House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024


Help to Buy Bill 2023, Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023; Second Reading

5:08 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Imagine having the power to fix the housing and rental crisis but deciding not to use it and instead using the power of government to make it worse. That is what Labor is doing now. Imagine having the power to help every renter who is saving up a deposit to buy a home only to find that, by the time it comes to buy or to the auction, house prices have gone up so much they have to save even more. Imagine having the power to help every first homebuyer who turns up to an auction only to find that they're outbid by an investor who's getting a government subsidy.

Imagine having that power and deciding not to use it, but instead deciding to use the power of government to say, 'If you've already got four homes, we will help you with a big fat cheque to go and buy your fifth, your sixth, your seventh or your eighth'—because that is what this Labor Party is doing with the power of government. Labor is making the housing and rental crisis worse. Labor is backing unlimited rent rises, saying that there should be no limit on how much rents can go up. Labor are saying to every renter and first home buyer who is struggling to find an affordable place to live that they would rather back the wealthy property investor who turns up at an auction to go and buy multiple properties even as some people are struggling to get their first. That is what this government is doing. As a result, it is pushing people to breaking point.

I talked about how Labor's plan, which this bill is based on, involves helping wealthy property investors. I want to take a moment to explain how this scheme, supported by Labor and costing the public billions, works. At the moment, if a wealthy property investor with multiple properties turns up at an auction where there are first home buyers who've scraped and saved for a deposit, that wealthy property investor has an advantage. They have a big fat cheque from the Labor government sitting in their pocket. How does that work? It work like this. The first home buyer will bid at the auction as much as they are able to afford, as much as they have been able to save up for a deposit plus whatever they hope that they are going to be able to repay. The wealthy property investor, however, turns up at that auction and, as the first home buyer puts their hand up to bid, the wealthy property investor can outbid them time after time, knowing that no matter how high the price goes they will be able to write off any losses they make as a tax break. In other words, they can pay as much they want for the property, much more than the first home buyer is able to afford, knowing that when they go and rent it out if they made a loss they can write that off on their tax and get a tax break. The first home buyer can't do that, but the wealthy property investor can.

It's not only that; it gets worse. They know that, thanks to Labor, in a few years time, or whenever they want to, they can sell the property and they only have to pay half the tax on it. They'll get a capital gains tax discount. But someone who has made their money through working, after they've paid the cost of their massive HECS debt that has gone up thanks to Labor, after what's available having paid extraordinary grocery bills that the government won't rein in and having dealt with massive rising costs of living, doesn't get to write off the cost of the payment on their mortgage or the payment on their rent as a tax break. They have to pay the same amount of tax on their taxable income that everyone else in the country has to. Because the tax comes out before you have even met those expenditures, the tax comes out at the start, you don't get a choice. Your employer takes the tax out. You have to pay your tax. But if you have managed to make your money out of buying and selling and flipping properties, having got a nice tax break along the way, you then get another tax break thanks to Labor.

This is why, in large part, our property market is so turbocharged. The first home buyer who's struggling to get in has to scrimp and save, but they'll be competing against a wealthy property investor who knows, firstly, they can push up the price as much they want knowing that they can write off any loss as a tax dodge and, secondly, when it comes time to sell the property they'll get another tax break. The system is stacked against first home buyers and renters, and Labor is backing it. It is costing the budget. It's $15 billion going on these kinds of tax breaks—negative gearing and capital gains tax. If you add up all the other tax breaks that these wealthy property investors get, you are looking at close to $40 billion. Renters don't get that. First home buyers don't get that. The money is going to those who've already got multiple properties to go and buy even more. That is Labor's answer to the housing crisis. Then they say, 'It's okay. We're going to bring a bill to parliament to fix it,' and it continues this system of rorts that is stacked against first home buyers and renters.

Labor needs to wake up. The housing crisis and the rental crisis are breaking people. They are breaking people, and Labor is pushing rents and house prices up. Labor is backing unlimited rent rises and billions in handouts to wealthy property investors that are driving mortgages and house prices up and up and up. Labor say they want to address this, but here we are, a couple of years into their government, and Labor come along and say: 'This is the silver bullet that will fix it. This is our whole answer to the housing crisis.' It's a bill that maintains all of those wealthy tax breaks for property investors and that helps push up prices and leave 99.8 per cent of renters worse off. Labor comes in with a bill that is aimed at pushing up prices and continuing to give tax handouts to wealthy property investors.

The system at the moment is stacked against first home buyers and renters. The Greens will fight for first home buyers and renters while Labor fights for wealthy property investors. Seventy-five per cent of the members of the government have got these investment properties. The Greens are here to fight and to end these rorts that the property class are enjoying because the first home buyers and renters are suffering. You see it every day and every week as first home buyers turn up to auctions, only to be outbid by a wealthy property investor who's got a big fat cheque in their pocket thanks to Labor.

