House debates

Wednesday, 15 February 2023


Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023, National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023, Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023; Second Reading

4:20 pm

Photo of Jenny WareJenny Ware (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and the two associated bills, which, for simplification, I'll refer to generally as the housing bill. During the election campaign last year in my electorate of Hughes, the biggest issue was the cost of living. The second-biggest issue was housing affordability. This was a priority and concern for young people as well as for their parents and their grandparents, concerned that their children and their grandchildren would be unable to purchase or even rent a home of their own within my electorate.

In my first speech in this place, I spoke of my commitment to addressing housing affordability. My policy framework around this issue arises from my personal ideology as well as lessons learnt from a 25-year legal career spent in planning, property and environmental law, working both for and in the private and public sectors. Ideologically, my commitment to liberalism, civilised capitalism, unleashes the power of the individual and their enterprise while always providing a safety net for those who, despite their best efforts, are unable to cope. This applies to my approach on housing policy.

At the federal government level, we need to facilitate an environment where we as a country deliver broader housing choices and a system that provides greater security of tenure such as longer-term leases for our most vulnerable, many of whom are Australian children and our returned veterans. The greater the number of Australians that own their own home, the greater the ability of governments to facilitate social and emergency housing.

Having spent my former career working in and around the housing sector—including in local government, which is at the coalface of development of planning policy—I say: as well-intentioned as this bill may well be, it will not address the housing crisis. It is unlikely to deliver a single extra dwelling in Australia. This housing bill is not a $10 billion pledge to build houses. This is not a bill to house Australians. This is a bill that establishes a fund. The bill is proposing that the proceeds from the fund will enable the federal government to build 30,000 new houses. It proposes an additional $330 million for ongoing maintenance and repair of acute housing for Indigenous Australians, victims of family violence and veterans.

Again, this sounds like a solution to the crisis. However, it is far from it. First, there is the failure to define key terms in the bill. What is the definition of 'social housing'? What is the definition of 'affordable housing'? What is the definition of 'acute housing'? The bill also omits a major part of the housing affordability problems. It leaves out private homeownership—ways that the federal government can influence, empower and incentivise private homeownership. On the housing continuum, as more Australians own their own home they move out of the private rental market, which in turn frees up supplies for others to move into this space—therefore allowing more resources to be directed to social and emergency housing. Widespread ownership reduces wealth inequality, improves mental health and childhood outcomes, reduces extremism and provides stability for democratic institutions.

Australia's rate of homeownership has been declining since the baby boomer generation bought their homes. At the moment, homeownership amongst Australians under the age of 40 is at levels not seen since 1947. Being able to afford a home is becoming harder and harder for younger Australians. Leaving private homeownership out of its housing policy means the Labor government has failed to understand the way the housing sector in this country works. After nine months in office, the government's housing agenda is in tatters.

On the face of it, allocating $10 billion to build houses sounds like a solution to Australia's housing crisis. The proposition, however, is that the government first borrows the $10 billion, invests that $10 billion and then uses any return on investment to assist with housing. Of course, the underlying assumption is that the interest gained will be greater than the interest paid. This is lazy and irresponsible economics. The fund provides no certainty as to future returns. It is wholly reliant on the financial performance of the fund's investments in equities and other financial products. Furthermore, increased government borrowing will only add to inflationary pressures in the economy, leading again to higher interest rates. In fact, the IMF has already warned the government that the proliferation of such funds should always be avoided. This is economic trickery and lazy policymaking. It is a fictitious revenue scheme. It does not represent real spending on housing. These are the reasons that I do not support this bill.

Furthermore, the government has not addressed the underlying issues around housing affordability. It is disappointing that the Labor government has been intellectually lazy and, by these bills, demonstrated its failure to understand the drivers behind housing in Australia; its failure to understand how the various state planning systems feed into the national system; and its failure to empower local governments to deliver at a local level. After nine months, the government's housing policy demonstrates that it is bereft of ideas and unable to even commence the process to address our housing shortage.

The Labor government had the opportunity to develop sound policy based on the recent report of the parliamentary inquiry into housing affordability and supply in Australia. Headed The Australian dream, the report identified the underlying issues leading to housing affordability. They are: a lack of supply of housing stock; oppressive state and local planning restrictions, as well as taxes; and the difficulty—indeed, almost the impossibility—for most first-home buyers in Australia to save the deposit. The recommendations that came out of the report were considered, clear and concise. They've set forward a clear path for a good policy to be developed for housing affordability. In that regard, I commend the speech earlier today in this place by the member for Sturt, who sat on that committee.

