening around Australia. The federal government is happy for their developer mates to make record profits but not to house those on low incomes or the very poor.

It's impossible to rent a place in my electorate on Newstart Allowance even with rental assistance, yet the government turns a blind eye and does nothing. The situation in Tasmania is identical: there is land but they're not releasing it, while the unemployed, the poor, the disadvantaged and the sick are made to live on the streets thanks to this government. It's a disgraceful action. It is a crisis. And this government is turning its back on the most vulnerable. It has largely wasted the good fortune of the last few years, and we're heading for a crisis of unbelievable proportions.

1:13 pm

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The July 2019 CommSec State of the States report released today confirms the Tasmanian economy is one of the strongest performing in the nation. According to this report, Tasmania ranks third out of all states and territories, our best result in 10 years, as we continue to close the gap on the top spot. The CommSec report shows that Tasmania is leading the nation in relative population growth, the fastest in 27 year; housing finance and starts; vehicle sales; construction work; and business investment. Business investment is vital because the investment demonstrates confidence in our economy, creates jobs for Tasmanians and contributes to our economy and our growth. The CommSec report said:

Tasmania is now solely in third position. In fact the strength on relative population growth, home purchase and construction could see the Apple Isle battling with NSW and Victoria for top position in the year ahead.

The report confirms Tasmanian's economic recovery as a strong Liberal government leads its way forward, making it better for Tasmanians. But we must remember where we were under the last Tasmanian Labor Greens government. We were dead last under Labor. The report released today follows the Deloitte Access Economics Business Outlook and the NAB Monthly Business Survey, which both reported Tasmania as having the best business conditions in the nation.

The Hodgman Liberal government is working through its Affordable Housing Strategy to reduce homelessness and provide more homes to Tasmanians in need. The only way to address the demand issue in our state is to increase supply. Last month the state government announced that a further 36 new secure dwellings had come online, thanks to almost $9 million in funding through the Tasmanian government's Affordable Housing Strategy. A further 26 are currently under construction. A total of 62 units will be supplied to Tasmanians in need, such as families escaping family violence, the elderly and people living with disability. Half of these are being delivered through the regional supply program with support from Latrobe Council in my electorate of Braddon. All units meet the silver standard of livable housing design guidelines and are eligible for registration under the NDIS improved liveability specialist disability accommodation payment.

That's not where the good news ends. In the same month, the Hodgman government met its Affordable Housing Strategy stage 1 target to build 372 new social-housing dwellings by 30 June 2019. The targets have been set, and the Tasmanian government is meeting those targets. At both the federal and the state level, we are delivering for Tasmanians. But we know that there is still more to do. That's why we're investing $125 million into stage 2 of our Affordable Housing Strategy, taking the total investment to almost $200 million over eight years. It is the largest ever investment into affordable housing in Tasmania's history.

The word is out that Tasmania is the go-ahead state. This is leading to more people choosing to call Tasmania home. Interstate migration has now reached its highest level in nearly 15 years. This is in stark contrast to the last year of the Labor-Greens government, during which droves of Tasmanians fled the state to seek opportunities elsewhere. The government is also supporting more young Tasmanians in purchasing their own home with the extension of the First Home Owner Grant of $20,000 for eligible first-home owners. We are committed to further cutting red tape and streamlining processes to make it easier, faster and cheaper to build, so that more Tasmanians can own a home.

What's Tasmanian Labor doing to help to increase our affordable housing stock? It is aiming to slow it down to a crawl. Quite rightly, Labor supported the state government's housing land supply legislation in parliament last year, but when it comes to action and to delivering, it's the same old Labor. All it does is delay and play petty political games. This legislation, which was unanimously supported in both houses of parliament, allows for the efficient rezoning of government owned land to provide more affordable housing, sooner. When it comes to the important Huntingfield development, it's nothing but negativity. This development has the possibility of providing over 450 dwellings, infrastructure, open space and local businesses for people in Tasmania. (Time expired)

1:18 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Franklin and all four Tasmanian members who have spoken today on this important issue. As the new Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services, I do take the issue very seriously, and I want to work in a bipartisan way to ensure that we can do better for people not just in Tasmania but right across the country. I've had the chance to get out into my own electorate and have a much better look at this space not just in my seat of Petrie in Queensland but in neighbouring seats. Last week, I was down in New South Wales looking at some of the good projects around community housing that City West Housing Trust have been doing and at Bridge Housing, who have now taken up a new NHFIC loan. Next week, for the start of Homelessness Week, I will be in Tasmania. I will be keen to engage with stakeholders down there—

Ms Collins interjecting

Including the member for Franklin. I'm very happy, as I say, to work in a bipartisan way and see whether we can get better results over this next term of parliament.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 13:20 to 16:00