You see that every day, but what we also hear is parents who are saying they are worried that their kids will never be able to own a home in this wealthy country of ours that is Australia, even if they do the right thing. You have first home buyers and renters who say, 'I've done the right thing.' They went to TAFE. They went to university. They've studied hard. They've worked hard. They've got a good job. They've got an income. They might even have a partner who's got a good income as well. They're doing all the right things and still under Labor they can't find an affordable place to live, because Labor backs unlimited rent rises and skyrocketing house prices.

What does Labor say to all of those people who've done the right thing and done everything that they were asked to do? Labor says, 'We're going to spend between $15 billion and $40 billion helping the wealthy property investors who've already got multiple properties to go and buy even more.' That is Labor's answer to the people who are doing all the right things and that is why people are becoming increasingly angry with this government that has got enormous power, including the power to fix the housing and rental crisis. Instead Labor uses its power to make the housing and rental crisis worse.

I can't sit here in this parliament, see Labor come and say, 'This is our answer to the housing crisis: a bill that's going to push up housing prices, leave 99.8 per cent of renters worse off and continue to give billions of dollars in handouts to wealthy property investors,' and back it. That is not good enough. That does not get our support. Labor may continue fighting for wealthy property investors, but the Greens are going to fight for first home buyers and renters. We cannot support this policy that leaves people worse off while continuing to slip a big fat cheque into the pockets of people who've already got multiple properties. These massive handouts from Labor to wealthy property investors are denying millions of renters the chance to buy their own home. That cannot be supported.

These policies from the government were cooked up by a small-target opposition when they were running around not offering an alternative to Scott Morrison's prime ministership and government but instead trying to be the smallest of small targets, coming up with bandaid solutions that are all about being seen to do something to address the housing crisis rather than actually doing something. So they dreamt up this policy while they were trying to be a small-target opposition.

But the housing crisis has only got worse under Labor. Labor's housing and rental crisis is now breaking people; it is much worse now than it was even a couple of years ago. If the government can change their position on stage 3 tax cuts, under pressure from the Greens, because of changed economic circumstances and the growing crisis, then they can change their position on these tax handouts to the wealthy property investors as well. If Labor can change their position on stage 3 tax cuts, under pressure from the Greens, because of changed economic circumstances, then they can change their position on giving tax handouts to wealthy property investors that are denying millions of renters the chance to buy their own home.

We are saying very clearly to Labor: if you want our support, then start tackling capital gains tax and negative-gearing concessions, which are pushing homes out of the reach of millions of renters, cap and freeze rents, because that will give people the breathing space to deal with Labor's housing crisis, and build more public housing. You've got the power of government. Use it to make people's lives better; don't use it, Labor, to advantage wealthy property investors who've already got four, five, six, seven or eight properties. They don't need a government subsidy. It's first home buyers and renters who need help. The more that Labor continues down this road of backing the wealthy property investors and denying millions of renters the chance to buy their own home, the angrier people are going to get.

We are offering you our support as the Greens if you're willing to tackle the causes of the housing crisis and not just come in here with policies that actually leave people worse off and that are about being seen to do something rather than actually doing something—because people can see through you, Labor. They can see that you're just being seen to do something rather than actually doing something. These small-target policies won't cut it anymore. Small-target government cannot fix Australia's big problems like the housing and rental crisis. I say this: if you don't use this opportunity in the House, then we won't be supporting this bill in the House. You've got the chance, before it goes to the Senate, to start tackling these big issues of tax handouts to the wealthy, building more public housing and capping and freezing rents. But, if you choose not to, Labor—if you make 2024 the year that you continue backing wealthy property investors—then the anger from renters and first home buyers is going to continue to grow.

I hope that Labor comes to its senses and decides to tackle the housing crisis this year by working with the Greens. If it doesn't, don't be surprised if renters make their voice heard at the next election and take it out on Labor at the ballot box because Labor's backing wealthy property investors while the Greens are backing renters and first home buyers.

5:23 pm

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Every so often in this place, there come moments when we have an ability to define what Australia is all about—or the future of Australia, really, for better or worse. We sit here quite uniquely privileged to help shape the future of our nation; I think that's why we're all here. I can't think of more pressing issues for Australians than the cost of living and housing. Everywhere I go in my electorate of Wills, people share their experiences of housing becoming more and more out of reach, and that's been the case for a number of years. This is an issue for everyone, including younger Australians, who feel completely locked out of the housing market—and I agree with them. For 10 years the coalition government sat on the treasury bench over there and allowed the issue of housing to, effectively, fester, ignoring the pleas for help and assistance from younger generations of Australians. Today, the Albanese Labor government are actually answering the call to action and we're taking action.