Australia has more usable land than any other continent in the world outside of the penguins of the South Pole. We have one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with some of the highest average weekly earnings and one of the highest minimum wages in the world. Housing should be easily accessible and affordable. However, with an underlying lack of supply of land, housing has become almost impossible for many Australians.

The federal government can and should incentivise state and local governments to increase urban density in appropriate locations using an empowered community framework such as those which are being rolled out throughout Europe. State and local governments can create more density in appropriate locations—specifically those well serviced by underused transport infrastructure. This should be done by allowing local communities to negotiate for higher densities in return for better infrastructure and more convenience and in a way that protects and preserves the character of surrounding areas. The objective of policies such as these is to ensure that communities are open to higher-density experience, an uplift in value and improved infrastructure.

Planning policies also need to be addressed. The federal government can provide incentive payments to state and local governments to encourage the adoption of better planning and property administration policies. Cutting through the red tape of planning is essential for the provision of more dwellings. Some analysis has shown that, in some places in Australia, planning restrictions are responsible for up to 67 per cent of the cost of housing. Analysis from Finland has shown that increasing housing supply benefits those on low incomes the most. Flexible planning systems like those in Texas are driving economic growth through lower levels of traffic congestion and more efficient allocation of how land is used. This has led to companies such as Tesla, Facebook and Intel leaving California for Texas. Planning reforms in Tokyo saw homelessness reduced by 80 per cent over 10 years, while highly regulated planning systems in San Francisco have seen the emergence of tent cities with people who cannot find homes. There is, therefore, abundant evidence that planning restrictions substantially boost the cost of housing. The federal government has the tools available to incentivise state and local governments to introduce and implement better planning policies. That was, again, an opportunity lost in this housing bill.

Land use policy is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments. Nevertheless, the Australian government can and should play a useful role in coordination, guiding and improving incentives to other governments. Specifically it should provide financial assistance to state and local governments to encourage better planning policy as well as administration of that policy. We should reward better planning policy administration—for example, the streamlining of approvals or bringing infrastructure contributions in line with social costs such as value capture and sharing. Government policy could institute a grant system that pays states and localities for delivering more housing supply and affordable housing. Grants could be in the form of cash or infrastructure. Again, this has been a missed opportunity in this legislation.

Local and state taxes and charges are passed on to home purchasers. This is substantially increasing the cost of housing. In New South Wales they are inappropriately called 'developer contributions'. They are not paid for by developers. They are, however, just a tax imposed on a first home buyer or a home purchaser. The largest barrier to entry for young Australians is saving for the deposit. On all the various measures, the time it takes a worker on an average wage to save for a deposit has increased, from a period that could be measured in months to one that can now be measured in decades.

The Labor government has again missed an opportunity in its housing policy and bill—to allow first home buyers to use their superannuation balance as collateral for a home, without using the funds themselves as a deposit. This again was one of the very sensible recommendations from the Australian dream report, which has been wilfully ignored by this government. The greater the number of Australians that own their own home, the greater the ability of governments to facilitate social and emergency housing. The intention of this bill may be to facilitate social and emergency housing; however, for all of the reasons I've just outlined, it will not.

What has always happened in the housing space is that, when a government has an intention to fund social and affordable housing, it sets up a program, funds that program and then, through recurrent expenditure, funds whatever it is it wants to fund. That is not what is being done here. This is a blatant attempt to try to keep this fund off the budget's bottom line. In that being done, there is absolutely no certainty that any money will ever—certainly not in this term of government—go to the intended recipients.

I have outlined many alternatives available to the federal government if it wishes to apply some intellectual rigour to addressing the housing affordability crisis through real and practical solutions. The government, through its housing policy and these bills, has demonstrated that it does not. This is a fiscally irresponsible bill. It may be well intentioned; however, it is lazy economics and will not produce the outcomes that it seeks. For the reasons stated, I oppose this bill.

4:34 pm

Photo of Allegra SpenderAllegra Spender (Wentworth, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

PENDER () (): I'm pleased that we're dealing with the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills today. Though I have some concerns with the way the government is approaching this, I'm glad that the parliament will be doing more to support those who rely on affordable and social housing.

My own community in Wentworth is one where the cost of housing is forcing many people and families out of the area. This includes many people who are not able to work and who rely on government support, and also many people who work in the area. It genuinely saddens me that some teachers at our schools, nurses in our hospitals and health clinics, and defence personnel at HMAS Watson and the Victoria Barracks aren't able to live where they want to in our electorate. I recently met with Kate Timmins from the B Miles Women's Foundation. This is a foundation that helps prevent women from falling into homelessness and helps resolve and prevent homelessness. She told me heartbreaking stories of nurses in my electorate who are sleeping in cars or sleeping in caves—it's hard to believe, but this has actually happened in this local area—because they cannot afford to pay their rent. It is absolutely catastrophic and a terrible blight our community.

