Wednesday, 26 May 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021; Second Reading
Before question time I rose to say that I support this legislation and that the opposition supports the bill that's been introduced into the House, in particular schedule 2, which deals with the Family Home Guarantee. During question time, the Minister for Housing, who joins us here at the table in parliament, made the important point—one that I welcome—that he has been inundated with requests and interest from single-parent families looking to take up this offer. That makes the question I asked in the earlier part of my contribution all the more important.
Before question time, I asked this question of the minister, and perhaps he might be able to answer the question across the dispatch box or tell us in reply: Is the 10,000 a cap? Is it a cap like the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, or if more people want to access scheme than 10,000, can they? It's a genuine question. I think a lot of people would like to know what will happen if this scheme is as popular as it potentially could be, if more than 10,000 people want to access the scheme. Remember, it's only 10,000 over four years, not 10,000 a year like the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. What will happen if more than 10,000 people want to access the scheme? As I mentioned before question time, there are something like a million single-parent families right across the country. Some of them own a home today, but many of them might want to access the scheme. If there is a cap, then there is a chance, a risk, that some people might miss out. So I ask minister to address that question in his reply.
The other issue I raised briefly before question time was the issue of price caps. Under the scheme, you only get access to the benefit if you buy a home under a certain price. That's fair enough. That is the way the scheme should work. But what happens if the price cap is so low that there is nothing to buy in certain parts of Australia? This is a problem which seems to have been identified in Launceston The headline on the front page of the Examiner in Launceston yesterday is: 'Great divide: Housing inequality and unaffordability highlighted by scheme'. The story was written by the journalist Ebony Abblitt. It looks at the scheme that we are debating here today and looks at how many properties single-parent families might be able to buy if they were to go online or open the newspaper and try to buy some property today. The article reads:
The Family Home Guarantee aims to support eligible single parents with dependents to purchase a home, by guaranteeing a participating lender up to 18 per cent of a purchase price - giving the ability to purchase a property for a deposit as small as two per cent.
But, under the scheme capital cities and regional areas (places with a population of 250,000 or more) have a higher price threshold.
Parents in Hobart can access the scheme for a home up to $400,000 - but Launceston is classed as "rest of state", with a threshold of just $300,000. A property search on Monday—
that's Monday of this week—
showed just 25 homes in the greater Launceston region that met that criteria - with the majority not meeting basic bedroom requirements for families.
The story goes on:
"Whilst the announcement looks great, once you delve into the nitty gritty of it all, it certainly needs some work—
That's a quote from Launceston-based financial advisor Toby Mahoney. He's quoted again:
"That's the problem with it - it comes out and it's presented like it's a fantastic opportunity … but in reality … anything under $300,000 you're not going to get anything that's suitable for a small family".
The story goes on:
A property search undertaken by Mr Mahoney showed 25 properties available in the Launceston region with a listing under $300,000.
Twelve of those properties were asking for offers $275,000 or above - which Mr Mahoney said were "more likely" to go for over $300,000 due to the current market.
Two of the properties only had one bedroom, which he said would not realistically work for a single parent family.
That leaves 11 properties available, nine of which are two-bedroom properties.
"There's potentially two options for any single parent within Launceston that has more than one child under the $300,000 mark and that place, you're still going to need to do some work to it," Mr Mahoney said.
The article ends:
With Tasmania's smaller population, Mr Mahoney said … the scheme would be able to reach more people if the price threshold was increased across to the same amount as Hobart.
It's a more realistic figure to be able to buy a property for a small family to live in.
He's quoted again:
"It would get them into a property sooner, which is really what this scheme is all about."
So this front-page story in the Launceston Examiner is making the point that, under this scheme, there would be only two properties available right now for a single parent with more than one child to buy and to be able to benefit from this scheme. And this is in no ordinary place. This is in Launceston. This is in the most marginal seat of Bass.
Surely the government has got to fix this. Surely, Minister, you've got to have a look at this. This is the most marginal seat, or one of the most marginal seats, in the country, and you've got the local paper saying that the scheme isn't going to work there as well as it could because the price cap's too low. This isn't hard to fix. It's an easy thing to fix. They just need to change the price cap.
I'll give the minister a week. Mark my words: once he reads this article and sees what the newspaper is saying is true, I suspect that, by this time next week, the minister will be back and increasing that price cap for Launceston, because it's the right thing to do, because it makes sense, because it means that more people will be able to benefit from the scheme.
But don't just do that for Launceston. Have a look at the price caps that you've set for the whole scheme and make sure that they work in all parts of the country, so that single parents, wherever they live, can get equal access to the scheme.
This government has been in power now for eight years—eight long years—and, over that time, housing affordability has just got worse. It's harder to buy a home now than ever before. It's harder to rent than ever before. There are more homeless Australians today, sadly, than ever before. This is a genuine housing crisis.
We support this legislation for what it is and for what it does, but it doesn't do enough. It doesn't do enough to turn all of this around. If 10,000 is the total number of single-parent families who could benefit from this, over four years—2½ thousand families a year benefiting from this—then that's not enough when there are a million single-parent families that might or could benefit from this if that cap didn't exist. More could be done.
And it's not just single-parent families. There are lots of Australians out there who could do with an extra helping hand, whether it's to buy a home, to rent or just to put a roof over their head. I mentioned earlier, before question time, older women. The fastest-growing group of homeless Aussies are older women aged 65 to 74. I'll give you two other examples. The first is veterans. One in 10 people who will sleep in a park or on the street in Sydney tonight will be a veteran. How did we let that happen? We train them, we send them off to war, and then, despite everything that we say on Anzac Day, we do forget them—otherwise, we'd be doing something about it.
The other one is women and kids fleeing domestic violence. This legislation, with good intent, is trying to help single-parent families to buy a home, but there are a lot of other single-parent families who are trying to flee their home. Last year, 10,000 mums and kids fled their home in the middle of the night, sought refuge in a crisis centre and got turned away because there wasn't a bed. Just think about that for a second. In the middle of a pandemic, 10,000 mums, fleeing their home—the place where they were raising a family—ran out, sought refuge and got turned away because there wasn't a bed. People I speak to in refuges tell me it has never been this bad, not in 30 years. People are staying in refuges not for days but for weeks and sometimes months. Why? It's because there isn't enough transitional accommodation and long-term accommodation for women and their kids to move into.
We've got a Women's Safety Summit coming in July. I ask the government, if they are serious about women's safety, to have a look at the policy we announced in the budget reply—if not the whole policy to establish the Housing Australia Future Fund, then at least the part that helps women fleeing domestic violence. We need more crisis accommodation, yes, but we also need more transitional and long-term accommodation, otherwise more and more women and kids are going to get pushed away, knocked back from refuges, and forced to sleep in a car or at a friend's house or go back to the house where violence is happening. In the budget reply, we promised that, if we were to win the next election, we would build 20,000 social housing homes, 4,000 of which would be for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. I ask the government to, at the very least, have a think about that.
We support this legislation helps. It helps, but it doesn't help enough. As I said at the start of my remarks, it's like a bucket of water in a drought. We'll take it, but so much more is needed to help Aussies buy a home.
Taking those recommendations from the previous speakers, these price caps are important. They're very carefully calculated, and I think it's reasonable to say that the government is monitoring the operation of these concessions that are offered, particularly by the states, but also median house prices and taking into account unique circumstances in every corner of Australia. As he will be aware, there are capital city caps and caps for the rest of the state. I think the capital city caps are for populations of 250,000 or more. There's no doubt there will be variation between some of these regional centres. Prices can vary significantly. It isn't as simple as running a search, popping in a number and seeing how many are listed below the price. Plenty of properties settle on a price far different from what is listed. Plenty of people are prepared to move away from the centre of a regional centre, for instance, to just outside a regional centre, where a $300,000 cap would cover far more properties than in a specific area of a community that may well be a small regional town or city. So there are options to purchase throughout the region, not just inside a regional city. Lastly, these calculations are not pegged to other things that create uncertainty and confusion, for both the lenders and the borrowers. We're not using median house price indices. They can be volatile. They reflect past sales activity and, as I think the previous member spoke about, are not really a reflection of the current market conditions.
I want to go back in history a little bit, prior to what I think was a really important move into home saver arrangements for single parents. This is an extremely important addition to the original deposit assistance scheme, which has been successful. It has seen extremely low, if not negligible, default rates. That's very encouraging. If we go back to 2018, when this conversation was initiated, the great concern was that any assistance with deposits could lead to higher default rates and overheated housing markets. The first conversations about the deposit assistance scheme emanated from my office in September 2018, at a time when there was no other discussion about this topic. The messages, both to Treasury and to ministries, came from Carolyn Rosario, a former staffer in my office, who identified the need to understand the pressures that people with secure salaries faced in raising a deposit.
In many cases, property growth moved so fast that the deposit requirement also grew so fast that you couldn't even catch up to the deposit with regular savings. This shift we've seen over two decades, where the true hurdle is no longer about earnings but now about finding a deposit, has necessitated a look at deposits. Young electors were telling us they could service these loans without any problems. Their issue is having to raise $50,000 or $80,000. We talk about the bank of mum and dad. But nothing is more unfair than a certain cohort, because of good luck and their parents, being able to purchase a home while others are locked out forever.
The understated element of both the home saver and deposit assistance systems is that we now provide this to people of all backgrounds, and an important extension that we're debating in this legislation takes on the challenge of single parents, predominantly single mums, so they can leave the conditions of unreliable and tenuous rental and find themselves owning their own home. Nothing can be more important, but it is often overlooked by people who live in their own home, than being able to give young children, with otherwise difficult tenancy-landlord arrangements, their own room—able to put a nail in the wall and hang something off it; to walk in the door and kick your shoes off and call it your own place; to invite kids over from school and say this is your place that your parents have just purchased. To know that no landlord is going to boot you out at the end of a lease—the sort of uncertainty that could mean you leave school early because of the rental conditions in the area you live and, potentially, the job that your parents have. That is all, effectively, addressed with deposit assistance.
In a rapidly moving property market, as we see right now, post COVID, and as we see confidence coming back to real estate, again we see people desperate to get on what we call the property conveyer belt. As they tell us in this chamber, repeatedly—they tell us from every corner of Australia—once you're on the escalator, you're on it for life. Property ownership sets up a decision tree with a completely different pathway of choices. In prospect theory, we know that choice is about risk and benefit, and whether we have risk aversion towards loss or are prepared to take a gamble. With buying a home, the gamble you want to take is to be paying off your own home and mortgage—
Surely nothing is more important than speaking about single parents and the opportunity for them to buy a home with a reduced deposit, and it's something, ironically, that both sides of this chamber supported at the 2019 election. Both parties supported deposit assistance, and it's a very important contribution. Thirty thousand families will no longer be renters but will be home owners by the end of this financial year. The default rate is extremely low. It is a successful program that originated in 2018. I recognise the role of the Australian Banking Association in providing advice, and I recognise the support of Aussie Home Loans and other major lenders and of builders and constructors who recognised the role this could play in supporting property prices through COVID.
Most importantly, imagine single parents with children finally being able to escape the rent trap and to live without having over their heads the shadow of being moved out of their homes because they're caught in rent difficulties through the whim of a landlord. This is what this is all about: giving people a chance, for the first time, not to have to raise large deposits that would simply not be possible. The evidence is there to look at, if you haven't got your head in the sand, that the default rate is at a record low so far. For the 30,000 families that initially took up the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, be it a new home or an existing dwelling, and now for the additional 10,000, this is something that deserves bipartisan support. It originated in 2018 with these early discussions, and it's been a very important policy for those most vulnerable families to achieve a dream that would never have been achieved without this policy. I strongly support this measure.
I wish to speak briefly about schedule 2 of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021, which will enact the Family Home Guarantee program that the government announced earlier this month in the budget. That program would allow single-parent families with an annual income lower than $125,000 to build a new home or purchase an existing home with a deposit as little as two per cent. The program would be open to 2,500 single-parent families per year for four years. To be eligible for the scheme, these single parents would need to show that they could service the remaining 98 per cent of the loan within 30 years. The property price must be below a maximum threshold which ranges from $700,000 in Sydney to $375,000 for electorates like mine in regional Victoria.
I will not oppose this bill, but I want to table a number of concerns I have about the Family Home Guarantee and the housing crisis regional Australians face right now. First of all, I am disappointed that the government decided to establish this program as part of the omnibus Treasury bill. It was entirely possible for the government to introduce this measure separately and not put MPs in a position where we're also considering welfare supports for thalidomide survivors and recovery grants for flood and storm victims. The government must be ready to debate the standalone merits of this policy, which it has sold as one of two pillars in its Women's Economic Security Package.
Second, the Family Home Guarantee program totally misunderstands the economics of the current housing crisis, which is clearly a supply side issue. We have not had a comprehensive national housing policy in Australia since World War II, and, quite frankly, it shows. You're living under a rock if you think better access to finance is the silver bullet that's going to fix the housing crisis. What we really need is more mixed housing stock, including social housing and crisis accommodation for the homeless or for women escaping family violence. I have heard that message time and time again from the Master Builders Association in Wodonga, from the nine local councils across my electorate and from the hundreds of small businesses I speak to who are under immense pressure because they can't attract new workers to town, primarily because there's simply nowhere to live.