Fundamentally, housing is the foundational aspect of building a better life. It's the basis on which people can realise their full potential and an issue close to my heart. I think many people here would share that as well. My own story is one that is probably emblematic of the old Australian dream of homeownership. I'm the son of migrant parents. I remember growing up in a housing commission flat. Admittedly it was a little rough, but I also remember the sense of gratitude that I had. It was really the successive state and federal Labor governments—particularly the Hawke Labor government at the time—and their policies that gave my family the safety, the security and the sense of belonging through which we were able to access public housing and good education. These policies made a huge difference. Those housing policies gave my family and me a place to call home.

So, yes, I'm a houso and proud of that, and the son of migrants parents and proud of that. Through their hard work, they were able to save up enough to move out of the housing commission and buy their own home. Now, in the early eighties, when they did that, the average house price was around 3.3 times an Australian's annual income. Today the average house price is about 10 times or more the average income, so there's a huge disparity there.

Having been a beneficiary of governments getting housing policy right, that kind of upbringing informs my perspective on housing policy today. The view is quite simple. The starting point for me as a first principle is that housing is a human right. Like many, I want housing to be not a distant dream but a reality for Australians. In many ways, in my electorate of Wills that is indicative of the aspiration that many Australians have. We know that many rent. We know that many have mortgages and are under pressure. But everyone in the community wants to realise their full potential as well. People in my community of Wills regularly contact me and outline the immense housing stresses they face. While in our office we do our best to help support people, whether they need assistance with the housing authority or housing commission to get better accommodation or whether they need emergency accommodation. We do that work, and I know many MPs do the same type of work.

The reality, though, is this: focusing on reform and long-term solutions is really the only way you're going to make big changes and help Australia move forward on this issue. Long-term focus and structural reform will deliver that lasting benefit to millions of people who need it most, just as it did some 45 to 50 years ago, when I first started out. If you look back that far in history, you see that the 1940s to the 1970s was really the era of the so-called Australian dream of homeownership, though back in the eighties and nineties, house prices were still very much lower than they are today, as I said. Buyers would borrow less, save smaller deposits and spend less of their overall income on housing. Today owning a home outright has dropped by 10 per cent and rental stress is worsening. For young people, homeownership is harder than ever before.

Rental stress is a significant issue, particularly for young Australians, single-parent families, low-wage workers and older Australians on fixed incomes. Many young people are facing rent increase after rent increase, making it unaffordable to make ends meet, let alone save for a house deposit. This also includes essential workers: nurses, aged-care workers, early educators, police, ambos and those in hospitality. They are effectively priced out of the rental market, particularly in inner-city areas. Some workers spend half to two-thirds of their income on rent. They tend to have to commute long distances from their homes to the hospitals, stations or other places of work. These are the same essential workers who with such bravery and dedication helped us get through the pandemic.

Around one million renters across the country live in homes that are unsafe for their health as well. This is an important issue in this debate, but they're afraid to speak up and request repairs, in case they get evicted. As many in this place know, single women over 55 are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. These are often women who were more likely to have taken on family or carer responsibilities, working casual or part-time roles, and have less or no super to fall back on. It is unacceptable that, in a country endowed with wealth and opportunity, many of our fellow Australians have nowhere to call home.

We cannot continue to let this happen. We can't simply accept this reality that 70 per cent of young people believe they will never own their own home, which is the polling that suggests that lack of belief. We cannot forfeit responsibility for future generations, who are demanding that we act.

This is a place where we debate politics, and we can't let the previous government have a free pass on the failures over nine years which oversaw an increase in housing construction costs of some 46 per cent. Former prime minister Morrison said he didn't believe in a legacy. Well, he left a legacy of higher house prices, higher rents and greater housing stress, a legacy that's left many Australians unable to buy their own home.

Equally, we have the Greens political party pushing for policies that don't and actually can't work. They've been preaching about a rent freeze, as we heard from the previous speaker. I've got some news for the previous speaker: it doesn't actually work. The data from international jurisdictions shows that for properties under rent controls there were increases in price and for properties not under rent controls there was ghettoisation and deterioration. This is just hard data and evidence that exists. So, basically, you've got the Greens party, who are free to play politics in this place and to grandstand, incomprehensibly when it comes to this bill voting with the coalition against the Help to Buy scheme. They are voting against the Help to Buy scheme for political gain and as political grandstanding. It's remarkable. In contrast, the Albanese Labor government is focused on the substance of these policies. To make a genuine difference to people's lives is what we are doing this for.

What is the substance of the bill that the Greens political party and the coalition parties are voting against? We just heard from the previous speaker that they are not going to support it. That's out of their own mouth. This bill presents an actual unmistakeable opportunity to reverse the decade of decline in serious housing policy. It's an opportunity the House and the Senate should take and must take.