I welcome this bill and I hope that it does is much good as the minister promises. But, as I said, I do have some concerns, particularly with regard to off-budget spending. This concern is not limited to the Housing Australia Future Fund; it also relates to National Reconstruction Fund and the Rewiring the Nation fund, which collectively account for $45 billion in public money that will be invested and expended off-budget. It relates to the existing off-budget investment vehicles, including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Northern Australia Investment Facility and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.

While there may be legitimate policy reasons for an entity to sit outside the Commonwealth budget, it is also legitimate that there are appropriate standards of transparency, oversight and accountability in place. I believe that the existing standards are inadequate and it would be preferable if action were taken in this parliament to establish a joint committee which would oversee off-budget spending, approve new off-budget vehicles, and ensure these organisations are operating efficiently and reporting effectively, and that appropriate appointments are made to boards and executive positions. I believe a committee like this would improve the accountability of off-budget entities and raise the unfortunately low standards of oversight and transparency that we have for them.

I also want to emphasise that action on affordable housing is not the same as action on housing affordability. Affordability is an issue of deep concern to Australians right across the country now, from Wentworth to Wanneroo. It's a concern that young people never know if they will ever be able to afford their own homes. I was walking up the street the other day in Wentworth and a young man approached me. We were talking about his circumstances, the election and things, and he said that he and his partner were moving overseas. They had well-paying jobs, but they just did not believe, even with a dual income and well-paying jobs, that they could ever buy a house in the area they wanted to live in, and they felt there were greater opportunities in the USA. These are people actually working for the public sector, in jobs that make a real difference to the area. It's not just the young people who are concerned about this; I hear this as much from parents and grandparents who are concerned that their children and grandchildren will not have the same opportunities as they did when they were growing up.

The sad truth is that we have seen very little substantive action on housing affordability by either major party for many years. It is not because this industry was complex or because there is uncertainty about the right policies or instruments. We know what the problems are. We have known for many years, and it's not complicated. If the number of people wanting to buy homes increases faster than the number of homes available does, the prices will rise. If that problem persists over years and decades, as it has, then homes will be ever less affordable. The economic and social consequences of this are varied and extend well beyond homeownership. It means that young people must save for longer to afford a deposit, mortgages are larger, and households are more sensitive to changes in interest rates. There is also convincing evidence that people defer having a family until they have secured a deposit and a home. They are less likely to have children, and those who do tend to have smaller families. Australia's falling fertility rate is of real concern to anyone who thinks about the long-term future of our country, and limited housing is one of the most important drivers.

Expensive housing also means that people are less willing to change jobs if it means a long commute or having to sell the family home or relocate to another city or state. People are giving up opportunities for higher wages, and our economy is forgoing to benefits of greater productivity because housing is simply too expensive.

It also means people are less willing to take a chance and start a new business, even if they've got a great idea, because it's just too risky when you need to service a large mortgage. People put it off. They say they'll pursue their dream once their mortgage is paid down and they're in a better financial position. Those that take the next step and explore the financials of establishing a new business are often deterred when they see the cost of commercial and industrial space. It's not just residential real estate that is eye-wateringly expensive. It's no wonder that Australia's rate of startups is so much lower than it should be.

Expensive housing also means that a great number of people aren't able to live where they want to live. Lots of Australians work in CBDs but live outside the CBDs and have long daily commutes. Sometimes that is a choice; people want to live near their families or near the beach, or want an acreage. But often it is not. Long commutes are carbon intensive. Urban sprawl is carbon intensive. The infrastructure to support communities spread out over huge suburban areas is carbon intensive. Forcing people to live further away from where they want to be has awful consequences for our environment.

And expensive housing produces inequality. Those Australians whose parents own a home, whose parents let them live rent free while saving for a deposit or whose parents run a 'bank of mum and dad' all have a tremendous generational advantage. It's an advantage that works against people who are smart, hardworking and talented but don't have the financial backing that some others do, and, when they're bidding for the same properties, it can make the difference between who wins and who loses.

This has been a long list, but I think it's vitally important to recognise that housing affordability is one of the most important issues facing our country, and the answer to this problem is, on balance, more supply. I agree with those who say that state and local governments are more directly responsible for alleviating supply constraints than the federal government. That is true. But it's also true that they're not acting, in many cases, and those who are acting aren't doing it fast enough, which is why we want the federal government to take a leadership role on this.