Earlier this month, the Regional Australia Institute reported that there are 66,200 job vacancies across regional Australia. This is the largest since records began, and even beats the demand during the mining construction boom a decade ago. For years, the government has said, 'Build it and they will come.' Well, they've come and we haven't built it. The latest data shows that less than 0.5 per cent of properties in north-east Victoria are vacant. That's the lowest level since these records began over two decades ago. We also know that less than a third of properties in Indi can be classified as affordable, based on local income data. Let's put that into perspective. Only 0.1 per cent of houses in Indi are available and affordable to an average salary earner, let alone low-income, single-parent families who earn much lower than the median salary. Based on the latest census data, we are talking about 60-odd houses across all of Indi—29,000 square kilometres—that might be available. Median house prices across the electorate are also soaring way above the $375,000 cap this program imposes for regional Victoria. The latest Domain report shows house prices increased 83 per cent in Alpine, 32 per cent in Wodonga, 57 per cent in Indigo, 35 per cent in Wangaratta and 41 per cent in Benalla in the last five years. The median house price is now $409,000 in Wodonga. So good luck finding one of those 60 houses across Indi or in Wodonga under $375,000.
It is a total stretch of the imagination to think that many single-parent families would be anywhere near the $125,000 salary cap in this program in Indi. Less than four per cent of Indi earns over $100,000 a year. More than half earn under $50,000 a year, and the median salary is $42,809. So it beggars belief to think single-parent families could find a way to save $10,000 for a deposit and demonstrate that they could service monthly mortgage payments of $1,500 over 30 years, when they're bringing in around $700 per week after tax. To me, and I think to anyone reasonable, this is the definition of unacceptable mortgage stress. It seems to me that the people this program aims to help will either miss out or suffer great financial hardship as a result. Indeed, they are likely to miss out. There are more than one million single-parent families in Australia, and only 10,000 places in this program over four years.
The third and final point I'd like to make is about how this package is framed as a women's economic security measure. The government made a lot of noise on budget night about its $1.8 billion package to create new opportunities for women and secure their economic future. But it was, essentially, two flagship measures: an increase to the childcare subsidy, and this: the Family Home Guarantee program for single parents. I have spent the last few weeks consulting with over 1,000 constituents in my electorate about their views on the budget, via an online survey. Here's a quote from one constituent who lives in Marysville: 'I want to see spending on social housing, not spin, on the few who may be able to buy a house, then struggle to pay the mortgage when the interest rates go up. There's no point in putting money into refuges if there's no available housing for women escaping violence to go to.' I'm still working through all the results of that survey, but it's pretty clear already that people don't think this package truly understands the economic challenges women are facing. Single-parent is not synonymous with single mother. Child care is not the sole responsibility of women. Sure, these two measures will go some way to support women, but single parenthood and child care is not the totality of the experience of women in modern Australia. It's much broader than this, and the government has some work to do to truly understand this.
I won't be opposing this bill today, but I do want to record some central concerns I have about it. To that end, I move:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:
(a) the housing availability crisis is reaching new heights across Australia, including North East Victoria where residential vacancy rates are at their lowest level since records began;
(b) the Family Home Guarantee will not address the underlying need for affordable and diverse housing supply, including social housing;
(c) that in some regions, a single parent earning the maximum allowable income under the Family Home Guarantee would have to commit close to half their monthly income to be able to service a loan based on median property prices; and
(d) the Family Home Guarantee will only support 10,000 single parents over four years, while there are currently one million single parent families across Australia; and
(2) calls on the Government to take a leadership role in urgently addressing the housing supply crisis by working proactively with local and state governments to unlock creative solutions, including incentives for private developers to build more affordable low-cost housing stock at scale".
It's a great privilege to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021, and particularly to speak on it in the presence of the Assistant Treasurer, who is currently in the chamber. Many of these so-called TLAB bills contain a range of measures in them. One of the measures that you often see in these bills is the granting of deductible gift recipient status to organisations. I didn't want to let the passage of this bill go without saying something about a couple of the organisations that have been given deductible gift recipient status that are very old organisations in the Jewish community of Sydney.
It may not be well known across the country, but Jews have been in Australia since a dozen or more Jewish convicts stepped ashore with the First Fleet. Since that time, Jewish communal institutions have been established. One of the first institutions to be established in the colony of New South Wales was a Jewish burial society, or a chevra kadisha, as it is known in Hebrew. The chevra kadisha which exists today in Sydney is the direct descendant of that original burial society. Jewish burial rituals are very important in terms of respecting the body, and I'll talk a little bit about them in a moment. But chevra kadisha have existed not just in Sydney but right throughout the country. It might interest people to know that, in a recent edition of the Australian Jewish Historical Society magazine—and I pay tribute to Peter Philippsohn, the society's president—they have a very interesting article about the chevra kadisha that existed in the Jewish community in Goulburn. It is now a heritage listed site—not just the burial plots themselves but the home of the people who were engaged in watching over the bodies of people who had died.
A burial society is one of the very first things that Jews establish when they come to a new land. The chevra kadisha is important because of the particular rituals under Jewish law that it provides. Firstly, when a person has died, respect for the body means that somebody needs to remain with the body at all times. These people have particular roles. They are usually orthodox Jewish people. They are called shomrim. Their job is to respect the body by remaining with it. There is ritual purification that occurs. Before the funeral, the deceased is washed, cleansed and purified so that, in a symbolic way, they leave the world in the same condition as they entered it. Only individuals of the same gender perform the tahara, or the purification, for the deceased. The people who do this are trained in proper procedures and perform their duties with the utmost care and preserve the dignity of the deceased.
The shrouding procedure, in which the deceased are prepared to be buried, is interesting. The idea in Jewish law is that people leave the world as they entered it. So a Jewish coffin is always a very plain coffin, and a person is shrouded in plain linen garments that are representative, in their colour and in their style, of the garments that were worn by the high priest in temple times on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Men are buried along with their tallit, or prayer shawl, and it is the chevra kadisha that performs the role of preparing the body for burial. As I said, the coffin is identical. It's plain. There's no ornamentation. Everyone is treated in the same way, from the most distinguished citizen to the poorest or youngest person, sadly, buried by the chevra kadisha. Everything is returned to nature. Under Jewish custom, people are buried rather than cremated or embalmed, and it is considered disrespectful to have open coffins for viewing bodies.
The Sydney Chevra Kadisha is such an important institution in the Sydney Jewish community. It's building on Oxford Street, in Woollahra, has been a site of communal commemoration for over 70 years, but the building is very much run-down. I grew up in the synagogue down there, and the late Rabbi Fox, who was the rabbi that I grew up with, used to say, 'We are Emanuel Synagogue. We're down the road from the Chevra Kadisha. We hope you come to us before you go to them.' That was his way of reminding people where they were. The facilities there are now quite inadequate. They're 70 years old, they are too small for larger funerals—where you can often have people spilling out onto a very busy Sydney street—and they are quite antiquated and run down. The Chevra Kadisha, which is run by a volunteer board—and it obviously has paid staff as well—needs to move with the times. One of the great things about receiving deductible gift recipient status is that it will allow the Chevra Kadisha to raise funds and provide people who are looking to donate to it with a tax deduction for doing so—thereby encouraging more people in the community to donate to and support a very important community organisation.
Whereas the Chevra Kadisha is 203 years old, the second-oldest institution in the Sydney Jewish community is obviously the Great Synagogue. That is a site of much happier occasions for the Jewish community than funerals. It's pleasing to see that the Great Synagogue has been given deductible gift recipient status. The Great Synagogue is the most magnificent Jewish building in Australia. It is built in that classic 19th century cathedral style of synagogue. It has sat in Elizabeth Street since 1878. It is simply a stunning building.
The present rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Rabbi , Dr Ben Elton, is a wonderful scholar of Torah and a wonderful community leader who not only serves there but also serves as an adviser to the Jewish Board of Deputies. The Great Synagogue is one of the key institutions that people who are wanting to understand the Jewish community in Australia go to visit, because of its very deep history. On the ceiling, there are stars painted on the sky. The reason for those stars is that they each represent a different Australian Jewish serviceman who served in the First World War. The synagogue has gone through renovations over the years. The bimah, or the desk, where the rabbi and the cantor read from the Torah on a thrice-weekly basis was originally in the centre of the sanctuary. It was then many years later moved back closer to the arc. But it really is a magnificent building, and a magnificent heritage building of its age requires a great deal of upkeep and a great deal of care and conservation.
The Great Synagogue wasn't the first synagogue—there were two predecessor synagogues that amalgamated in the 1870s and came to establish this new community—but it was certainly for a long time the main and only synagogue in Sydney. It is referred to by many in the Jewish community as the mother congregation of Sydney. Many important religious festivals but also commemorations and celebrations have been held there. I have attended services for the Council of the Order of Australia there. They had a service recently to commemorate the life of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, who passed away recently. It is the central and focal site for the Jewish communal commemorations in New South Wales and one of the central sites in Australia, and it is a most beautiful sight. It is therefore, I believe, a very significant thing that, if this bill is passed, such an ancient and important institution in the communal life of Australia—not just Jewish communal life but the broader communal life of Australia—is being granted deductible gift recipient status, which, again, provides an incentive for people to donate to the restoration, the maintenance and the upkeep of the synagogue. The synagogue also has the magnificent Reverend Falk library, which has one of the most impressive collections of Jewish history and Judaica anywhere in the world but particularly in Australia. It is a great place of study, and it is a great place to learn more and understand more about the history of the Australian Jewish community.
I didn't want to go through any of the other details of this bill, but I didn't want to let the occasion of this bill's passage through the parliament pass without paying particular tribute to those two very important and very old institutions in Australian Jewish communal life. I think it's appropriate that the government and the parliament support the maintenance of institutions of a very old community that goes all the way back to the First Fleet. I commend the bill to the House.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021 does a couple of things in relation to a housing measure for sole parents. It is a measure which has been much touted by the government, but it's impact is much smaller than their claims would have you believe. It adjusts Medicare levy low-income thresholds, which is something that happens on an annual basis, so there's nothing to write home about there; changes the tax arrangements for disaster recovery grant payments in such a way as to make them tax free; and adds a number of charities to the specific listings for deductible gift recipients. Among them is the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, a really important institute which is broadening the quantity of high-quality journalism available and collaborating with a range of media organisations in order to provide better international and regional coverage of investigative journalism. The work that the Judith Nielsen institute does is going to be increasingly important in the future as more pressure comes upon the media industry.
But, while these organisations are receiving specific listing, many other charities are hurting. We've just seen new data on volunteering from research work done by the Australian National University's Nick Biddle which reveals that the volunteering rate in Australia may now have fallen as low as 24 per cent. That's the share of Australian adults volunteering in the previous 12 months. That's off the back of Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys which showed that, over the period from 2010 to 2019, the volunteering rate fell from 36 per cent to 29 per cent. So if this Australian National University survey is accurate—if we can match it up against the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys—it suggests a whopping 12 percentage point fall in the volunteering rate in Australia in just 11 years. That suggests that a third of Australia's volunteer workforce has dropped out over that period. That's a massive hit to the many charities that rely on assistance of volunteers.
Many charities are also struggling with donations. In-person fundraising drives weren't possible during the pandemic. Events such as charity balls had to be cancelled. While some foundations have opened their wallets and given more generously during the pandemic than they would have in a normal year, for some organisations that hasn't made up for the hit.
At the same time, the sector has a government that continues to wage a war on charities. The coalition parties for five years fought against the creation of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission—a one-stop shop for charities which was supported by a dozen reports before its creation but opposed by the coalition tooth and nail. They even brought into this parliament a bill which attempted to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, but, when they realised they couldn't get it through the Senate, they finally backed down.
What did they do instead? In the hours following the same-sex marriage vote passing, they appointed Gary Johns as head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission—Gary Johns, who had attacked the charities Recognise and beyondblue, who had referred to Indigenous women as cash cows, who had written a book complaining about the extent of impure altruism, as he called it, within the charity sector, and who was best known not as a charities collaborator but as a charities critic.
We have now seen handed down the report of the mandated five-year review of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission legislation. That report was handed down in May 2018. Sadly, the government took nearly two years to respond, and it rejected 11 of the 30 recommendations. Among the recommendations it rejected were recommendations to provide more checks and balances on Dr Johns's powers. Such checks and balances would be appropriate given that he has restructured the organisation in such a way that it is much more hierarchical, with the commissioners working less as collaborators and with more of the organisation reporting directly to him.
We know that the government is now attempting to get through changes that would see charities deregistered by Dr Johns if he anticipates that they will commit a summary offence. Let's just go through that. A summary offence could include something like trespassing, so, if Dr Johns anticipates that a charity will encourage trespassing, he could deregister it, effectively destroying the organisation. This is a power that Labor would be reluctant to hand to any head of the charities commission, even the well-respected Susan Pascoe, the inaugural head of the organisation, but it's a power we should be particularly concerned about handing to Gary Johns.