The Help to Buy scheme fulfils Labor's election commitment to support up to 40,000 Australian families and households to purchase a home of their own. This will mean the government will support eligible homebuyers with an equity of up to 40 per cent for new homes and 30 per cent for existing homes. This policy will not only provide a foot in the door for Australians with smaller savings but also provide long-term relief for Australians who are part of the scheme. Our broad housing agenda, as the minister outlined, is directly addressing the issue of supply. It is all about supply, supply, supply. The government has already helped more than 80,000 Australians into homeownership and, thanks to this legislation, many more Australians will have the opportunity to afford their own home. Over the next five years, we will build 1.2 million new homes to increase supply.

Importantly, this policy also has cost-of-living assistance built into it. As a result of the equity stake the government will have in this scheme, first home buyers will be able to have a smaller deposit, a minimum of two per cent, and will have lower ongoing repayments while they participate in the scheme. In addition, the Help to Buy legislation will help eligible new homeowners save hundreds of dollars a month on their mortgages. This is an example of long-term relief for a problem that is decades old. It's real. It will matter to these people. These are real people. It will make a real difference to their lives every single day.

This is on top of the many initiatives our housing minister has already been spearheading. We have heard from previous speakers that apparently this is suddenly supposed to be a silver bullet. I will say that there is a lot more ammo in the chamber. There are a lot of policies that we have actually announced and started to implement over the last year and a half, such as bolstering renters' rights and providing financial support to those doing it tough. We've increased the Commonwealth rental assistance by the largest amount in 30 years—15 per cent—to provide cost-of-living assistance to renters experiencing financial stress. In addition, our government has been working extremely hard with states and territories on a renters' rights charter. This includes nationally consistent policies on genuine grounds for eviction, allowing security changes without landlord permission, making rental applications easier, protecting personal information and much, much more. Action on renters' rights is a priority for the government. We don't hide our ambition to ensure that in this country homeownership is within reach of any Aussie who aspires to it.

When I was reflecting on my remarks prior to this debate, I thought of many of my constituents that I have spoken to about this issue. I thought particularly of one woman. Her name is Mary. She spoke to me at a community event. She talked of the stresses that are synonymous with temporary accommodation and knowing that she is at risk of homelessness. I thought of Ismael and Zali, who told me recently that, even with both of them working, nearly all their income goes to child care and rent. They budget and they try not to eat out too much, but they still feel that it's impossible to have much left in terms of their savings. They also don't see themselves becoming homeowners in their lifetime. They're among that 70 per cent that have lost faith in the ability to do that. So there's an overwhelming sense from them about the hopelessness of it.

I think of Sandra, who's in her 50s, and her husband, who's 60 and working full time. Sandra has had to stop working recently because of rheumatoid arthritis and other health conditions. Both Sandra and her husband have never been able to save enough for a deposit to buy a home of their own. They've always lived in rentals and worried about how they will live as they age. Sandra said they would do anything to have a secure home to live in until they don't need it anymore. She said that they don't care if the government has equity in the home. That's what she said to me. She said: 'I'll take it. If this is going to change what I've experienced over decades, I will take that.' They were very grateful for and appreciative of that change.

When we're talking about this, how can it be that here in Australia, blessed as we are with prosperity and wealth, we allow a scenario to develop in which a family with both parents in work, or two adults who both worked into their 50s, regard it as impossible to ever own a home? This has to change. This is fundamentally not acceptable. That's why we're passing this bill in this place. I would call on those who are seeking to oppose it or who have said that they would oppose it to think of those people for whom this would make a difference in their lives. Think of the people who will actually have an enormous change to their lives because of the impacts that this legislation will have on them, to allow them to get into that homeownership—the 40,000 Australians whose lives it will change for the better. Think about those people.

When all of us come to this chamber, we have a purpose. We have a purpose to make a difference to people's lives—to make the lives of Australians better. I don't think it's too idealistic to say that I want an Australia where housing is a fundamental human right, and we can start with helping people as much as we can to get into homeownership. This is what this bill is about. Rather than grandstanding and politicising the issue, rather than jumping up and down, trying to get the meme and the photo opportunity and all the rest of it, this is about a piece of legislation that will change 40,000 lives for the better and get them into homeownership. An Australia I want is one where housing is affordable, where housing is accessible and where young people can buy a home. Inheritance can't be the only way that Australians finally get to experience homeownership.

As I stated at the beginning of this speech, every so often we're presented with the policies that provide us with an opportunity to fundamentally address a problem in a way which will shape the future of the country. We've passed a lot of bills in this place in the last year and a half on housing, whether it's the HAFF, the Help to Buy Scheme or all the other things that I've gone through in my remarks. And we've seen, consistently, opposition from the coalition and from the Greens political party. The HAFF was one example, and they finally changed their mind on that.

Every so often, issues of such profound magnitude arise, and it's up to us to address them. It's up to us to make that difference, and this is one of them. This bill is one of them—a moment that defines the future of the people in our nation and actually makes a difference to their lives. This government is taking serious action to do that, to make it easier for Australians to own their very own home. I call on those who are saying that they will oppose this to think again about the people that this will impact and the lives that will be made better because of this legislation.