I commend the government for the Housing Accord because I think this is absolutely a step in the right direction, but I want the government to go further. It should provide significant financial incentives to encourage other levels of government to adopt policies that grow the housing pipeline, especially in areas of high demand and closer to links, with walkable streets, cycleways and public transport. It should work with the states to remove taxes that stop housing mobility, such as stamp duty, and replace that tax with land tax, which would be more efficient and more effective and a better way of ensuring that people can move between housing, which is so important for labour mobility. And it needs to raise its ambition in terms of the number of houses that need to be built in this country, because one million houses is absolutely not enough. It's a big number, but if we are going to get to an OECD average of houses or dwellings per thousand people then we need to have more houses—and we need to be building more houses. That is how we will create long-term affordable housing.

The productivity benefits of this would be enormous and largely, if not entirely, offset the fiscal impact. I believe the Treasurer should also ask the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into what supply policies would have the largest impact and what the potential financial implications would be.

The failures in housing are a drag on population growth, a drag on economic growth, a drag on labour mobility, a drag on innovation, a major driver of our carbon-intensive travel and an intractable source of inequality within and across generations. Now is the time to act.

4:43 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

With rapidly rising interest rates, housing affordability is an issue on everyone's mind—of all generations. People in my electorate of Warringah are feeling the pinch, with huge mortgages and expensive rents. The nine consecutive interest rate rises are biting families in my electorate and in many areas around Australia. This has a huge impact throughout society. The string of natural disasters intensified by the climate crisis over the last few years has exacerbated housing stress, making the need for urgent housing support clear. With recession looming and inflation rising, adding to cost-of-living concerns, the issue of social and affordable housing is becoming increasingly acute.

In Sydney, in the last 12 months, average rents have increased by 10.2 per cent. There are 500 homeless people in Warringah and 1,300 in need of social housing. Nearly 120,000 Australians are without a home every night. Support networks on the Northern Beaches are overwhelmed by the influx of people needing housing assistance. As a result, they're finding it hard to rehouse people on the beaches and are relocating some people to areas where they lose their family and community support systems, which compounds the trauma of becoming unhoused. The median weekly rent in Warringah is just so high that it really has an enormous impact.

So what this bill does—and I welcome the government's initiative with this bill—is going to have some effect. But I worry about its efficacy in providing the level of support that constituents and other Australians need. I commend the efforts of the government in securing the support of the states and territories in implementing this reform and the commitment from the private sector to make contributions to the fund. However, I question whether the direct investment from government will be sufficient to derive the scale of returns expected. A recent independent review conducted by the Australian government found that an investment of around $290 billion would be required over the next two decades to meet the shortfall in housing options. This bill creates a $10 billion fund, the objective of which is to build 20,000 social and 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years. It will also provide $200 million for maintenance and repair of Indigenous housing and $100 million for crisis accommodation and domestic violence housing.

Beyond this, there is a strategy to address broader needs in the housing system and change the government's housing bodies in Australia. There are some concerns, nevertheless. There are integrity concerns with this bill, regarding the independence of the Housing Australia board. There are also concerns about the funding model, which only provides for outright grants, leaving it subject to rorting. We need the governance of the fund to be truly independent and keep the grant money directed to where it's needed most. While there is an obvious need in electorates with lower socioeconomic profiles than, for example, Warringah, I would remind the government of the need to support those providing essential services in electorates with higher-priced property markets, which prohibit service providers such as nurses, teachers and childcare workers from living and working in those areas.

On local advocacy, I'd like to pay tribute to a constituent of mine who has deep personal experience with homelessness and is now a vocal advocate in this space. Sarah's story emphasises the need for investment in this space to drive an increase in productivity across the economy. Sarah was one of the 100 children and other people who appeared before the Burdekin inquiry into youth homelessness in the late 1980s. She was homeless between the ages of 14 and 22. The events that led her to homelessness had a dramatic effect on her life trajectory. She wrote:

I didn't finish high school and haven't had the same career options that my high-school peers had, which limited me to low paying jobs, when I was eventually able to overcome enough of the trauma to even get a job. Being in low paying jobs has left me in housing stress, which has directly impacted on my productivity and participation as an adult, and left me at risk of multiple points of re-entry into homelessness. One of them has been, due to domestic violence my children and I were left at risk of homelessness at the end of 2018.

She frequently compares herself to a classmate at school who is now a minister of the New South Wales government. Sarah believes that, were it not for the trauma and homelessness she suffered in her early years, her trajectory and opportunities would have been vastly different, and it's very hard to dispute that. Sarah's story of overcoming the pain of homelessness underscores the fact that having access to a safe and stable home is a human necessity. Her white paper, which she shared with government in advance of the Jobs and Skills Summit last year, outlines many of the solutions that have been proposed in this legislation. So I'm incredibly proud of her advocacy and her courage in telling her story in a compelling and direct way.