We have seen the sector outraged by this. Right across the political spectrum, charities have spoken out about their concerns that handing this additional deregistration power to Gary Johns could well see them unable to participate in the advocacy arena. We have seen critiques from Tim Costello, who, in a terrific article by Mike Seccombe in the Saturday Paper, was quoted as comparing the changes to Putin's Russia. We've seen criticism from St Vincent de Paul, from Anglicare and from UnitingCare. Many religious charities have been concerned about the government's new front in their war on charities. This is a sector which has had to write two open letters to successive Liberal prime ministers complaining about the attacks in the sector.
The fact is that the Liberals don't want charity voices in the public space. Labor sees the voices of charities as enriching the public debate, but the coalition don't want people criticising them. So they believe that social service charities should serve soup at soup kitchens but shouldn't talk about poverty. They believe that environmental charities should plant trees but shouldn't talk about climate change and deforestation. They believe that legal charities should assist needy people in court but shouldn't talk about Indigenous incarceration and the systemic factors that are driving that. What the Liberals miss is that the voices of charities bring a lived experience to public policy debates. Public policy debates are enriched through the voices of charities. That's why Labor's spoken out against gag clauses in social service agreements. It's why we were so concerned at the under-the-table attempts by the Liberals to muzzle foreign aid charities from talking about the fact that Australia's foreign aid levels have now fallen to the lowest level since records began.
Instead, the sector wants fundraising reform. The sector's top ask was for Commonwealth leadership to develop a harmonised fundraising system. That is because Australia's fundraising laws pre-date mobile phones. They pre-date the internet. They are based on a model of charities asking for money door-to-door or in the street. But, increasingly, Australians give to charities online and it makes no sense that charities should be required to register in seven different jurisdictions. Every state and territory except the Northern Territory requires separate registration in order to fundraise. The result of that is charities end up having to either take the risk of breaking a state or territory fundraising law or else they need to spend a week filling out that paper work every year. That is a week of time that could be used to assist the vulnerable, a week of time that could be used to engage with donors and raise more funds.
A splendid report chaired by Senator Catryna Bilyk in 2019 handed down a bipartisan recommendation saying that the current outdated fundraising laws are costing charities $15 million annually or more than a million dollars a month and set a two-year time frame on the government to fix fundraising. But the government failed to respond to that report for much of the time and have now missed the deadline. They are not willing to work with the sector on its No. 1 ask. A government which talks about red tape reduction won't do red tape reduction for a sector that is being hamstrung by it.
The government have come in here on their so-called red tape reduction days touting the changes in legislation, such as removing the hyphen from 'e-mail' or scrapping errant commas from legislation. But they won't help charities that need fundraising reform and that is why the charity sector is so disappointed by this government. While this bill has specific listing for a handful of charities, there are thousands more Australian charities that are just saying to anyone who will listen that they need a government that is on their side. They need a government that is on the side of Australian charities, a government that is on the side of the people who are helped by Australian charities, a government that is on the side of those who speak out and add their voices to the public conversation.
Let's be clear. When Labor was last in government, not every contribution in the public debate by a charity and not-for-profit was in favour of the things that the Rudd and Gillard governments were doing. Frequently, when we were in office, Labor governments were criticised by charities. But Labor never responded to that by saying, 'Let's shut charities down. Let's muzzle charities. Let's attack environmental charities through measures such as the one the government is currently pursuing of extending the power and de-registration to cover anticipated summary offences.' Labor never did that because Labor believes in a strong and vibrant public debate. Labor believes that charities have a proud role to play, not only in assisting the community but also in improving the quality of the public debate. We need the government to back off its attacks on charities. There is plenty more that could be done in the sector. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission should operate as a one-stop shop for charities, much as ASIC was set up as a one-stop shop for corporations. But while on the case of the standardisation of corporations law in 1990, the states and territories referred their power to the Commonwealth government. We didn't see that in the establishment of the ACNC, so as a result, there is a lot of duplicate reporting.
The ACNC could do a better job if it had a minister who was keen to work with states and territories to remove some of those duplicate reporting requirements by having things like a charity passport so charities were able to minimise the amount of time they spend on compliance issues and maximise the amount of time they spend assisting the most vulnerable. This would be an important step forward.
We would also benefit from a government which would make a clear commitment to the Australian people that they valued the contribution that charities make, that they valued their role in the public debate, but, instead, we have in Minister Sukkar a minister who is following Minister Andrews's previous approach, seeing charities as being a threat and not recognising the value that charities can bring to the community.
Australia is facing a disconnection crisis. Over the course of the last generation, we've seen a drop in the share of Australians who are part of a social group, a community group, a political group. We've seen a decline in volunteering rates, a decline in churchgoing, a decline in union membership and a decline in participation in many of our most important groups. In order to turn around that crisis of civic disconnection, in order to turn Australia from a country of 'me' into a country of 'we', we need to be working with our charities and not-for-profits. Labor will do that. The coalition will continue to wage war on charities.
I rise to speak to schedule 4 of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021. It's a fairly simple change, but one that just makes sense. I can deal with the machinery, and then talk to the real effect that it has, particularly to my people in Cowper.
Schedule 4 amends the ITAA 1997 to provide the payments are non-accessible income and non-exempt income if the payments are recovery grants made to small businesses or primary producers as part of category D measures under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018 and the payments relate to floods consequent on rainfall events that occurred between 19 February and 31 March 2021 or to storms that occurred in the same period. Basically, the payments of $50,000 or $75,000 to primary producers that were made will be tax-free. What does that mean? We only have to look at the last two years at what has occurred across many of our electorates.
The farmers in my electorate suffered terribly through the drought. Many of them had to destock—some stock they'd had for many, many years. Following the droughts, they had to face the bushfires, and those bushfires weren't just in my electorate over a period of days or weeks. In the Hastings, we had a heat pit which burnt for nearly six months, which affected not only the farmers and the wine producers but also the tourist operators who lost very, very valuable income over a number of months, so they had to face not only the bushfires but also the smoke taint and smoke damage and the loss of income through tourism, because simply nobody was coming to the electorate.
Following the bushfires, our farmers again had floods. Because of the bushfires, all the topsoil was washed into the rivers. There were massive fish kills. The oyster farmers suffered devastating losses, losing two to three years of stock. If that wasn't enough, then of course the pandemic hit. Whilst that may not affect farmers, it certainly affected the businesses in the electorate where the vast majority of these businesses rely on tourism.
We've had over 12 months now of devastating impacts. Fortunately, it's coming back, but they hurt for a very long time. We then had to face further floods. Even growing up in Kempsey, where we see floods every 10 years or so, I'd certainly not seen anything like that, particularly in the Hastings in Port Macquarie and up in Rollands Plains. A wall of water that came down in a matter of hours—700 millimetres over three days that just washed everything away. Thousands of head of stock were lost, floating down the rivers and in trees, and miles and miles and kilometres and kilometres of fences were damaged. That's what our farmers have faced over the last three or four years. So to hand them $75,000 and then say, 'Hang on, we're going to tax that,' is a slap in the face. These measures change that ruling and allow them to keep that money in their pocket. Let's be honest, $75,000 for them to restock is a drop in the ocean. To get a decent bull you can pay anything up to and over $20,000. I had one gentleman come and see me who said he lost 33 head of cattle in one day; $75,000 isn't going to change his life. He has to put his hand in his pocket. Mind you, he was 80 and saying, 'Well, we're just going to have to rebuild.' Then there are the examples not of farmers but of business people. Nathan Tomkins from the Whalebone Wharf restaurant had just spent $300,000 doing the restaurant up. It was a beautiful restaurant on the water, on the Hastings. It had never flooded there before, and this wall of water came down and went all the way through it. The Prime Minister came up and spoke to him and said, 'You'll be eligible for the $75,000.' He said, 'We weren't on Newstart. We were coming back.' So that very day the Prime Minister spoke to the Treasurer and changed that rule so that he could apply for the $50,000 for the business. He has now reopened, again spending $300,000 to redo that business. Again, $50,000 is a drop in the ocean. It is the right thing we're doing, not to tax that money.
The tourist businesses across Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour and Dorigo have all been affected in the past 18 months. It has been a really tough time. These grants of $50,000 and $75,000 for damage from the storm and the floods are not just money. They provide that little bit of hope, that confidence: 'The government is with us. It's helping us. It's not going to cover my costs, but at least it's there doing something.' I think this small change in the legislation acknowledges that. In the past, those grants have been taxed. The ones through the bushfires and the ones through the previous floods have been taxed. It's good that the government has recognised this, and it's good for the business owners and the farmers to see that the government listens, does things about it and changes it. I think it provides hope to those business owners and hope to those farmers who work day in, day out and who pay their taxes that we're here doing our job as politicians and a government.
This is a very simple change. It's a very sensible change. There are times when business owners and farmers feel that they're on their own, that nobody has got their back. But that is certainly not the case. These changes certainly prove that to them. I commend the changes and I commend the bill to the House.
I rise to talk about this bill with a catchy title, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021. I particularly want to turn my remarks to schedule 2 and the second reading amendment. By any measure, housing affordability in Australia is a national disgrace. Young people are locked out of the market. As the former Liberal Prime Minister, No. 2 of three in this eight-year-old government, said, 'Get rich parents.' That's the way to get into the housing market, isn't it? Get rich parents and they'll give you a deposit. There are actually four measures in this budget, and this legislation introduces one of them. The government claims it 'will help people into home ownership.' It sounds nice, and each of the measures sounds nice in isolation. They've given them cool-sounding names to make it seem like they're doing something. On the face of these individual measures taken in isolation, it's hard to disagree with most of them; they're kind of apple pie. But let's focus on the one in this bill first. It was splashed all over the papers that they're going to help single parents to get into the housing market. That sounds good. Wouldn't we love to help single parents get into the housing market?
The measure in this bill, though, will help—so they claim and even if they deliver the promise in the budget—10,000 single parents over the next four years to get into the housing market. There are one million single parents in this country, and the government got their headline by saying: 'We'll shut people up about housing—it's a bit of a problem, but we'll shut them up. We've got a little bit of money here to help 10,000 people.' I was raised by a single mum. My dad died when I was four. We were incredibly lucky that dad had life insurance, so mum could pay off the mortgage and we could have a house to live in. She basically had no money, no savings, lived pretty much from hand to mouth with casual jobs. We were looked after, but I know what it's like to be raised by a single mum and how important having a roof over your head is. I know for a fact that she could never afford maintenance, so by the time she moved out 20 years later, the house was falling down, the clean-out was a nightmare, as many sons and daughters of single parents know. The devil is in the detail. In reality, this is not about helping poor, deserving single mums. The only people who might benefit, the 10,000 lucky winners of the Liberal lottery from the one million single parents who may benefit, basically are going to have to be earning between about $85,000 and $125,000. Let's be really clear: behind the nice spin, this is not about helping poor single parents into housing. This is a marketing exercise which will do almost nothing for the real housing crisis in this country.
The other three measures in the budget are the first home loan guarantee, the First Home Super Saver Scheme and HomeBuilder, but that's another conversation. Apparently if you criticise HomeBuilder for renovating people's bathroom, you're against tradies—what nonsense. The Rudd government spent a few billion dollars during the last financial crisis and left a legacy of 20,000 homes. Those homes are still there today. They are an asset that people are still living in. This mob are pouring hundreds of millions, billions, into renovating people's private dwellings while doing nothing for the most deserving. But the problem with these four measures is that together they all further stimulate demand in an overheated market. They pour petrol on the fire that is the housing market in the big capital cities, particularly in this country. They help a few people, but, as is usual with this mob, they sacrifice the many. As one stakeholder said, you don't make housing more affordable by making it more expensive. But you have to give them an award for shameless hypocrisy. They're doing well in that regard because most of the time, when they get challenged on housing, they say: 'That's a state issue, it's up to the states. We're the Commonwealth government. Housing's not our problem, it's a state issue.' Yet when it suits them politically to have a few marketing slogans, like in this budget, they're spending $3.3 billion on what they then say on another day is actually a state issue.
But all of these measures add to demand. Not one of the government's measures will actually do anything to add to supply because that would be social housing. That might actually help the most needy in society, and that's not what they're about. As National Shelter said, when they summarised the government's budget, it puts home ownership out of reach for the many while benefiting the few. All of the government's measures just bring forward demand. They do nothing to provide a pipeline of housing construction over two to five years. Contrast that with Labor's Australian housing future fund, which the Leader of the Opposition, the Labor leader, announced in the budget reply, to invest in new housing. This $10 billion commitment would create jobs, not pour petrol on housing prices. It would create lasting legacy assets because what Labor governments do is build things for the future and leave a legacy. It would build new homes for people to live in, targeted at the people who will never get a crack the housing market. That's what governments should be doing.