5:38 pm

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The government are trying to pull the wool over your eyes and crush your hope that they are capable of doing anything real or substantial to tackle the housing crisis. What do we make of a parliament and a government in 2024—with millions of people struggling to pay the rent or struggling to pay their mortgages, giving up on ever being able to buy a home—when the one piece of housing legislation that the government brings to this parliament, the Help to Buy Bill 2023, is going to screw over 99.8 per cent of renters? They're going to set up a sick lottery. If you're a renter watching at home right now and you're thinking, 'Oh, I'd love to be able to buy a home,' guess what? The government's only solution this year is one where you spin a wheel and, 99.8 per cent of the time, you lose. The gall of this government to get up and say that it cares about people suffering at the moment and about people struggling to pay their rent, when 75 per cent of the members of this government own investment properties! It's quite incredible. They are also supporting massive tax handouts for property investors that are denying millions of renters the chance ever to buy a home.

One of the remarkable things we heard from the housing minister, which she said repeatedly, was: 'Our ambitious housing reform agenda is working across the board.' Tell that to the renters right now who are one rent increase away from eviction. Rents, by the way, are increasing at almost double the rate of wages. Tell that to the pensioner who emailed our office and said: 'I just copped two $50-a-week increases, six months apart, and now I'm on $100 a week. That's what I'm trying to survive on now, after rent.' Tell them that the housing agenda is working across the board. Again, the housing minister says, 'Our ambitious housing reform agenda is working across the board.' Tell that to the single mum I doorknocked over the weekend, who has copped another massive rent increase. She said to me, 'I'm skipping meals at the moment because I can't afford the rent and I really want to be able to afford my baby's nappy rash cream.'

This is such a wealthy country, but it's so clear that the government wants to crush people's expectations that it's capable of doing anything other than tinkering around the edges. I'll tell you what those opposite are capable of doing. They are capable of dishing out $39 billion a year in tax handouts for property investors. They are capable of giving tax handouts to property developers to build to rent. I'll tell you about the latest build-to-rent project that the government supports down in Melbourne: one-third of the tenants were evicted by the private property developer, and the apartments were re-advertised with jacked up rents.

Can anyone guess who this government appointed to the head of its National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, the body that's meant to advise the government on dealing with the housing crisis? It's the outgoing CEO of Mirvac, one of the largest property developers in this country. Let's talk about Mirvac for a moment. They also did a build-to-rent project. They advertised it in Sydney with rents that were 20 per cent above market rent.

I'll tell you who the government's solution to the housing crisis is being applauded by. The Property Council—the head of the property developers in Australia—are really happy with the government's response. The banks are really happy with the government's response. The minister says, 'This ambitious housing reform agenda is working across the board.' I bet who it's really working for right now is the Commonwealth Bank, who just reported a record $10 billion profit. It is working for property developers, who get extra handouts from the government. It is working for the 75 per cent of Labor members over there who are property investors, who benefit from the massive tax handouts that property investors get, which are driving up house prices in this country and screwing over millions of people.

Let's be very clear: we just had a Labor member in this place talking about how, post World War II, there was a really big improvement in housing affordability. There were three things happening then that this government could do right now. They have the power to do it, and if they tell you they don't they are lying to you. Firstly, cap and freeze rent increases. Right now, rents are increasing at close to double the rate of wages. The only way to stop that right now and give people relief is by putting a cap and a freeze on rent increases.

Secondly, we could phase out the massive tax handouts for property investors. This is what those tax handouts mean. You go to an auction. You've been saving for years. You've been making sacrifices and giving up meals just to save up enough for a deposit. You go to the auction, and there's a property investor there, with thousands of dollars of tax handouts from this Labor government in their pocket. They bid up the price of the house and you get screwed. I speak to wealthy parents in my electorate who say, 'My kid will never be able to buy a home.'

Finally, if they phased out those tax handouts for property investors, they could spend billions of dollars building public housing. Do you know how many public homes this country could build if we phased out those massive tax handouts? Half a million homes. That would come close to ending the shortfall of public housing in this country. Think about the millions of lives that we could change right now in this place if this government had the guts to stand up to the banks, the property developers and the massive property investors, who are the main beneficiaries of this broken housing system.