We do have other issues to tackle and other policy solutions. I've met with various groups, including the Constellation Project, where one of my constituents is representing the lived experience of homeless people in a collaborative approach to solving homelessness. The project is being driven by the Australian Red Cross, the Centre for Social Impact, Mission Australia and PwC Australia, seeking innovative approaches to addressing the issue. They are advocating the creation of more homes through a variety of methods, including the development of mandatory inclusion zoning, which mandates that new developments must factor in a proportion of affordable housing to address supply. While the minister may claim that this is a state issue, I would argue that the funding agreements attached to this fund could drive improvements in zoning laws and development approvals. I would also urge the government to consider an emphasis on driving efficiency and the electrification of households through this fund. We know that addressing these issues drives down the cost of living in power bills, and those in social and affordable housing are the least able to make the investment required to lower their cost-of-living costs through electrification.

Another group doing great work in my electorate are Social Ventures Australia. They have argued for a doubling of the rate of Commonwealth rent assistance to provide a higher rate of return to affordable housing developers. This could also be a targeted measure to address groups at greatest risk of homelessness, such as women over 55, who are the fastest-growing group in this category. We really should pause and consider that, because it is shameful on all of us that that generation of carers that have given so much as mothers or as wives or partners and as daughters are left as the fastest-growing group in our society facing homelessness. It's quite outrageous. Adopting the measures and special consideration of housing for women over 55 is incredibly important. Some of these measures will also lift up and provide support to those who are so vulnerable and have difficulty accessing the housing market.

I have been told by a number of service providers one of the barriers to entry to even just a rental market is often being able to access the rental bond. If someone has been homeless, they may find themselves in a position to meet rent obligations but not able to meet a rental bond, so looking outside the box, starting to think about more and additional policies to assist people breaking that cycle of homelessness is incredibly important.

There are so many issues that really need addressing beyond this bill when it comes to housing affordability and access to affordable housing. We have a rental crisis in Australia. There are communities around the country that simply do not have any accessible properties for rent. We also have a situation where the common norm is very short rental periods. We don't have a system like other countries, like in Europe, where you may have long-term rents or you have more rental protections. This is something the government does need to look at as well, to be able to create some housing security for so many vulnerable people in our community.

So I support this bill but I urge the government to guarantee the integrity of the board—it must be independent—and ensure the transparency of funding agreements. Again, after too many programs have been rorted, it is imperative that this be a program that is not rorted. I urge the government to leverage the funding agreements to drive improvements in the quality of housing that we're talking about—housing electrification—and drive mandatory inclusion zoning in developments. There are many more tools to improve access to affordable housing in Australia.

4:53 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Our government believes that every Australian deserves the security of a roof over their head. It's something that's essential to people's quality of life. We know that a home to call your own, whether or not you own it, is about more than just a place to sleep. It gives you confidence, a sense of stability, a feeling of connection to your community. I know that because I've lived it. My journey to this place and to the high office that I hold in part began with the council housing I lived in, where my mother was born in 1936. My family were the first inhabitants and had moved in some years earlier when they were built. The Sydney City Council changed hands, conservatives got control and tried to sell our home where my mum was born and where she died after 65 years in the one home. I got involved in a campaign there in Camperdown with local residents; I was still at school. We collected a petition, we had a rent strike and we organised to defend what was our home. Then on Pyrmont Bridge Road, in Camperdown, it was the only housing of any sort anywhere near that area. Opposite was the children's hospital. On one corner was the Weston's biscuit factory. On the other corner was Grace Bros storage. At the back was McNulty's, a foundry. It was an industrial and health district. Just around the corner—and people who read this in Hansard will have to ask someone older what this is!—was something called Kodak. That is why I support this legislation. Without public housing, without that security and that sense of community which was there, I wouldn't be here.

I announced that our government would create the Housing Australia Future Fund in my budget reply in May 2021, when opposition leaders actually came out with policies and positive agendas. So more than a year before the election we outlined this policy. Our plan to build 30,000 social and affordable homes was an important part of our campaign for government. It was at the heart of the positive change that Australians voted for. The government has a clear mandate to establish the Housing Australia Future Fund. Just as importantly, the nation has a clear need for it. Not only will this legislation create the fund; it will also create an important reform, the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, which I announced on that night as well.

How do we work with state and territory governments, with local government, to open up the supply of housing to deal with land release and land issues? How do we make sure, when we do that, that infrastructure comes before, not after? That happens all too often as our suburbs spread, and we don't give thought to the need for schools and health facilities and recreational facilities in all those communities. In the northern suburbs of Perth, in the Pearce electorate, where I was just last week with the member for Pearce, there is a great example of a railway station being built with a pool as part of the facilities, with offices and housing around, before the community are living around there—best practice by the McGowan government. I want to see that replicated around the country.