National Shelter's executive officer said—and I couldn't summarise it better:
They are conducting lotteries for deposit programs ensuring the great Ponzi scheme of housing continues where the benefits accrue to existing owners not hopeful ones.
He also said:
We have called on the Commonwealth to show the leadership and establish the incentives, provide their part, instead they spruik the market while interfering in it and refuse to lift their share of investment in social and affordable housing so desperately needed.
Governments have a responsibility to play a role where markets fail, and housing markets have failed to produce housing for those in greatest need; another opportunity has now been ignored.
On Labor's policy, a $10 billion future fund which is forecast to deliver 20,000 new social dwellings and 10,000 more affordable dwellings over five years under a Labor government, he said:
Such a fund will create a pipeline of investment that can be built on to secure a steady growth in social and affordable housing.
It adds to supply in a predictable way. It is creating jobs for tradies but is targeted at the most needy, who actually need this. National Shelter said:
Instead of pumping up demand and pushing house prices out of reach, the reply speech builds supply, creates jobs, and makes homes to ease pressures on households and markets.
The forecast spending on veterans housing, crisis and transitional housing and the repair of social housing was welcomed. The executive officer said:
At least one major party recognises that social and affordable housing is critical economic infrastructure which enables tenants to participate, learn and address health and other issues, it's also critical for women's economic security.
Those points are fundamentally important. The government, who call themselves economic managers—those geniuses over there—are in their eighth year of government, heading to the next election and thinking people should give them 11 years, when they've built nothing. There's no legacy. There is $1 trillion of debt and $100 billion of new spending, with nothing to show for it—just more petrol on the fire of the housing market, putting it further out of reach and, funnily enough, advantaging people who already own houses.
But it could be worse, I suppose. I am looking at the second reading amendment. We're lucky that the government hasn't listened to its own nuttier backbenchers and their self-promoting idea to let people spend their superannuation on pushing up the cost of housing further—super for housing, putting more petrol on the fire of demand. You don't make housing more affordable by making it more expensive. The only thing that that would do is to put the vacuum cleaner into your superannuation account and suck it into the pocket of the guy selling the house. That's what every mainstream economist said. It's what Joe Hockey said. It's why he knocked this stupid idea out years ago. But we've still got Liberal backbenchers pushing the government to add a fifth element to their policy of pushing up housing prices. That's the practical economic impact of the government's policies. They can dress it up in whatever language they like, but that's the true impact: pushing up the cost of housing further and making it harder for people to get in the housing market.
Not deterred, the member for Goldstein was out this morning bagging his own government for not picking up his silly idea. But it's pretty clever of him, because at least it makes him look like he believes in something. He has a degree of consistency there. But it is incredibly hypocritical, of course, because people like him are actively opposing the ability for superannuation funds to invest in affordable housing. If you're serious about affordable housing, we've got trillions of dollars of funds, many of them looking for stable asset classes in a world awash with cash but with not enough investment opportunities, and you've got the member for Goldstein and his weird mates on the government back bench saying, 'Well, we couldn't let these funds go into social and affordable housing and increase supply; all we want to do is use taxpayers' money—or in this case, with our $1 trillion of debt, we want to go and borrow money and run up the national debt—and put it into teeny-tiny schemes that will help a few people while pushing up the cost of housing for everyone else.' How on earth can they claim to be good economic managers? Even before these schemes came into place and we saw the latest house price rises, the Australian housing market was the third most unaffordable in the world. I will bet my bottom dollar that by the time they finished, if they had their way, they would get to No. 1 as the most unaffordable housing market in the world.
We're not going fall into the little wedgie trap, as I think Katherine Murphy or one of the other media reporters called it, of the gas-fired power station—the giant atomic wedgie on Labor. We're not going to fall into the trap of voting against a little measure that might, by itself, if delivered, help 10,000 of the one million single parents in Australia, over four years, get into the housing market. We're not going to do that. But we are going to call out the practical impact of your economic agenda: to cut wages for ordinary workers; raise taxes on the people at the lower to average end; cut taxes, permanently, for the highest income earners in Australia; and push up the cost of housing to better advantage people who already own a house.
I am pleased to be given an opportunity to make a contribution on this TLAB, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021, because it will give me the opportunity to speak about something that I am passionate about and have been advocating for for some time in the hope that that modest idea might see itself into a future TLAB—in particular, as it relates to deductible gift recipients. But, before I do, for anyone who might be listening out there on their drive home or somewhere else, TLABs are effectively bills that are grab-bags of Treasury measures that need attention and, in and of themselves, perhaps don't justify a separate bill.
It's schedule 5 that I want to go to. Others have made contributions on schedule 5, but, in this TLAB, at schedule 5, which deals with deductible gift recipients, there's a number of organisations that, as a result of this bill, will be given DGR1 status under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. 'What's that?' I can hear people on their ride home asking. It is to do with tax-deductible status. When you make a contribution, you're often told that donations above two dollars or more will be tax-deductible. That entitlement is only available to entities that have achieved DGR1 status, or deductible gift recipient status. Whilst each of the organisations—not all of which I'm familiar with—I am sure do great work, I want to speak about a group of organisations that fall into a category that I am incredibly passionate about, and they are community foundations.
There were, when I last checked, around 37 or so community foundations around Australia. I need to disclose an interest. I'm particularly passionate about two because they exist in my electorate: the Stand Like Stone Foundation, which exists and does amazing work in the south-east of South Australia, and the Barossa foundation, which, as you might expect, does similarly good work but in and around the iconic Barossa Valley, which is also in the electorate of Barker. Those are only two of the 37 or more community foundations. You might ask: 'What's a community foundation?' Well, the answers are probably as many and varied as the community foundations that there are, but I can speak with some knowledge in relation to Stand Like Stone and the Barossa foundation. They are just, as the name would suggest, community organisations that seek to provide a philanthropic pathway for locals to give locally and for the proceeds of that gifting, that philanthropy, to be delivered locally.
One of the criticisms in regional, rural and remote communities, the likes of which I represent, is often that charitable organisations are headquartered elsewhere; often the charitable organisations deliver services and other things remotely. To be honest, a number of my constituents are very keen to give but to give to a local organisation, where they can see, directly, not just the pathway to the recipient but also the benefits and the dividends from their contribution. Listeners might think, 'Well, that sounds fantastic!' and it is, but there are some challenges. One of those challenges is that community foundations in Australia currently don't enjoy DGR1 status.
In the case of Stand Like Stone, in my home town of Mount Gambier, ensconced in the Limestone Coast, someone who wants to make a contribution through Stand Like Stone will do so but, unless Stand Like Stone is working hand in glove with a DGR1 charity, they won't enjoy the tax deductibility. For small donations, that's perhaps neither here nor there, but those larger corporate contributions are often disincentivised because of the inability to make a tax-deductible exchange. There are ways around this, by jumping through a number of hoops and dealing with significant red tape—time doesn't permit me to go into the detail—but it still requires the donor to accept that the donation will go out of the community before coming back to the community at the discretion of the DGR1 charity that might be working hand in glove with a local community foundation.
I am passionate about community foundations. The Treasurer, the Assistant Treasurer and others in senior decision-making positions in this place know that I am very keen to see community foundations listed on a future TLAB schedule 5 for deductible gift recipients. I should say that my push hasn't always enjoyed the support of Philanthropy Australia, the peak body, but it does now. As you would imagine, my push has always enjoyed the support of Australian Community Philanthropy, the community philanthropy peak body, but now it also has the support of the national body with responsibility for those very large philanthropic bodies. We're on a complete unity ticket and hopefully marching towards that outcome.
I think the best way of highlighting to this place the importance of DGR1 status is to go to a couple of real-life examples that not only show, in this case, Stand Like Stone's contribution to need in my community but also highlight the limitations that DGR2 status—their status—applies. In the infamous Black Summer bushfires, a community in my electorate, Keilira, was burnt significantly. That took place in December 2019. Stand Like Stone stepped in immediately. They had two community events and raised $9,000 to support and distribute to the fire victims. They say, in correspondence to me, 'However, had we been able to offer tax deductibility to larger donors, in conjunction with the event, the sum would likely have doubled or trebled. Indeed, we've had indications to that effect.' These are people who had come to an event ready to make a contribution, but when the tax deductibility status was explained to them—as it should be—there were some limitations and, as a result, there wasn't the level of contribution there could have been to support those fire victims. Again, it's a case of locals wanting to make a local gift to support a local charitable outcome.
The second example relates to the response to COVID-19. You'll recall there was a period of extreme lockdown arrangements and we had a number of organisations ensuring that Australians had access to the food they needed. Stand Like Stone were limited in their ability to support these charities. Whilst they were considering a significant contribution, it had to be moderated down as a result of their inability to attract those contributions from corporates in their local community.
I said at the beginning of my contribution there are 37 or so philanthropic organisations. They are spread across Australia and their representation in this place is evenly distributed, I have to say. I have written to all coalition colleagues encouraging them to get on board with this campaign. I encourage others in this place to familiarise themselves with whether they have philanthropic community based organisations in their electorate and, please, join in the campaign to ensure that they are recognised with DGR status. It is a simple request. It makes sense.
I don't want it to be suggested that community foundations only exist in rural or regional or remote communities. There are some that exist in larger communities, indeed, some even in capitals, and the ACT is a classic example of that. It is a simple concept. Australians are so giving. We are incredibly generous. That generosity is probably piqued when we know our neighbour is in need of support. In communities where these additions operate, there is an opportunity to direct your giving straight from a local organisation to another local in need. It seems silly that we have a distinction between, on average, larger philanthropic organisations based in other places and local community foundations. I hope we can deal with that issue in coming months because I think we will see even greater giving through these community foundations, particularly if we can facilitate it through DGR1 status.
I don't disagree with much of what the member for Barker said about the generosity of Australians, giving and why DGR status is important for charities. I would also, though, urge Australians to continue to give to charities, regardless of whether they get a tax deduction for doing so, because I am sure the member for Barker's electorate is like mine and like many others. There are many groups out there doing a lot of good work on the ground, and a donation goes a long way whether or not you get a tax deduction as a result of having given a generous donation.
I want to speak to a number of the schedules of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021 and the second reading amendment. The first schedule implements changes to thresholds related to the Medicare levy. Of course, like everyone on this side of the parliament, I am absolutely proud of the Labor legacy of Medicare and of our public health system. There are two things in this legislation that are fundamental human rights that we have to protect. One goes to housing and one goes to health, and they often cannot be separated.
Health and access to decent health services is a fundamental human right. By and large, we are very lucky in Australia that people have access to and their rights are fulfilled because of our public health system but we are a long way from it being as good as it should be. Our universal public health system is not always universal. My electorate of Dunkley, which is outer suburban, compared to many other places in Australia, is doing well. We are not remote Australia. We do not, by and large, live in the Third World conditions some of our First Nations communities live in. But we do have very low outcomes on a number of health measures that we shouldn't have, including life expectancy, including dental, diabetes. We have significantly higher drug and alcohol problems in a number of my local communities.
We also have a real problem retaining GPs in bulk-billing clinics, the very clinics that are supposed to be fulfilling that promise of universal healthcare and a public health system. I have spoken in this place a number of times about clinics, particularly those in Carrum Downs and Frankston, where a combination of an inability to attract Australian trained doctors to completely bulk-billing clinics and the fact that we do not qualify for some of the government schemes for overseas GPs means that my clinics are really struggling to serve the health demands of some particularly difficult socioeconomic areas. I will continue to implore the minister for health to look at these issues and address them so that my community can get the health services they need.
There is a new issue that has arisen very recently that I have recently written to the minister about, and I'm hopeful that I'll get a positive response from him soon. We have in the Bayside shopping centre—the big mall in my community—a Medicare bulk-billing facility, which in particular looks after people who come into the mall who are exhibiting dangerous, strange or difficult behaviours and who otherwise would be taken by security and marched out of the mall for public safety. But, because of the extraordinarily community minded centre management and this medical centre, people are often taken to this medical centre to get a mental health consult.
Dr Vahedeh Naseri worked at this centre, the Myhealth Bayside medical centre, and has been described by patients, by the management of Bayside and by the medical centre as just a godsend and an amazing woman—a single mother who is working as a doctor, has become an Australian citizen and is single-handedly helping people with difficult mental health issues to stay in the community. But she's not able to continue to practise because the impact of COVID has meant that, while she's been working towards the requirements for fellowship to be able to continue to be registered, her last exams were postponed—through no fault of her own; it was because of COVID. She's waiting for some results and waiting for a provider number, but that can't come because of the delay. So she can't practise, so people aren't getting that medical attention and she, a single mother, is not getting an income, because the clinic cannot keep paying for her. It seems like a simple bureaucratic matter to solve this so that someone who is so important to a section of my community can help serve the community and can also continue to practise her profession and look after her daughter.