Let's talk about this Help to Buy scheme that the government loves to talk about. You'll notice that they say, 'This is a scheme that's going to help people to buy a house.' They conveniently always forget to mention that it will only help 0.2 per cent of renters every year. For the other 99.8 per cent of renters, it will drive up the cost of housing. Don't ask the Greens, though. Here are two different senior economists—two radical lefties, by the way. One is Saul Eslake, former ANZ chief economist and notable radical leftie. Commenting on the New South Wales shared-equity scheme, he said, 'Anything that allows first home buyers to pay more for housing than they otherwise would will result in higher house prices and, as a result, lower homeownership rates.' Another radical lefty, AMP chief economist Shane Oliver, echoed this, arguing that bringing forward demand for housing risks worsening the crisis. The Prime Minister said, 'The New South Wales shared equity scheme is working really well.' Well, last year there were 3,000 places in that shared equity scheme. Can anyone take a guess at how many people took advantage of it? One hundred and seventy-two. That is a 95 per cent fail rate. It's almost comical. It would be comical if it were not for the fact that this government has the power to lift millions of people out of rental and housing stress and is instead lying to people. They get up and they say, 'We're about caring about people being able to afford a home,' but they absolutely know that this scheme will not lift the millions of people who are in desperate need of help right now out of housing and rental stress.

Over the last 10 years, house prices in Australia have doubled. On average, every year after these massive tax handouts for property investors were introduced by John Howard—a John Howard policy, by the way, that now the Labor Party supports; when people say they can't tell the difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party these days, God only knows why—house prices on average have gone up three times faster than wages every single year. Now we have a situation where people are telling us, 'We can't afford the rent,' and the government say, 'We're going to lock in unlimited rent increases.' We have a situation where people are saying, 'I can't afford a home,' and the government are introducing a bill to drive up house prices even faster. People are saying, 'I'm waiting 10 years to get into a public home,' and the government are saying, 'No more money for public housing.' They wonder why people are upset and frustrated.

I think members of this government are missing a beat. I don't think they understand how angry, disappointed and frustrated people are right now. The only asset this government has is that people have low expectations about what politics can achieve. That is why I think the government repeatedly comes out and says: 'No, we can't do that. No, we can't change those tax handouts, even though they were only introduced by Howard just after 2000 with the capital gains tax discount.' They will come out and say, 'No, we can't build any more public housing,' even though housing construction starts right now are at a 10-year low. This is what's remarkable about the government.

The government will say, 'There are not construction materials or workers to build any more public housing,' even though there are a lot of materials and workers sitting idle because they have overseen a housing system that, when they talk about supply, has reached a 10-year low. We could put that construction material and those workers to work building thousands and thousands of new public homes, which could be built, by the way, with money we save from no longer giving massive property investors huge tax handouts. But the government say, 'No, we're not going to be able to do that.' This is despite the fact that, as they know, post World War II was the only time in Australian history where we saw big increases in home ownership, when we capped and froze rents. They also know that they could coordinate that through national cabinet, and yet they refuse. The reasons they refuse are—because, really, when it comes down to it, who does this government act in the interests of?—property investors, the banks and property developers. How do you know that they do that? Don't look at what they say; look at what they do: unlimited rent increases, refusing to build any more public housing, protecting tax handouts for massive property investors and trying to ram a bill through this House, a bill which even conservative economists say will drive up the price of housing. It's genuinely remarkable.

What's really frustrating is one of the lies they try to tell: 'Give us some time'—

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

Order! The Member for Griffith will withdraw that remark.

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

The member has continually made aspersions on the government that are unparliamentary, and he should withdraw.

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. One of the things that the government likes to say that is patently not true is that they really care about tackling this housing crisis. What has become clear as well is that they also like to tell people, 'Give us time.' It's easy for members of the government to say, 'Give us time,' when 75 per cent of them own property investments. It's easy for members of the government to say, 'Give us time,' when, at minimum, they're earning $200,000 a year. How long does the single mum one rent increase away from eviction have to wait? How long does the person who has been waiting 10 years to get into a public home have to wait? How long does the couple, who have been spending years trying to save up for a home only to find that house prices have increased so fast the deposit isn't enough anymore, have to wait? Why is it that in this country, in this parliament, it is always the people doing it tough who have to wait the longest? And why is it that, in this country, property developers, banks and property investors don't even have to wait a day? They don't have to wait a day.

I think people in this country are sick and tired of a political system so stacked in favour of property investors, banks and property developers. They can see it with their own eyes. They can see it in the homes that property developers leave vacant to help drive up the price of housing. They can see it in the fact that the government is dishing out $39 billion a year to property investors while refusing to spend a single extra cent on public housing. They can see it in the fact that their children are giving up on ever being able to buy a home. They can see it in the fact that tents are appearing in parks across this country. They can see it in the fact that record numbers of homeless people are being turned away from homelessness services because they don't have enough money to help people or enough homes to put them in—in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Frankly, the entire political class should be ashamed that we have overseen a system in this country where, at the same time as property investors get billions of dollars in tax handouts, this government claims it doesn't have enough money for public housing, it can't do anything about unlimited rent increases and it's not going to touch massive tax handouts for property investors.

The bottom line is this. There are five million renters in this country, and there are millions more people—like parents of those renters—right now who know that this country is manifestly unfair and stacked against them, and they are getting sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens. Come the next election, I think this government is going to be in for a rude shock when it realises it can no longer keep putting the interests of property developers, property moguls and banks ahead of renters, first home buyers and mortgage holders. I think people are getting pretty sick and tired of it.