This piece of legislation shouldn't be seen in isolation. It's about how our cities function and how our regions function. It's about how this will work with the National Housing Accord we've come up with, working with the Master Builders Association, working with others. It's about, as well, the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement that will be negotiated between the Commonwealth and the states and territories.

I've seen some figures plucked out of the air for how many houses should be built, as if there's not a Commonwealth state housing agreement, as if states and territories aren't doing anything either by themselves or, in future, with the cooperation of a federal government. It works, as well, with the National Housing and Homelessness Plan that the government will be putting in place, with the $100 million we've put in place for emergency housing.

I say to the whole of this parliament—the crossbenchers as well as those opposite in the aptly titled opposition: you should think through the implications behind opposing this legislation because it's beyond my comprehension how you can do that. There is a national need for more affordable housing. There's a need to help frontline workers live closer to where they work. There's a clear and urgent national need for more safe housing for women and children fleeing violent homes. This policy of quarantining 4,000 of these homes works with the 500 additional community service workers we've announced as well, as well as for emergency housing. Why that would be opposed is beyond my comprehension.

Tonight, like every night, women's crisis services across Australia will have to tell women, and perhaps women with children, fleeing partners who are violent that they simply cannot accommodate them. They'll be forced to sleep in their car or, worse, go back to a dangerous situation. When we've seen tragedy hit and women lose their lives I've sometimes heard the statement made, 'Why didn't they leave that relationship?' Because quite often they had nowhere to go, and that is a hard truth.

Passing this legislation will provide 4,000 homes built for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and for older women on low incomes at risk of homelessness. It will provide a $100 million investment in crisis and transitional housing. It will provide $30 million to build housing and fund specialist services for veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It has been reported that a survey done in Sydney showed that one in 10 people sleeping rough on the streets of Sydney have worn the uniform of our great nation. They deserve better than that. We need to do better than that.

We also have to do better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities, who currently endure some of the worst housing standards in the world. Passing this legislation will deliver $200 million to repair, improve and maintain housing in remote Indigenous communities.

This is the opportunity that the Housing Australia Future Fund represents—more affordable housing for frontline workers, more housing stock for the nation, more safe accommodation for women fleeing family violence, more support for veterans at risk of homelessness and more investment in remote communities. But let's be clear that, in order for that to happen, this legislation has to pass the House of Representatives and has to pass the Senate. The parliament isn't a debating society. It's not a consequence-free environment, and people need to be held to account. You're determined to vote against this and somehow say that this is a defeat for the government. It's not; it's a defeat for people who need a secure roof over their head.

I've heard people say—and I've seen some figures bandied around—'Why not commit $5 billion a year rather than $500 million a year?' I say: 'Why stop there? Why not $50 billion, $500 billion or $1 trillion?' Because it's just a fantasy.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith will cease interjecting.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

We have in this country supply chain shortages when it comes to timber being available.

Government members interjecting

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Members on my right.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

We have skill shortages in this country as well. The idea that you would pass legislation knowing that you can't possibly achieve the outcome is the ultimate self-indulgence, the ultimate virtue-signalling, which will not have an impact at all. If you vote against this legislation, you are voting against funding. I'm all for in this parliament being consultative and constructive. We always have been prepared to consider constructive amendments and ideas—whether that be from the opposition or the crossbench—because that's the inclusive form of parliament that I want to operate. But let's not just chuck out figures from the back of envelopes or written on coasters because they're higher, and higher is always better. Let's actually have policy that's serious, policy that will make a difference and policy that will make a start on making an enormous difference.

In terms of our policy going forward, if people vote against this legislation and the legislation is not carried, then people should own that decision. They should own the fact that it will reduce housing supply in this country, and rents are a product of demand and supply. It will mean that women and children escaping domestic violence will have less opportunity to have somewhere to go, it will mean veterans will get less support and it will damage the work the government is doing on closing the gap. Be prepared to say that you had the chance to help and you chose to say no. That's the choice on this vote.

We will be proudly voting to build more homes for Australians. I congratulate the Minister for Housing on the work that she has done, and I congratulate Jason Clare, the member for Blaxland, for the work that he did in developing this important policy. But I also congratulate all those organisations who have worked with us on this policy. I joined Shelter as an organisation while I was still at school. I've been active in many of those housing based organisations for my entire political life. I bring to the position of Prime Minister, a position that I'm proud to hold, an absolute commitment to do whatever I can to increase the supply of social and affordable housing. We will always try to do more into the future. For goodness sake, don't vote against this legislation out of spite or ego or—

A government member: Vanity!

or vanity, because people who need this legislation deserve better than that. So I do commend the bill to the House, and I ask the parliament to vote for it. I ask the whole of the parliament to vote for it, because it is doing the right thing—not the perfect thing but the right thing—by Australians.