The second schedule of this bill relates to the Family Home Guarantee measure from the budget. Before I talk about that specifically, I want to congratulate the member for Indi on her second reading amendment, and I support what she says in that—that the government needs to 'take a leadership role in urgently addressing the housing supply crisis by working proactively with local and state governments to unlock creative solutions, including incentives for private developers to build more affordable low-cost housing stock at scale'. But I want to add to that so that it says 'including by actually investing, as a federal government, in public, social and affordable housing themselves'. I'm a member of this House's Social Policy and Legal Affairs committee, and we've completed an inquiry, and there will be a report soon, on homelessness and housing in Australia and the evidence that we heard about the lack of affordable housing across this country. There are almost no adjectives to describe how disturbing it is to sit there and hear witness after witness—service providers, individuals who have been made homeless, community advocates, academics, researchers—talk about all of the groups in our society, in our rich and prosperous First World country, who can't find safe and secure housing. Women fleeing domestic violence, First Nations people, migrants—we know that these people are struggling. But you've got to add on top of that students, people with insecure and low-paid jobs, people who work as nurses and paramedics and are heroes of the pandemic, who can't afford to live near their work because of the cost of housing, who can't afford to rent near their work because of the cost of rents, and whose situation has been made only worse by COVID and continues to be made worse by government policies that do not much more than push up the cost of housing.
As a party, we won't stand in the way of this measure in the budget that is said to help single parents get into the housing market. But it has to be said that there was a lot of splash and a lot of attention for what is a very small policy which may perhaps help 10,000 people—out of the some million single-parent families across Australia—to get a mortgage. But it also does nothing then to help the single-parent families—predominantly single mothers—and it certainly does nothing to help the older women who are single mothers to be able to service these mortgages. Their wages aren't going up, because the work they do in child care, aged care and cleaning is so fundamentally undervalued in our society that they don't earn enough to be able to service a mortgage, even if they have help to get a deposit. Short, tiny little measures might get headlines in the newspaper, but they are not structural reform that will help the people who need it the most.
Every time I give a speech in this place and talk about housing affordability, I get more and more people from my community contacting my office to say: 'Hey, Peta, you were talking about me. The story you told about Lisa from Langwarrin; that's also me'—or their mother or granddaughter or father or brother—'because we can't find anywhere to live in Dunkley where we can afford the rent, let alone buy a house. This is me.' These are my people. And it's not just about these tiny measures. It's about affordable and social housing where people can live a life of dignity while also working day in, day out to put their children through school, to build a future for themselves and their families.
That's why the announcement in the Leader of the Opposition's budget reply speech about a Housing Australia Future Fund is so important and so transformational, because it actually is a vision for a country that cares about people who don't have mum and dad to help them buy their first investment property, who don't have five or six investment properties by the time they're 35, who will never be able to have an income between $85,000 and $150,000, because of the sort of work they do, their lack of educational opportunities, their disabilities or their caring responsibilities. These are the people that need to be looked after and assisted to have great lives, and that's what the Housing Australia Future Fund policy of the Leader of the Opposition does. That's what the role of government is—not to pontificate in speeches in the parliament about your academic understanding of the use of superannuation or the free market. It's actually to be part of a parliament that says, 'These are people who, through no fault of their own, often through accident of birth, just need some assistance to have the same sort of life of dignity as those of us who were born into more prosperity and opportunity have had.' It's about giving back, and that's why people in my community come up to me every time I talk about affordable housing and say: 'Keep talking about it, Peta. Keep talking about the need to have a federal government that will actually invest in building, repairing and maintaining housing that we can live in. Keep talking about it, because that's what we need.'
I live in a community where there's no youth crisis accommodation at all and where there are so many community groups helping homeless people because there are so many people who don't have anywhere to live. I live in a community where people aren't thinking about how they're going to buy their third and fourth investment property; they're thinking about how they're going to find a rental property to live in next week. The people that do have the opportunity to have investment properties understand how fortunate they actually are and that it's not just something that you should think that you're entitled to. That's why stakeholders across this country who understand the importance of housing and that housing is actually a human right have slammed this federal government for pretending in its budget that it is going to help those who hurt the most—that it's going to help low-income families and predominantly women. It's why organisations like National Shelter say that, when you actually look at this government's package, it will put home ownership further out of reach for the many while benefiting the few. The role of government is the opposite; it's to make things like the fundamental human right of safe and secure housing closer to reach for the many. It's to benefit the many, and that's why I won't stop talking about it.
I welcome the member for Chifley being present in the chamber now to hear my response to the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021. I also welcome the contribution from the member for Dunkley, because she ended where I wanted to start, which was on the importance of housing. As members would know, I am a passionate advocate for making sure that Australians can own their own home. This TLAB has measures that are in it, but one of the reasons that I believe in it so strongly is that I respect Australians and the slipstreams of their life.
The Labor Party has an obsession with prioritising superannuation over all other financial decisions—life's second biggest financial decision over all other financial decisions. I am proudly a believer in understanding the importance of respecting Australians and their life progress and that financial decisions should be made based on their priorities and their order in life. Home ownership is the most important measure to ensure financial security in your working life and in your retirement. Those who retire without owning their own home live at a higher risk of poverty in retirement and are exposed to rising rental costs. The older that Australians buy their home, the more they pay rent over their working life, the longer they have to pay off their mortgage and, of course, the more likely—ironically as it is—that they end up using superannuation to clear their mortgage at the end of their working life. So at every stage it's better that Australians buy their home first and then save for retirement second. But, of course, the Labor Party doesn't like that.
The Labor Party want to engage in a form of economic social engineering where you prioritise superannuation ahead of home ownership. There are lots of reasons why they'd like to do this. It has something to do with the fact that money gets funnelled into funds that they and their mates control and they can use it as a form of laundering to empower themselves. They are then able to direct the funds through the unions, through marketing fees and the like, which somehow eventually end up in the pockets of the Australian Labor Party. Another fund, the megafund of the super funds, IMF Investors, refuses to answer questions of this parliament and the House Standing Committee on Economics, including on the $36 million bonuses they pay to fund managers. I can't believe, Member for Moreton, that anyone would accept $36 million being paid out of the retirement funds of Australian superannuants to individual fund managers by the industry super sector, but that is where we are. That could buy a lot of homes, including for low-income people.
The other problem the Labor Party has is they don't actually understand the housing market. Their solution is to put a giant bandaid on the housing market rather than fix the root causes of the problem. I am going to break a really hard truth: people would actually prefer to own their own home. There are lots of reasons why they might want to do that—social, political, economic, everything else—but I can tell you as a proud member of the government that we believe in Australians owning their own home because it's the pathway to democratic ownership of the country and democratic distribution of the wealth of the nation. If Australians cannot own their own home, then they normally like to rent in the private market. It gives them choice, flexibility, understanding of their reflection of their stage of life. Of course, securing a long-term lease which provides them with security for their living standards but also the raising of a family. If they can't rent in the private market then they turn to things like social housing.
We all as members of the parliament understand the importance of social housing. It has a critical role in making sure we catch people so they don't fall through the safety net of our society. It is the same reason we have other forms of social welfare. But our preference always should be that people can stand on their own two feet. Labor's solution isn't to try and fix the problems that might exist in the private ownership end of the market or the private rental side of the market but to focus on putting a giant bandaid on the bottom of the market, in social housing. The consequence of that is more people depend on it, but of course the Labor Party likes that approach to housing. They don't want Australians to own their own home. In a choice between empowered citizens and owners, which is the Liberal vision for this country, and indentured renters, which is the Labor vision for this country, they always go for the latter. They go for that for one reason: it empowers them. It empowers their control over the lives of Australians. Just look at the hypocrisy that comes from the opposition on housing policy. They say you shouldn't be able to use superannuation to own your own home. Apparently that's an outrageous attack on the superannuation system and retirement savings.
Mr Hill interjecting—
Apparently it's outrageous, and the member for Bruce loves to rant on about it. But they're silent when we expose those same superannuation funds that are the trustees of Australia's superannuation savings, who use your money to go off and buy houses that they own and rent back to Australians. What hypocrisy sits at the heart of a structure where the super funds can buy homes with your money and rent them out but you cannot use your money to own your home so that you can have financial independence and economic security for you and your family. Don't think this is an esoteric issue. Cbus have a whole portfolio of property that they own in residential property. In answer to a request from the House of Representatives economics committee recently, they conceded they own $800 million of residential property in Australia that they rent out. Who is it funded by? You, the Australian people through your superannuation savings for houses that they own that you can rent from them with your money. This is the gross hypocrisy of the structure of the superannuation system, which is empowering concentrated capital to own the country. This is why I say Australians will end up being serfs to their own superannuation funds. That's fine for the Labor Party, because through their mates in the unions they're the ones who will be living it high and dry and having a fantastic time. They're the ones who get to go to the tennis on the sponsored deals. They're the ones who get to enjoy the benefits through the marketing arrangements, through the trade unions, which are then funnelled into the Labor Party. They're the ones who get every single benefit of the system—and it comes at your expense. That is why we believe in home ownership. We believe in home ownership because it is about empowering you, the people of Australia.
The superannuation system, in its current structure, is about empowering the Labor Party at the expense of Australians—and that's how they like it. Every single measure and every single pathway that shifts the balance back to empowering individuals and families, they will oppose—when we know full well exactly what happens when we don't keep a close eye on what the super funds get up to. We in the House of Representatives Economics Committee exposed superannuation funds reactivating low-balance inactive accounts—which funds had a legal obligation to pass through to the Australian Taxation Office—and funnelling them into their own funds so they could secure them and use them to harvest for fees, for bonuses and for insurance premiums that Australians didn't want. This is the height of corruption and misconduct. The Labor Party rightly talk about the problem of fees for no service in the retail and banking sector—and where that happens I completely agree with them—but they turn a blind eye and in fact run interference when it's their own mate being caught up in the job, where they are the ones charging fees for no service and doing nothing except taking Australians' money to feed their own bonuses. Their silence leaves them condemned.
An honourable member interjecting—
Because the royal commission overlooked these issues, and we've been exposing them. I know the Labor Party hates, every step of the way, the scrutiny the House Economics Committee provides. We've got APRA and ASIC looking at insider trading in superannuation funds. We've got APRA and ASIC going after funds that are engaged in misconduct or charging people fees or giving them misinformation about how they can use or transfer their money.
There is a reason why the Labor Party opposed the measures in last year budget which enabled young Australians to draw down on their super at a time of crisis and need. It was because they saw very clearly that it exposed the deep problems of liquidity that sit at the heart of the superannuation system. They also saw that, when Australians had a choice about what they wanted to do with their money, it wasn't the system the Labor Party set up, designed to empower the Labor Party; it was Australians making choices about taking their own money to empower themselves. They hated it every step of the way, and we know why. It's because the debate about superannuation isn't a debate about retirement savings, as much as the Labor Party want to make it so; it is a debate about power. It's about a choice between empowering Australians, which is what the Liberal vision is, or empowering the unions and the Labor Party, which is what the Labor Party want it to be. They know that every time Australians have that choice, they seek to empower themselves, because that is the success on which this nation is built. It is not built from empowering centralised Canberra, monopoly businesses and corporates; it comes from building the potential of individuals, families and communities, from the citizen up.
When you build a country with 26 million empowered citizens, you build a great nation. But when you seek to concentrate power in the hands of accords between corporates and big government, we know full well where that ends up: it empowers the few. Make no mistake: this is why Labor weren't a participant in the Federation and actually voted against it back in the 1800s. That is the reason why they opposed decentralisation of power. It is why they love nothing more than empowering themselves in every piece of legislation. They look at every single Trojan horse that they can seek to use to achieve that, because they know that politics is about power. They know that this is about the choice of who you empower.
We want to see Australians succeed. When we empower them to take control and responsibility for their own lives, they live a better life. We know that, when you empower Australians to be able to control their finances and have choice, they make decisions that reflect their interests as part of a mutual cooperation through a market economy and, of course, through community to improve their circumstances. The whole model of the Labor Party is about conformity and trying to knock away that choice. Don't get me wrong, once upon a time I do believe Labor believed much more in empowering citizens. That's what the member for Hunter goes on about regularly. He regularly talks about the issues of making sure Australians have the dignity of work. He regularly talks about the right of respecting workers and their efforts, and they enjoy the benefits of that. But we know in the mad, ideological world view of the modern Labor Party that that is now heretical. This is why there are so many problems and so many issues of division within the Labor Party today, because their interest is in what they need to do for themselves, not what we need to do in this parliament to help Australians.
There are a lot of other measures in this bill of course, but it's important to make this point: it's always important to talk about the structural divide, because it ultimately comes down to the choice that voters have at the ballot box, about who is going to back you, the Australian people. And it will always be people on this side of the chamber, whereas the Labor Party will always choose the reverse to empower themselves. This bill includes many measures that focus on how we go about doing that, from the simple to the substantial, like making sure the Medicare levy and Medicare levy surcharge income thresholds are indexed so that people aren't punished for working more or doing more or seeing CPI increases in their income.