If you thought what happened in Brisbane in 2022 was an arbitrary thing, if you thought that, when we won Griffith, Brisbane and Ryan and when we saw massive swings to the Greens, it was just a one-off, wait till you see what happens when you go to an election and you say your platform is unlimited rent increases for renters, no more money for public housing and locking in tax handouts for property investors. When the only bill this parliament has to deal with the housing crisis this year is one that will screw over 99.8 per cent of renters and drive up house prices, let's see what happens at the next election, because I reckon people are going to be pretty fed up.

5:52 pm

Photo of Michelle Ananda-RajahMichelle Ananda-Rajah (Higgins, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I can definitely say that the shrill hysteria of the Greens is not going to fix the housing crisis, but supply will, and that is our sole focus. We are focused on supply because supply has been declining in this country. We have a constrained pool of housing and an increasing number of people who are seeking homeownership, and we just do not have enough homes for those people. So the answer is actually to build, and to reduce and address the barriers to building, more homes across this country—in the regions, in the cities and in our metropolitan areas.

Unlike the Greens political party, we are not here to carve up this country and divide it. We have a mission, and our mission is to address the crisis of homeownership right throughout this nation—a crisis that was born in the decade of neglect under the Liberal Party. They had nine years, nearly a decade, to fix this problem, and what did they do? They simply vacated the space. In fact, the number of dwellings that were built peaked in 2016, and they've been declining ever since. The Liberal Party could have pulled the handbrake. They could have sat down with the state governments and actually worked towards finding a solution, but instead they walked away. They washed their hands of the problem. They pointed to the states and they said, 'It's your problem; you deal with it.'

And when we came to power we found that, in the aftermath of the pandemic, housing occupancy patterns have changed. People are choosing to live in single-occupancy homes and, as a result, we actually need more homes.

There's only one solution to all of this. When you cut through all the noise and the hysteria and the rage—or the faux rage, or whatever it is—and the finger-pointing, the only answer is supply, and that is what the Albanese Labor government is focused on. Indeed, we are pumping in $25 billion over the next 10 years to improve housing in this country. It is the sole focus because we understand housing is foundational. It is foundational to security, and security is foundational to prosperity. You cannot prosper in life, you cannot lay down roots and you cannot grow and thrive unless you have a roof over your head.

Rents, we understand, are increasingly eating up disposable income. Many Australians are looking to buy. In the 12 months to January 2024, rents on apartments increased in Melbourne by 15 per cent, in Armadale by 15 per cent, Prahran by 21 per cent and in South Yarra by 22 per cent.

According to the Grattan Institute's 2022 The great Australian nightmare report, between 1981 and 2021 home ownership rates for 25- to 34-year-olds in the two lowest quintiles by household income, meaning these were lower-income earners, fell from 57 per cent to 28 per cent. Similarly for 45- to 54-year-olds in the same two quintiles, meaning lower-income earners, home ownership rates also declined from 71 per cent to 53 per cent. From the same report, home ownership is also falling amongst poorer, older Australians. Among the poorest 40 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds, just 53 per cent own their homes today, down from 71 per cent four decades ago.

In the past few decades, house prices have skyrocketed. While average full-time earnings have doubled over the past half-century, house prices have quadrupled. Consequently, it takes much longer today to save for a deposit. That's a fact. In the early 1990s it would take the average Australian about seven years to save a 20 per cent deposit for a typical dwelling. Now it takes almost 12 years. We want to make home ownership easier, we want to make it a reality and we have the tools to do so.

The Help to Buy scheme is a plank in the Albanese government's raft of reforms aimed at addressing housing affordability. It directly addresses the time it takes to save for a deposit and the high cost of repayments as a proportion of your income. Help to Buy could make home ownership a reality with as little as a two per cent deposit. As a shared equity scheme, Help to Buy will bring home ownership back into reach for 40,000 Australian households—10,000 per year over the next four years.

The government will support eligible homebuyers with an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent for new homes and 30 per cent for existing homes which are moderately priced. In Higgins that means any home below $850,000. Home owners will need a minimum of a two per cent deposit to participate in the scheme, greatly reducing the burden of scrimping and saving. And you will have lower ongoing mortgage repayments. The financial risks and benefits are shared between the home owner and the Commonwealth.

To be clear, the government will not be a co-owner of the property. Rather, the government will have a second mortgage over the property. This means that home buyers will not have to pay rent or interest to the government. Rather, the government will take its share of the profits when the home is sold. In other words, if the government contributes 30 per cent of the purchase price, it will receive 30 per cent of the sale price when the house is sold. Together, these measures will provide long-term relief.

