House debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Constituency Statements

New South Wales North Coast, New South Wales Deputy Premier

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today on behalf of my community to condemn offensive comments that have been made by the New South Wales Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro. In response to questions yesterday about the massive increase in housing prices in our region, the Nationals leader said this: 'This is a champagne problem to have.' He actually said that in response to the crisis we have on the North Coast at the moment. That comment is highly offensive to many in my community, especially those who are desperately struggling to find a rental premises or those who are desperately trying to buy a house, to find accommodation. That he had the audacity to come up and make a statement like that shows yet again how out of touch and arrogant the Nationals are.

For a long period of time, we've had a huge housing affordability crisis, a rental crisis and a homelessness crisis. Just recently, in my region, on the New South Wales North Coast, we've seen the largest increases in housing prices across the nation. On top of that, rental vacancies are under one per cent. Every day I hear about locals who can't get rentals and that there is massive competition and there are huge increases in rent. I'm hearing from families who are forced into homelessness because of this crisis. And all the New South Wales Deputy Premier had to say was, 'This is a champagne problem to have.' It is so offensive.

I challenge the deputy premier to come to the North Coast and sit down with those families and hear firsthand about their problems—about how they cannot find a house for their families, their children. It is that desperate. The Deputy Premier, instead of swanning around with his mate Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest—and all he does is cut services across the region—needs to listen to the real concerns of my community. Not only are his comments offensive, but he and his government's lack of action is appalling. Both the state and federal Liberal and National parties have failed to address this issue. We have repeatedly called on the Morrison government for a national plan to address housing affordability and homelessness, especially during the pandemic. And at a state level we've seen no commitment to social housing. This is a crisis, and both the federal and state governments must act—not just make offensive comments.

We also recently heard the deputy premier make offensive comments about the people living in Lennox Head. He called everybody nimbies because of their concerns about a major event in their area. Again, it was so offensive. People were standing up for their region, because of our beautiful region, and all the deputy premier could say was that they are nimbies. We are highly offended. If these comments weren't bad enough, we have seen the Liberal and National parties constantly cutting services right across the North Coast—in Murwillumbah, closing four schools and amalgamating them into one; and massive cuts to our police right across the North Coast. And just this week we have seen the Berejiklian-Barilaro government slash 28 local jobs at TAFE—another broken promise. The fact is that they can't be trusted. Our community has had enough of the Liberals' and Nationals' lies, cuts and chaos and their offensive comments. We deserve better.