There is also the Family Home Guarantee, which deals specifically with making sure that eligible single parents with dependents can build a new home or purchase an existing home with a deposit for as little as two per cent regardless of whether that single parent is a first home buyer or previous owner/occupier, because we understand that, regardless of people's life circumstances, we want them to own their own home. That should be the objective of this government, this parliament, this nation. It's one of the great traditions that sits at the heart of our social contract. Right from the beginning, the foundations of modern Australia have always been focused on how we empower ownership and democratic ownership of the country. There are many other measures in this bill that I won't have time to talk about today, but each one of them matters because it's focused on empowering you, the people of Australia.
This is a really important bill for the people of the Hawkesbury, who have just been through a one-in-50 flood and they have experienced damage unlike anything that has been seen before in the Hawkesbury. Why it's so important is because, while many homes have been inundated, around 40 homes were completely destroyed by the flood, around 100 were severely impacted, another 100 were moderately impacted and then still another couple of hundred suffered some sort of damage or loss to the home or the property. What schedule 4 focuses on is the disaster recovery grants that are made to primary producers and small businesses.
It's a really interesting thing when you talk to your community during a flood. What I found is that every homeowner who has suffered damage has said to me, 'Oh, but at least I didn't lose my income or my business.' And, every small business or agriculture producer has said to me, 'Well, at least I didn't lose my home.' There are some people who have lost both, but, by and large, people are just grateful that they have something left.
The ability to earn an income and to get your business back up and running after a natural disaster is so fundamental to your recovery. In 2013 when my house burnt down in the Blue Mountains bushfires, my business was based at home. I'd closed my Sydney offices when ADSL became available, relocated to the Blue Mountains and employed local people in the Blue Mountains to help me in my business. But, with a home based business, when your home goes you lose your business too. What was the saving grace for me was knowing that I had been at work as the fires approached and I had in my car—my one car that didn't get burnt—my training bag that I used to run my training sessions. So I was able to start my business back up. The house burnt down on a Thursday, and on the Monday I was back with clients. I did realise when I got back to the training room that the dress I was wearing on the day the house burnt down still smelt of smoke. But that was the least of my worries, knowing I could get back to business.
What we're seeing in the Hawkesbury is people haven't yet been able to back to generating an income from their business. Most of them are still on hold, and it's now nearly 10 weeks since the floods. The grants, though, that they're receiving and that are covered by this schedule are absolutely vital for them. For primary producers, it's up to $75,000. For other small businesses, it's $50,000. There are some businesses that you would think would fall under the primary producer category, like some of the pastoral properties that have been destroyed. Those working with horses may not qualify for the primary production grant, but they will potentially qualify for the small business grant. There are a lot of grey areas, and I'll talk about those later. I'm very pleased to see that, for those people who do qualify for these grants, they will be able to receive those grants as non-assessable income, so they will not have to pay tax on the grants as they won't be subject to income tax.
These grants are fairly small in the scheme of things for some primary producers, and I'm going to paint a bit of a picture to illustrate that. The turf growers are the single biggest group of people in the Hawkesbury who've been affected. The larger turf properties might have lost $5 million worth of turf that was just about to be cut and rolled. It might not have been that much, but they may be carrying large debt. They may have been funding another property they'd just bought, assuming they would have a steady cash flow. The amount of money they tell me they have to spend to get their property back to being a place where they can actually produce turf down the track can be as much as $200,000. It is coming into winter, so it's not the ideal time to be planting new turf and they know that their cash flow is very severely damaged. These grants don't support cash flow. There's nothing that will support the cash flow of a business after a natural disaster. What these grants will do is cover costs to help get the business get back on track. They will cover things like payment for tradespeople to come and do safety inspections. They might need equipment and materials for cleaning up or to hire a cleaner to assist with post-flood clean-up.
When you're cleaning up a turf property, you need a lot of cleaners, a lot of people on the ground going around, metre by metre, picking up and trying to salvage what's there. Most of the turf growers have found that a lot of stuff that isn't theirs has come onto their land. People have been making an effort to return things to their original owners, but the clean-up has been enormous. These grants also cover equipment and materials essential for immediately resuming operations. That might be something like a pump that's floated away down the river. These grants also cover removal and disposal of damaged goods and materials, repairing premises and internal fittings, leasing temporary premises if needed, hiring equipment or replacing stock. They can be really big-ticket items. The same sorts of things apply to small business and to primary production grants. The primary production costs obviously are going to go way beyond the $75,000 that's available. I have spoken to the people at Turf Australia, who have done an incredible job of advocating for their growers. They have been working with government, with me and the minister for emergency management, to make sure the immediate needs were able to be covered. Some of the hardest hit are the newer ones with large debt. They might have lost 30 to 40 per cent of their crops and might have lost 12 months of income.
The feedback from this is great. They're really pleased they don't have to pay tax. I have to say they didn't expect they would have to pay tax on the grant money anyway, and finding out they don't have to was done to a pretty short time line and they are grateful. One of the things that is significant is it doesn't affect just the turf growers. There are also the vegetable growers. I'm disappointed that New South Wales government has taken some time to reach out to a lot of the market gardeners. There is a big cohort who are a Chinese-speaking market gardeners and there have not been materials available for them to even understand what is available. It has taken some time, and I believe those resources are now hitting the ground. But this group is still way behind in their recovery because those things were not in place, so many of them had not yet even applied for support.
The way a lot of primary producers access support is by seeking help from the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which, again, deserves medals for the work it did in the weeks immediately following the floods, working with primary producers and small businesses to access these very grants we are talking about in this legislation. But there still are people who have not got around to accessing them and part of the reason is the Rural Financial Counselling Service is just a couple of people normally based in the Central West. Because of the bushfires, they were given a licence to support bushfire-affected people and that has been extended to flood-affected people, as it should be. They are gold and their ability to help farmers and vegetable producers work through complex application processes is the difference between a market gardener going, 'You know what, this is just too hard. I have so many things to cope with. I am not sure this is worth the small initial amount of money I will get,' to going, 'Yes, okay, I am going to do this because every bit helps.' We really should be supporting the Rural Financial Counselling Service to have even greater numbers on the ground, fast, after a flood or natural disaster.
The other business group I want to talk about, who would benefit by this legislation if they apply for a grant, are the caravan park owners. These are the van parks, more than two dozen of them, along the Hawkesbury River. They have a few permanent vans usually allowed but most of them are weekenders for people who love water skiing who come to these places and they have their van. This is part of the Hawkesbury culture—you may not live too far down the road but you may have your caravan and all the things that have grown up around it. As I speak to this group, they are so profoundly affected by this flood. None I have spoken to have been able to really get operational. Some have a small number of sites that were less flood-affected.
One of the biggest van parks is the Sackville ski park. I spoke to Shane there this week. Shane is still struggling to put together all the things that need to be done to even apply for these grants. He has to get scope of works, he has to talk to electricians and plumbers, get quotes for things, and they are big structural jobs. The $50,000 that the owner of his park is eligible to apply for won't not even touch the surface of what is needed there. I should point out the owners of the vans themselves are not eligible for any of this assistance. The amount of support for homeowners or van owners is very minimal; $1,000 is all those people have been able to access in government support. People have said: 'They have a home or they have a van beside the river; this is what they should expect.' What we need to make sure is that they get sufficient advice, accurate information and preparation, not just a few days before a flood, but a long time before. We can make these communities more resilient and that would be where the special assistance fund that is available—that the government hasn't accessed yet—would be really useful. It is a floodplain. We know there will be more floods. We don't know when, we don't know how high, we hope it will be not as high as the one we saw this time but we know it will come.
I was speaking with Elizabeth at Riverside Gardens and with Rachel at Percy's place. In one case, they had not had any of this grant come through. They are grateful it will not be taxed but it has not turned up yet. In the other case, they have not even got around to applying for it because, when you go through a trauma, paperwork becomes an even harder thing to do than at the best of times. They have seen massive holes in their river banks, huge gulfs—like massive, giant sinkholes the size of a two-story house, carved out like a horseshoe—on their land. They're struggling with how to come back from that. The state government has not been able to get its agencies together and come up with: here's the way forward for everybody who has suffered massive riverbank damage. I have to say, the small amount of money that these grants provide, $75,000 or $50,000, is not going to be able to be used at all to tackle that river bank damage. It's massive. One business told me that the initial quote they got for just one of the big sinkholes that appeared when things were washed away was $300,000. So I think I will be coming and asking the government to do more than these grants, once we get costings on what people are up for.
But we really need—it's 10 weeks on—the state government to pull it finger out and give these businesses and landowners a plan—a way forward. They're operating in a vacuum. They are being threatened with fines for noncompliance if they do it the wrong way, yet they're not being told, 'Here's what you can do.' They're still operating under the pre-flood rules, which don't cater at all for the sort of damage they're seeing.
So while schedule 4 in this legislation is, absolutely, something that I'm very pleased to be able to speak to, I think the parliament needs to know the level of loss, trauma and anxiety that people in the Hawkesbury who have been flood affected are suffering. It's not just that it has been a one-off flood; they had a flood a year ago. Some had only just got fences back up from that flood, especially properties in the Macdonald Valley, when this latest one came through. Also, many of these areas suffered months of smoke in the bushfires, and that came on the back of drought. So you've got the cumulative effects and the pressure on their finances of drought, bushfire, flood, COVID and then massive flood. So to have these grants tax-free is great, but I have to say there is much more that we need to do.
For those who are listening to this broadcast, this particular piece of legislation, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021, has a number of parts to it. One is the Family Home Guarantee—to amend the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Act to implement the Family Home Guarantee, which should enable 10,000 guarantees over four years from July of this year to eligible single parents with dependents to build a new home or purchase an existing home with a deposit of as little as two per cent, regardless of whether the single parent is a first home buyer or previous home owner. Anything we can do for single-parent families should be supported, and we've got a lot to do and a lot to recognise with single-parent families. It's hard enough to raise children, as we found out, when there are two of you, let alone when you are on your own.
Schedule 3 is about the Australian government recognising the plight of victims of Thalidomide. We understand they have suffered from circumstances beyond their control, resulting in a lifetime of pain and hardship. This is another disability area which, of course, sparks my interest. This includes payments to Australia's Thalidomide survivors in recognition of their suffering and cost of living due to the disability. This bill exempts those payments from income tax from the social security and veterans entitlement income test.
The other part is, as the former member was speaking about, recovery grants for the floods and storms that had an enormous impact on many parts of the Australian community. The last one is that new organisations will get deductible gift recipient status, and there's a list of all of those organisations—worthy organisations—that will receive tax deductibility. It also includes the Medicare levy and Medicare levy surcharge income thresholds. This ensures that low-income households that did not pay the Medicare levy in 2019-20 generally will not begin to pay it in 2021 if their income has increased in line with or by less than CPI.
I'd like to return to the housing issue. When I grew up—which is a long time ago now in many people's eyes but only a few minutes ago in mine—between the years of 1950 and 1970, on average 16 per cent of housing across the nation was public housing. That meant that in every small community like the one I grew up in, Koo Wee Rup, there was a group of what were called commission homes. They were put there by very good Liberal governments who saw the need right across Victoria for public housing in every small community everywhere. That figure was 16 per cent. Since that time, by 1990 that had been reduced down to six per cent of all housing being public housing. Since 1990, that has dropped by a third again, from six per cent to four per cent of all housing being public housing.
It's not that successive governments don't pour a lot of money into housing. They do. There's a lot of support that goes into housing. As much as $100 billion goes into housing from government each year, in different forms of support. For instance, low-income earners receive social housing subsidies, homeless support and rent assistance. It comes to about $8 billion of government outlays. The rest goes into areas where there are generous tax concessions allowed to home owners, especially on capital gains tax.
I heard the member for Dunkley speak, and she was very passionate about the need for youth crisis housing in her electorate and the problems her electorate is having with rentals and people trying to find a rental property. But what she actually described to me, as I listened, was the disgraceful response from the Labor government in Victoria to the need for housing, even though they now have a proposition to build public housing. That's come out of COVID and the response to COVID. The problem is that where they've been building that public housing has been in cities and outer city areas, not in the regions and the small towns. So, if you happen to live out there and your family is there and all your support services are there, but you cannot get a property, the current Labor government has not been able to deliver into rural areas the sort of public housing that's needed. In fact, it's gone into places like Hawthorn where it suited them to put it. There has been political bias in where they have chosen to place the public housing, and that's hugely disappointing because it means people in country areas miss out, and I'll explain why.
In my electorate, there was one particular family—a mum and four boys, victims of domestic violence—in a rental property. All was going well. The property got sold. They have to go and find another place to live. Hunt as they may, they haven't been able to find a home. I thought it was a one-off. It turns out after inquiries that five families are in exactly the same boat at the moment. What's happening right across coastal and rural Victoria is that people have gone and purchased properties to live in, and the people at the lower end of the scale, renting, are being put out of their homes. Where do they go? Do they go to a caravan park? No, the caravan parks are full.
So if you happen to live in a small country town and you haven't got a home, or the home you're in has been sold or the rental price has increased—I'll give you another example. I rang the estate agent on behalf of these people. I said, 'Have you got any houses to rent?' 'One, one in the town, and I've got 15 applicants.' Do you think a mum on public benefit who's had issues, with four kids but the kids are well supported in the township, is going to be the winner in that 15-lot gallery, in the lottery to get that home, when there would be people on double incomes et cetera? The landlord would say, 'I'll take that person, thanks, because that'll be of best benefit to me.'