5:07 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Whilst there was much in the Prime Minister's contribution that I could genuinely agree with, I don't for one minute believe that the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill, as it's currently proposed, will achieve many, if any, of those outcomes. We see frequently from those opposite a vast gap between their rhetoric and the reality of what is achieved on the ground.

In my electorate, which is one of the fastest-growing electorates in Australia, I see an enormous amount of building of housing and infrastructure. That being said, housing availability for those on low incomes or in difficult situations remains a difficulty, and it is certainly an issue that needs to be resolved. But I don't believe that this bill will achieve that. I actually believe that it will add to the problems that we already see with the affordability of housing from a building perspective. Any tradesman I speak to at the moment has more work than they can poke a stick at, and they can charge virtually any price they like when they are asked to give a quote. If we add a huge number of new houses to the current situation, that problem is only going to get worse, and the more expensive property becomes to build, the less value we are going to get from the limited funds that this fund will actually provide.

This fund is not a $10 billion investment in housing. This fund, at best, is maybe a $400 million annual investment in housing, but, less the interest cost, might not be more than $100 million. And if you have a poor year on the investment portfolio, where are those additional funds coming from? If the government is genuine about what it wants to do with these funds to achieve the outcome in the housing sector of providing social and affordable housing, then may I suggest to the government that it doesn't borrow this money and that it uses the budget balance sheet to achieve that funding envelope, as is currently done with most housing programs. In that regard, I think it's worth reflecting on the record of the coalition government, because that's exactly what the coalition government did—and, I think, to a large degree, with great success.

Our record in government is that we provided support for homeownership. I believe that homeownership is the fundamental basis for assisting people to create wealth and stability in their lives over time, and, as I said, there is much in the Prime Minister's contribution that I would agree with, as to those sentiments. We want people to be able to own their own home sooner, and our actions in government proved this. Over our last three years in government, the coalition's housing policy supported more than 300,000 Australians to purchase their own home. The coalition also supported more than 21,000 social and affordable homes through the establishment of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, soon to be renamed Housing Australia.

When it came to first home buyers, the coalition was their biggest supporter. First home buyers reached their highest level for nearly 15 years, with the number of first home buyers rising from approximately 100,000 when we came to office to nearly 180,000 in our last full financial year in government. We did this through a number of key measures. The coalition supported more than 60,000 first home buyers and single-parent families into homeownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme. The scheme consisted of the first home loan deposit scheme, the new home guarantee, and the Family Home Guarantee and the regional home guarantee, with deposits of as little as five per cent and two per cent respectively. Fifty-two per cent of the 60,000 guarantees issued were taken up by women—well above the market average of 41 per cent of women entering into homeownership. One in five guarantees issued went to essential workers, of whom almost 35 per cent were nurses and 34 per cent were teachers. Eighty-five per cent of Family Home Guarantees were used by single mothers.

We also understand the value for young people of being able to use their superannuation to assist in a home purchase. After all, it is their money. By establishing the First Home Super Saver Scheme, we helped 27,600 first home buyers to accelerate their deposit savings through superannuation. Although we are no longer in government, our commitment to first home buyers has been reiterated, with a commitment to the super home buyer scheme which will allow first home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, up to a maximum of $50,000, to help with the purchase of their first home.

When it came to homeownership, the coalition also established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation. It was established to operate two key activities: the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, a billion-dollar perpetual facility financing critical housing-related infrastructure to speed up the supply of new housing through the provision of loans and grants and the making of investments; and the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator, providing cheaper and longer-term finance to registered community housing providers. The NHFIC has been a landmark coalition achievement, and, since its creation, has delivered $2.9 billion of low-cost loans to community housing providers to support 15,000 social and affordable dwellings, saving $470 million in interest payments to be reinvested in more affordable housing. It has unlocked 6,900 social and affordable market dwellings through the coalition's $1 billion infrastructure facility, to make housing supply more responsive to demand. It has also protected the residential construction industry, with more than 137 HomeBuilder applications generating $120 billion of economic activity.

It is evident from the facts just shared with the House that the coalition government has a sound, sensible and well-considered track record in providing support to assist Australians to get into their own home. As I said in my opening remarks, I believe it is critically important that we continue to achieve that. But I do not for one minute believe that this bill, as it is currently structured and in what it proposes to do, will get anywhere near achieving the figures that I've just outlined. As I said to the minister earlier, I want to see more housing in my electorate but I don't believe this bill will achieve it.

