House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023



7:53 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wanted to make one comment on the previous contribution before I speak about my topic tonight. Yes, we cannot change the past, but we can all change the future, and that's what excites me the most about this Voice referendum and the opportunity that we all have as Australians to come together and to change the future. That is what the Uluru Statement from the Heart was about, and that was the gesture that they extended to not just us in this place but all Australians. We can come together to change the future so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

What I wanted to do tonight was to stop for a moment and say to all the parliamentarians, particularly on the government side and the crossbench: it's a good day; we've done a good job. To learn through question time that a deal has been struck on major housing reform is so welcome. We have been able to come together as a parliament and find a way through our differences to agree on supporting the legislation for the Housing Australia Future Fund.

I say, 'Good job,' because I know it will make a difference to people in my electorate over the long term. We, like the rest of Australia, are in a housing crisis locally. It's not a housing crisis that started just a year ago, or even a few years ago; it was a generation in the making, when a previous government in this place made a decision to stop investing in social and community housing and alter the way that federal governments and, therefore, this parliament are engaged in housing policy. I am talking about the John Howard years. I raise that because it relates to what I have spoken about with people in my electorate recently. One of the pillars of the Howard era was this focus on the private rental market, the mum-and-dad investors. What I have learnt is that policy has only really lived a generation. A lot of people who jumped in and took advantage of that generous policy towards them did make some wealth and did acquire an asset—usually only one or possibly two housing assets—but they have since passed, or are going into aged care, or are selling up to split that asset amongst their children, so it is having an impact on local rental markets.

Another big piece of feedback from my community—I've met with real estates in my electorate as well as a number of social and housing community providers—is that there was big agreement that it cannot be left up to the private rental market alone to deliver all of the housing that's required. There needs to be a government supported and funded social and community housing safety network that provides houses for people who are vulnerable, for people who are not suited to the private rental market. I am talking about some people with profound disabilities. I think we do put a lot of pressure on our private rental market and property managers—it might be their first job out of school—to manage property for people who might have complex mental health issues such that receiving a letter from a real estate agent could be a trigger. That isn't fair and it isn't appropriate.

What I really welcome about what we've done today is that we have found a way through. We've found a policy that can get the federal government back on track and working with the state and local governments and the community housing sector to build the social and community housing that we need. I want to say to all of the people in my electorate that I know this isn't going to happen immediately. I think about Stephanie, who has been protesting out the front of my office about this very issue. She is one of the many people who have found themselves homeless in the last few weeks, months or a year for some. She is frustrated and desperate. She is living in a makeshift camp at the back of the Bendigo showgrounds. We have people living in the forest these days. People haven't lived in the forest because of homelessness for decades. People are living in unsafe areas. This will help in the long run; it won't help in the short term, but we do hope it will start to deliver a long-term change to the situation we have in this country.