This is where government has to step in—and I'm not saying the federal government, because the federal government, Labor governments and Liberal-National governments, year after year after year have poured money into the states specifically for this housing. We don't run the housing schemes. We don't build the houses. We give the states the money to deliver. Also, we provide the money for Indigenous housing, but we don't manage the Indigenous housing. It's all done by the states now. I haven't got a problem with states' rights or states' delivery. But there hasn't been a focus on delivering housing for single-parent families, and COVID has caused a greater crisis than we expected in this regard. Nobody knew that people were going to burst out of the cities and start buying properties at low prices in the country to get away from the cities.
The community that I live in is a rural community, but it's changed. I'm not saying I'm in lockdown yet, but I am in the greater Melbourne district. Sadly, so are Garfield and Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup. These are all country towns right out of Melbourne, but they are in the local government district named; therefore, you're in it. People have moved out of town and into these areas because, all of a sudden, 'I can work three days from home and I can travel into my job in the city one or two days a week if I have to, so I can live out here. I can have all of the fresh air that Gippsland provides and the lifestyle it provides and still do my work.' But then there's the pressure that that has put on all of the services, all of the housing and all of the opportunities, and the people who are at the lowest end of the scale are the ones that are missing out.
We in this House and other houses are responsible for those people. My analogy has always been the same: in a family where there are four children and one is disabled, 80 per cent of the focus on the children is on the disabled child, the one that needs the most help. It's exactly the same as we should be in the community. It's alright to have lifters and leaners and those sorts of things, but we don't know what problems people have faced in their lives that have brought them to the point that they have come to. We don't know why in individual cases. Women over 55 now have the greatest propensity for homelessness. The fastest-growing cohort of future homeless in our community is women over 55. Marriage break-ups, no superannuation, loss of opportunity, some illness, time to have children and all of those sorts of things can make a massive contribution. They can quickly fall through the cracks into homelessness. If you don't know somebody who's like that, you probably will. It takes us to a place of greater responsibility as representatives of the people to consider those who are on the edge.
I'm calling on the state governments and local governments and communities to join together and say, 'Righto, what can we do as a community when we are faced with this crisis that is real today?'
I only ask you to put yourself in the place of a single mum with four boys, four fine boys. At a certain point you're going to have nowhere to live. You might have to move to a place like the Latrobe Valley to get housing—not that I'm denigrating the Latrobe Valley—or back into the city. The four boys are going to be torn out of their community. All of their supports—their footy clubs, their cricket clubs, their schools, the sport in their schools—all the things that they do will be gone. Their life will be turned upside down. They'll be in a new place, which won't be as friendly as the small town that they were in.
I don't know what the answer is, but I'm going to keep looking for an answer. I'm going to keep talking about the people that are on the edge. I'm going to think about whether there is a new idea, a new way, a new opportunity, where the federal government can direct how the states spend their money and where they spend it. Because it's federal money that's going into that housing, right across this nation, and we need to direct that some of those funds go into communities where, like every other community, we have people who are doing it hard, not by their own choice or doing; it's just life and what happens. When we have a bushfire, when we a flood, when we have terrible storms, when we have a tornado, what do we do? We go in and help.
Because of COVID, this nation is facing a housing crisis, and we're going to have to come up with some very innovative ideas as to how we help these people, otherwise we are going to have a national crisis on our hands, right across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. And how are we going to deal with that bushfire? I've got to tell you something: I haven't got an answer. But I can see the fire coming—those people being on the streets—and it's unacceptable. What options do that family have at the moment? Two caravans in a caravan park, perhaps, with a hood over. Is that what I want for my children or grandchildren? I don't think so. I have lived a life privilege.
We are supporting this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021. It contains five Treasury measures, including two measures from the 2021-22 budget. Schedule 1 implements changes that increase various thresholds relating to the Medicare levy. This is the most significant component of the bill, and it is expected to have a negative impact of $250 million on the cash balance over the forward estimates. The Medicare levy low-income threshold, beyond which the Medicare levy is not required to be paid, is currently $22,801 for individuals. That will increase to $23,226 following the passage of this bill. Consequently, a number of other thresholds will change for families, for individuals subject to seniors and tax pension offsets, and for dependent children and students.
The measure of this bill will be that it reduces tax earnings from the Medicare levy by around $50 million a year. In that respect, I say to the government: how are you going to replace that vitally important funding that goes to funding health care in Australia, particularly in our hospital system? At the moment, in many states of the country, the hospital system is under enormous pressure. In recent times I've spoken to nurses that work at the Prince of Wales Hospital, in the electorate that I represent, and they've been telling me how overworked and underpaid and under pressure they are. Nurses that are leaving the profession are simply not being replaced because of budget constraints put on them by the New South Wales Liberal government. We're seeing stories that have been exposed in newspaper investigations about the health system in New South Wales—in particular, of people dying in regional hospitals from infections because there were no doctors on duty at the time and the basic checks weren't done. Hospital waiting lists for elective surgery are blowing out once again, and Australians are facing the prospect of having to deal and live with unacceptable levels of pain.
We all know that, when Liberal governments are in office, they don't spend the requisite amount to run the health system properly. That's why you get these cutbacks in our hospital system through funding and budget constraints which result in these tragedies. So my question to the government is about this particular element of the bill: how are you going to replace the funding of that $50 million a year for Medicare?
Schedule 2 implements the Family Home Guarantee measure from the 2021-22 budget. This measure creates for single parents with dependants 10,000 new places in the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation's First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. The measure will allow single parents with a household income of less than $125,000 to purchase a home or build a new home with a deposit of only two per cent, subject to the individuals to service the home loan. While housing advocates have welcomed this change, they have indicated that benefit will only really flow to single parents who are earning between $80,000 and $125,000 a year. This measure leaves many of those who are less well off out of the system. It will apply to first home buyers and those single parents re-entering the market after a family breakdown.
My question for the government is about housing being out of control in Australia. Not a week goes by where someone doesn't approach me in the street and ask the question, 'How are our kids going to be able to afford to buy a home in the future?' House prices are out of control. Housing is at one of its most unaffordable levels that it's been in Australian history. Real estate agents that I'm consulting with on a regular basis tell me they're seeing an unprecedented growth in prices. Already this year we've seen an eight per cent increase nationally on house prices. Australia's household debt-to-income ratio is one of the highest in the OECD. The household debt-to-income ratio is at 200 per cent. The evidence with schemes like this—with first home loan deposit schemes that have been implemented by this government where people can put money into their superannuation for a deposit; in New South Wales, we have the First Home Owner Grant, which provides support for people to buy their first home—is that they don't help with affordability. In fact, unfortunately, they do the opposite; they increase prices. It's like pouring fuel on a fire. The real estate agents that I speak to say that every time one of these programs is introduced, you can bet your life that over the next six to 12 months prices are going to go up. It makes it simply more unaffordable for Australians to buy a home. And what's that leading to? That's leading to unsustainable rates of unaffordability of the most important thing that we can give every Australian—that is, a roof over their head.
There are unsustainable levels of housing unaffordability throughout the country, and that's leading to homelessness and an increasing prevalence of rough sleeping. The Daily Telegraph published a startling statistic in a recent article—that one in 10 people who are rough sleeping in Sydney is a veteran that served this country. It's also been highlighted that 10,000 women are turned away from homeless shelters in Australia every year, because those shelters simply can't cope.
Is that how we are treating our veterans and how we are treating our homeless in this country—when we can't afford to put a roof over their heads because housing has become so unaffordable? Yet we still continue to generate these schemes that simply push up house prices beyond the reach of the average Australian worker and the average Australian family and certainly way beyond the reach, both in rental terms and in buying terms, of people who may be sick or injured at work who are receiving JobSeeker or a veteran who's got a mental health issue. It's out of the question for them. We're not providing the support that Australians need to make housing more affordable.
That is why Labor is targeting this issue. That is why our leader, the member for Grayndler, emphasised in the budget reply speech last week the announcement of a Housing Australia Future Fund to increase the supply of affordable housing in this country for people who need it the most, including those veterans that I spoke of, women leaving domestic violence situations and people who have fallen on hard times and have lost their jobs—and there are plenty of those in the wake of COVID—putting a roof over their head and providing the necessary government support to ensure that all Australians can live in dignity. That is what we need to do as a country. If we're going to have a budget deficit of $150 billion and debt of $1 trillion, we'd better make sure that we spend it on the right things. To date, this government has done nothing to ensure that there is government support for affordable housing in this country for Australians who need it. Their solution is to come up with these schemes that just push up house prices and make it more and more unaffordable for Australians—and that's a great shame.
The other element we need to look at is dispersing the population out of capital cities and into regional centres. To do that, you need proper infrastructure and public transport links. It's beyond me why we can't work together in this place and come up with a workable plan for high-speed rail, particularly up and down the east coast of Australia, where we are providing opportunities for people to move out of cities, to base themselves in rural and regional areas up and down the coast and inland, particularly on the way to Canberra and on the way to regional centres, yet have access to high-speed rail that gets them to their place of work within 20 or 30 minutes, as it should do, instead of having to drive for a couple of hours or, even worse, try and get a train that takes three hours. A modern country like Australia should be able to come up with a plan to deliver this for our citizens. But we haven't been able to, and that's a great indictment on us as a parliament and governments of all types. We need to come up with a plan for high-speed rail to disperse that population so that we are taking pressure off, in particular, our capital cities and off house prices and we are opening up more supply in rural and regional areas.
In conclusion, I want to again highlight the fact that we need to do more around affordable housing. It's a great indictment on Australia at the moment that there are too many people that are sleeping rough, that can't afford the rent and simply can't afford to buy. Many parents say to me every week when I walk down the street in my electorate, 'How on earth are our kids going to be able to afford to buy a home?' That is the question that the government have failed Australians on over numerous occasions when they have had the opportunity to use the funds in the budget to build more affordable housing. If there is one thing that comes out of this bill and out of these measures that have been put in place by successive governments to support people to get a deposit to buy a home, it should be that we need to look at and study whether or not these schemes are actually making things worse for Australians by pushing up demand and therefore pushing up prices, particularly in capital cities.
As the hour is late and the speaking list has been long, I shall not detain the House that long. I see the next speaker, the member for Macnamara, is here. Can I say, that he, unlike me, is erudite and eloquent and will undoubtedly be able to shine forth upon this bill in a manner and form that my poor capacity will not allow. So I won't keep the House from what will certainly be Cicero-like rhetoric.
The first schedule of this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021, deals with the Medicare levy and the Medicare levy surcharge income thresholds.. It is designed essentially to reset where we need to be, given that incomes rise and our capacity to understand what is a low income changes from time to time. Schedule 2 deals with the Family Home Guarantee announced in the budget. It makes it very possible for people who are seeking to buy their own home to do so and ensures that some of the guarantees that we are providing are not caught inadvertently by the tax system. Payment to thalidomide survivors is clearly a technical issue that got caught by the tax system, because we do have the most voluminous tax system in the world. Therefore, we needed to introduce a bill to make sure that payments that no-one intended to be caught by the tax system were not. Recovery grants for floods and storms is clearly a very important issue for those people who have received funds, so they can get on with rebuilding their lives. It is clearly irrational for us to give money and then tax part of it, which means they would have less money to use to get on with their lives. Therefore, we are exempting it from the Income Tax Assessment Act. Finally, schedule 5 is a series of organisations to which we are now giving deductible gift recipient status. This means that if you give money to these organisations you will be able to claim it on your tax. There are many worthy organisations. There is the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom, which is Peter Greste inspired. It is a very important role that he has played in the freedom of journalists internationally to report, in his case on the uprisings in Egypt so that people have the opportunity to know what was really going on in that oppressed nation. There is the Andy Thomas Space Foundation. Of course, Andy Thomas was Australia's first astronaut. I have had the pleasure of meeting Andy Thomas on a couple of occasions. He did not lobby me for this change, and therefore I don't feel that I need to make any declaration. Youthsafe is about helping our young people stay safe. There are the Royal Agricultural Society Foundation Ltd, the Judith Nielson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, and the Great Synagogue Foundation trust, which is important if we are to maintain what is a historic building. That is being done largely out of the incomes of other people.
I want to go back to schedule 2 very quickly before I pass to my far more learned friend the member for Macnamara, I believe. Such honour has he brought to the seat that they felt they needed to rename it. Schedule 2 regards housing affordability and some programs we're trying to put in for housing affordability. I have great regard for the member for Kingsford Smith. Many of the points he made around housing affordability are absolutely right. Part of the guarantee that we made when we were establishing Australia as a federation and a nation was that every single person, regardless of where you were born and in the circumstances you were born into—indeed, even if you weren't born in this nation—had a chance to have a slice of the Australian dream. One of the cornerstones of that was being able to own the home in which you lived. The importance of that, we now know, is so extraordinary that we cannot possibly underestimate it. It seems silly that in the 21st century we need to reaffirm it. There are benefits for mental health, for stable democracy, for equality and for homelessness. It goes without saying that if you are to be homeless you need to have lived in a home.