Sadly, I don't believe that this Labor government's housing policy, after promising the world to Australians, will deliver what is proposed. We'll see the number of first home buyers dramatically decrease. We'll see very few, if any, of the 30,000 new social and affordable homes ever started. Rents will continue to increase. Now they want to add further fuel to the inflationary flame through the upward pressure on interest rates that this policy will generate. These consequences follow a common thread through many areas of the government's policy and their history over the years, and it is this: their rhetoric never matches the implementation of what they've proposed to do. It is the coalition, with its track record, that I would ask the government to consider emulating, because it has generated real and tangible benefits for Australians right across this country. I oppose this bill.

5:17 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, I want to thank everybody in the chamber who has contributed to this debate. There have been a lot of speakers on it, and some of them have engaged in a very constructive manner over these three bills.

The three bills that form the housing legislative package are a significant step in implementing the government's ambitious housing reform agenda, which will help support improved access to safe, secure and affordable housing for Australians. The Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 establishes the Housing Australia Future Fund. Returns from the fund will help build 30,000 new social and affordable dwellings over its first five years as well as helping to address acute housing needs for some of our most at-need citizens.

The National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023 establishes the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council as an independent statutory advisory body. The council will help inform the Commonwealth's approach to housing policy by delivering independent advice to the government on housing supply and affordability. Establishing the council will ensure that the Commonwealth can play a leadership role in improving housing supply and affordability.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 renames the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation as Housing Australia and expands its activities to support the delivery of social and affordable dwellings under the Housing Australia Future Fund. It also establishes an annual review mechanism for the National Housing Infrastructure Facility and provides certainty to the community housing sector by extending Housing Australia's legislated Commonwealth guarantee until 30 June 2028.

On this side of the House we know just how critical this package of legislation is. It delivers on the commitments that we made to the Australian people to deliver more social and affordable housing. It will make a real difference for Australians across the country who are trying to find a place to call home. And we know why this is needed, because the experts are telling us. Kate Colvin, CEO of Homelessness Australia, has said: 'Can I start by saying how important the fund is as a new mechanism to provide resources for social and affordable housing. It is a great turnaround that the federal government is back in the business and taking responsibility.' National Shelter has said, 'Great to see the Housing Australia Future Fund legislation introduced,' and 'We cannot afford to have the Housing Australia Future Fund fail.' Mike Zorbas from the Property Council said:

The legislation … is an important first step to get government working together with industry to bridge the national housing deficit and stimulate new supply that Australia desperately needs.

Importantly, our plans are achievable. As the managing director of Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute said, 'What the government is doing is setting ambitious targets, and they are ambitious targets. But they are also achievable targets.'

But, sadly, what we've heard from some opposite is that they're planning to stand in the way of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023. It is shameful that they're preparing to stand in the way of the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing in more than a decade; shameful that they're saying no to building more homes for women fleeing family and domestic violence and for older women at risk of homelessness; shameful that they're saying no to building more homes for veterans who are facing homelessness; and shameful that they're saying no to more homes for the people in need right across the country. I want to remind them that Hansard records how you vote. It will record your name. You will have to own the decision. You have to be prepared to go back to your communities and account for your actions, as I said today. You need to look people in the eye and say that you put politics first. Tell your communities you said no to helping those that need it most.

After a wasted decade of little action under the former government of those opposite, they clearly have learnt nothing. But we on this side of the House have been listening—listening to Australians who are facing rising rents, listening to the heartbreaking stories of older women and veterans at risk of homelessness, and listening to Australians for whom homeownership is now out of reach. But we're not just listening; we're acting. As I said when I introduced these bills into the parliament, this is the start of an enduring promise from the federal government that more Australians should have a safe and affordable place to call home. We're keeping faith with that promise that we made to the Australian people.

I am pleased that the bill will receive support from many of the crossbenchers and, I understand, from the member for Bass. They understand how crucial these bills are. I welcome the foreshadowed amendments, including from the member for Indi, and I'll continue to have discussions about how this package of reforms will benefit regional Australia. The issues that the member for Indi and others in this House have raised will be the subject of further consideration in the other place or through the draft investment mandate. I want to work with everyone in this place who wants to see more homes on the ground for Australians who need it most, and I look forward to continuing discussions on how we achieve this.

This package represents a significant step forward in implementing the government's ambitious housing agenda, establishing the frameworks and the long-term commitments needed to deliver better housing outcomes for Australians. I commend these bills to the House.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is the amendment moved by the honourable member for Griffith be disagreed to.

5:34 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fowler be disagreed to.

Question agreed to.

The question now is that this bill be now read a second time.