The member for Kingsford Smith pointed out that, on average, homes in his electorate now are $2.5 million a pop. There are not many young Australians in Sydney, certainly in his electorate, certainly in my electorate, who can afford $2.5 million. Yet at this very moment, a very well-known builder in Sydney is seeking to do a massive development in Little Bay in the member's electorate. It is being opposed by the member. It would be selling dwellings—houses, that is—to people who want to own their own houses for less than half the price of the average house in his electorate and it is being opposed by the member. It is being opposed by the state Labor member. I say to those branches of the Liberal Party who have passed positions opposing it: shame on you for doing that because this builder will be putting in place dwellings and houses for literally thousands of people to be able to live and have their share of the Australian dream.
We know that massive public housing buildings, as proposed by those opposite, don't work. How do we know that? Because, Japan, after 1989 when they had their property crash, introduced a massive fiscal stimulus. It was designed to stimulate the economy. Part of that stimulus was the massive building of homes and public housing, ostensibly to house people who were on low incomes and who found themselves homeless. After 14 years of that building program, it did not shift the dial on homelessness in Japan. The Tokyo city government in 2002 undertook planning reform. It liberalised the planning system and allowed people, builders, to get on with the job of building more housing—that is, create more supply. In 11 years, they reduced the number of people who were homeless in Tokyo by 80 per cent.
We know the problem with affordability of housing in Australia is supply. We know that it does not start in this chamber. We know that it starts in the state parliaments and the local government chambers around this country. I don't say this to be partisan. I impeach those members who are listening to join whoever, all of us, to demand more supply, to demand better planning laws in Australia. Because it is not about us, it is not about votes, it is not about political division and it is not about all of the sort of stuff that we usually play in this; it is about young Australians being able to have a slice of the Australian dream.
The other big idea from the member for Bennelong, value sharing or value capture, is not a new idea; it has been implemented in large parts of the world. The member for Fraser would know about this because he has a doctorate in economics from Yale. I am self-taught, as most people can see. The point is that the US has introduced value capture. It incentivises local and state governments to ensure they are building transport infrastructure where housing is going—that is, it makes the lives of people better.
Recently the Victorian government announced that it would spend $9.5 billion to build 11,500 public housing units. The problem with that is, according to St Vincent De Paul, there is an undersupply of 380,000 affordable houses in Australia. That means, on that number, this country would need to spend $5 trillion to clear the backlog. For $9.5 billion, the Victorian government could have built the infrastructure required to allow people to personally build and fund over 100,000 homes in that state, massively alleviating the backlog, the downward supply and pressure on prices for housing.
This bill is important but, let's face facts, if we really want to do something about giving young Australians the opportunity that they need and they should have to have their share of the Australian dream then we need to do something about our failed planning laws in this country and the way they are administered by local governments.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021 implements a measure from the 2021-22 budget to create 10,000 new places in the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for single parents with dependants. It allows single parents with a household income of less than $125,000 to purchase a home or to build a new one with a deposit of just two per cent.
Encouraging people—including, of course, single parents—into home ownership is a worthy thing to do. As someone who grew up in a household with a single parent, as a youngster I was always encouraged by my mum—who was born and died in the one house that she lived in for all of her 65 years, a council house that became a housing department house—to go into home ownership and to live in my own home one day. But the truth is that she was never in a position to buy her own home, and the idea that that would be an aspiration that she would have reflects how those opposite—when I hear some of their comments—just don't get how tough so many people do it in our society.
This is not a bad thing to encourage, and we're not opposing this measure. But what we say is that if you're serious about dealing with housing affordability and about understanding that a roof over someone's head does more than just keep the rain off—it provides them with security that allows them to have a better quality of life and their kids to aspire to something better—then you actually have to do something more than just look at home ownership. You actually have to address the issue of the decline that has occurred in social housing due to a lack of investment over a long period of time. You have to acknowledge that, by investing in social housing and by increasing supply and increasing the stock of housing out there, you do something to address housing affordability, including for people buying their own home, because of supply and demand—the way that basic economics works.
This measure, its advocates say, will potentially benefit those single parents who are able to earn between $80,000 and $125,000 a year. That's a good thing, but a whole lot of single parents out there, even if they're in a position to be able to work due to the interaction that's there with the childcare system—with the disincentive to work a fourth or a fifth day, particularly if you're a single parent, and with the unaffordability of child care—simply won't be in a position to take advantage of this scheme, which is why you need to do more than just this.
That brings me to Labor's plan. Labor's plan is about creating opportunity, encouraging home ownership, encouraging a strong economy and encouraging people to aspire to a better life for themselves and their children, but it's also about recognising that we're leaving a whole lot of people behind. There have never been more people homeless than there are right now in this country. If you think about the wealth that's there in this country, we should be doing better than that. If you think about the fact that so many Australians have benefited from being able to invest in housing, why is it that governments aren't able to benefit from their position by using capital to pass that benefit on to the Australian people by having a stock which boosts the balance sheet, essentially, with an asset that the public therefore own, whilst providing a better life for people by increasing public housing stock?
Because the consequences are very real with the crisis that is there. The member for Blaxland, our shadow housing minister, and I visited, along with Jenny McAllister from the Senate and our candidate Madonna in Brisbane, DVConnect. That's one of the services that look after vulnerable women and their children who are escaping domestic and family violence. There were 10,000 women and children turned away from shelter last year. They were forced to sleep in their car, sleep in a park or go back to a circumstance in which they weren't safe. We're a better country than that. Tonight, like every other night in this country, that will happen to women and children. Imagine how those children feel when they go to school the next day. Imagine how a mother feels, with that instinct she has to look after her child, knowing that they were in a vulnerable situation. Imagine the anguish that causes them.
We need to do better than that, which is why we, if we're elected to government, will create a $10 billion housing Australia future fund. It's a sensible plan. It's a plan at no cost to the taxpayer. It's a plan which sees $10 billion of capital invested through the vehicle of the Future Fund. The money that is made from that investment is then reinvested in the creation of social and community housing, to create 20,000 extra additional social and community housing dwellings, and to create 10,000 affordable housing units. Because one of the other areas of the housing crisis is that for so many communities, including mine in the inner-west of Sydney, where we have gentrification taking place, there is a massive increase in housing affordable issues. If you're a nurse working at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, if you are a firey, a police officer, an essential worker or a cleaner, you struggle to live near where you work.
What we're seeing in Australia is that the superannuation funds, particularly industry super, are making investments. If the Prime Minister wants to see how this works, he can just go into his electorate and look at the program by Aware Super that has built affordable housing in that electorate for essential workers. This plan will deal with that. What we would also do in the first five years is allocate 4,000 of the 20,000 social housing properties to women and children fleeing domestic and family violence, and also for the section of our society that has the greatest growth in the area of homelessness, and that is older women. Older women—that segment of people who have contributed to our society—increasingly find themselves unable to have shelter at night.
So this is a practical plan. It's a practical plan that, whilst at no cost to the taxpayer and no cost to debt—debt has been added to massively by this government—would directly support 21,500 full-time jobs across the construction industry and the broader economy per year over five years nationwide. Of course, like other infrastructure programs where there is Commonwealth involvement, one out of 10 of the direct workers on those sites will be apprentices or trainees. This will use government procurement policy to drive the sorts of changes that should occur throughout our economy. We'll also use a portion of the investment returns to fund acute housing needs in perpetuity, and that will make a difference as well, in terms of the crisis, transitional and long-term social housing that we need.
In the first five years, we'll also be able to deliver $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing in remote Indigenous communities. We actually know that it's a tragedy that, in this country, we have some of the worst housing circumstances in the world. I've travelled to some of these communities. I was with the shadow minister in Mutitjulu, right near Uluru, just a few weeks ago. So, there you have Uluru, one of the world's most recognisable natural sites. It's a very spiritual place, which touches you when you see it. And just down the road you have communities like Mutitjulu that are really struggling—really struggling—and where you have massive overcrowding, with all the health consequences from that. There are community leaders looking for employment, looking for a future, for their people. But if you don't have a decent home it's pretty hard to get up in the morning and get dressed for work or think about your education and training. It has an impact on your health. It has an impact on everything—which is why we see housing as being absolutely essential.
One of the other areas of homelessness that's growing is shown by the extraordinary figure that, tonight, in Sydney, one out of 10 of those homeless people will be a veteran—a man or woman who's served our country, put their life on the line, worn our uniform. We can do better. We'll allocate $30 million to fund housing and specialist services for veterans who are either experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
We announced this in my budget reply, and I've got to say that the Housing Australia Future Fund has been pretty well received. Bill Crews, who we visited at the Exodus Foundation, said this: 'Their program is really wonderful because there are so many people who need cheap, affordable public housing.' We've seen it from other organisations. Jack de Groot from St Vincent de Paul said: 'We really welcome this announcement of the Housing Australia Future Fund. We have a crisis. We need an investment. I think this future fund is about a partnership between federal and state governments, as well as community sector organisations.' We had similar from Anglicare Australia, from Kasy Chambers.
But it wasn't just them. The Real Estate Institute of Australia's Adrian Kelly said:
If a Future Fund style model sustainably finances the gap for community housing providers without top up from the public purse, then that is a sensible thing and puts the sector in good stead …
Julia Cambage from the Australian Institute of Architects welcomed it, saying:
The Institute particularly welcomes the focus on constructing new social and affordable housing for the most vulnerable and most in-need sectors of our community.
The Australian Alliance to End Homelessness welcomed it. ACOSS welcomed it. Mission Australia welcomed it, as did Wentworth Community Housing and Housing Trust. Master Builders' Denita Wawn said this:
Last year when the country was in the grip of the pandemic and the economy was locked down, Master Builders in conjunction with the CFMEU, called for a $10 billion social housing stimulus fund …
The Opposition Leader and the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness have listened. We applaud the Opposition's $10 billion social and affordable housing fund.
National Shelter, an organisation that the current minister hasn't even bothered to meet with—they can't get a meeting—welcomed it, saying:
Investment at that scale will be the largest ongoing investment we've seen and will make a massive dent in social housing backlogs.
So, if you look at all of those organisations, across the business sector, the construction sector and homelessness organisations, they all understand that this measure is needed.
Why is it that those in this government don't pick it up, introduce legislation and do it? We'll vote for it. We'll give them the credit—they can say, as on some other things, that they thought of it! No doubt, they would! It'd be a bit like JobKeeper and wage subsidies! So get on board. Do something about it. Do the right thing, because people should not be left behind in a country as wealthy as ours. (Time expired)
Much as I'd like to take up the challenge offered by the Leader of the Opposition, it's interesting in this space to reflect on a little bit of history. I think the member for Rankin has stepped out of the chamber, but I grew up in Waterford West, in the middle of my electorate, and have seen the development of the city of Logan over the last 50 years. My first job, interestingly, was at the Commonwealth Bank at Woodridge, more commonly known today as Logan Central. But I still refer to it by its original name of Woodridge, because that's what it was when I grew up. Every second Thursday, when people got their Centrelink payment, they would come in to bank their cheque—as it was in those days; it wasn't electronic—but at the same time they would pay their Housing Commission payments. Depending on your arrangement with the Housing Commission, there were two different slips. One was for those who were paying rent, and the other one was for those who were in, effectively, a 'rent to buy' scheme with the Housing Commission. The interesting thing with those old Housing Commission homes—and I see this across my electorate, in areas like Waterford West, which the member for Rankin helpfully mentioned prior to his exit from the chamber, or Loganlea or Eagleby or parts of Beenleigh—is that the people who were in the 'rent to buy' scheme now actually own those properties. With the properties that are now owned, you can notice the difference. Those people are starting to renovate those properties. They're starting to upgrade them. They're quite different, maybe, to the Housing Commission property next door that's still a rental property. There is a clear distinction.
For some reason, the state government, whatever its political persuasion, has not seen fit to replace the stock of public housing that has now been purchased by those tenants and reinvest into public housing with new properties to replace the ones that have been taken out of the rental stock. That is in part the reason—at least in my part of Queensland—why we are seeing issues with lack of availability of public housing.
I'm very proud of the actions by this government in the budget and over the last 12 months in seeking to ensure that Australians, if they so desire, have the capacity to purchase their own home. We know that the housing market in large part is driven—immigration aside—by first home buyers entering the market and ensuring that they can then move up the property ladder. Whether they buy a more expensive house or they downsize and do some other things is up to them, but it creates movement in the property market. In addition, with the HomeBuilder grant, we've seen a lot of first home owners actually building houses and adding to the housing stock. I've spoken with many first home buyers that have loved the opportunity to build the home that they have so desired to move into and get out of the rental market. This, for me, is the key measure in this particular bill, the Family Home Guarantee. Now, I know and I'll acknowledge that it will not help all single parents.