So who can apply? You have to be an Australian citizen who is at least 18 years of age, yearly income must be $90,000 or less for individuals or $120,000 or less for couples, so we are targeting this towards people on the lower- and middle-income ends of the spectrum. This cap is lower than the Home Guarantee Scheme, as it is designed to support that cohort of people. You must live in the purchased home and you must not currently own any other land or property in Australia or overseas, but it certainly doesn't have to be your first home.

While the required minimum is a two per cent deposit of the home price, the purchaser must be able to finance the remainder of the loan. You also have to prove that you can pay all the associated upfront costs, which are considerable and are barriers to home ownership. They include stamp duty, which is enacted by the states, along with legal fees and bank fees. You will also be responsible for ongoing costs associated with the property such as rates, strata and electricity bills.

Each state's allocation will be available to eligible residents on a first come, first served basis, so you have to apply quickly. You've got to get your ducks in order and get your financing sorted out. Details such as whether participants are able to renovate their homes—they can—and the situation when a home is sold are already in place.

At National Cabinet in August last year all states agreed to progress Help to Buy so that the scheme can run nationally. In other words, the states are ready and waiting. They are ready to press the go button on this, provided that we get support in the parliament. Right now, the Greens have formed yet another unholy alliance with the coalition, blocking this scheme from coming into practice while Australians are living in tent cities, while we have young people desperate for home ownership, who are spinning their wheels renting. This kind of behaviour is actually unconscionable.

Housing ministers from across the country have recommitted to this agreement. This means that the only potential barriers to the passage of the scheme sit on the crossbench and among the Libs. We on this side of the House have rejected the divisive federal-state antics that were the signature of the wasted decade under the Liberals because the scale of the problem is too great.

Help to Buy is one aspect of the Albanese government's comprehensive response to the housing affordability crisis. Ours is a multipronged approach that addresses the huge challenges facing renters in finding accommodation and the high cost of rents, shortages of social housing as well as barriers to homeownership. Our broad housing agenda is squarely focused on supply, and it includes a plethora of measures.

The Housing Australia Future Fund, a $10 billion fund aimed at building 30,000 social and affordable homes, has now been stood up. Note, however, that this was delayed by six months due to, again, another unholy alliance between the Liberals and the Greens. It seems that the two parties of the extremes have merged and are basically now a barrier to homeownership and home supply in this country.

The National Housing Accord commits us, in partnership with the states and industry, including super funds and construction, to build a million homes over five years. We have a new national target to build 1.2 million well-located homes. We've launched the $3 billion New Homes Bonus and the $500 million Housing Support Program There's the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator to deliver around 4,000 new social homes across Australia. This includes a new build of social, affordable and market rentals in Bangs Street, Prahran, in my electorate, which I have visited with Premier Jacinta Allan and our housing minister, Julie Collins. There were fantastic homes—new, warm, comfortable, safe.

An investment of an additional $1 billion in the National Housing Infrastructure Facility has been made to support more homes. Up to $575 million in funding has already been unlocked, and homes are being built with this money. We've increased the maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance by 15 per cent, the largest increase in more than 30 years. I could go on and on because there are another six or seven measures we have included. One, notably, is that we expanded the Home Guarantee Scheme, which has already helped 100,000 people across Australia into homeownership, and we relaxed some of the eligibility criteria around the scheme, allowing parents, relatives or legal guardians to assist with the purchase of homes.

The housing crisis will take time to solve, and building more homes is the only answer to declining affordability and rising rents. Increasing supply means more construction workers, materials, industry expertise and cutting red tape. Rather than vilifying property developers, we recognise that property developers are absolutely needed to address this crisis, because this is of a scale that governments cannot spend their way through. Twenty-five billion dollars is a lot of money, but we do need the private sector in order to build those apartments as quickly as possible, and we do need the states to step up and cut the red tape so that we can get these homes built fast.

Workforce is a pressing issue, and that's where our free TAFE courses for urgent skills, like construction, kick in. I need young people who may be looking for career options to check out the offerings at TAFE. We are fortunate to have Holmesglen TAFE on our doorstep, a fantastic place of learning linked to career pathways in well-paid, secure jobs.

By directly addressing the problems of saving for a deposit and the cost of repayments, the Help to Buy scheme will be life-changing for thousands of Australians who have been locked out of the security and stability of homeownership. We are in a housing emergency, and I know one thing about managing emergencies: you don't just do one thing; you do everything. You come at the problem from multiple directions to rescue the patient. Right now we are in a housing crisis, and our multipronged strategy, which is broad based and comes at this problem from every angle, addressing skills, supply chain, red tape and capital, is the way to solve the problem, not by carving up Australia and dividing it and pitting one generation against the other. I commend this bill to the House.

6:04 pm

Photo of Andrew WillcoxAndrew Willcox (Dawson, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. You know, the word 'help' is interesting. When I got into federal politics, I was determined to make a difference. I wanted to stand up for the people of Dawson. I wanted to do my best for Australia, because I believe Australia is the best country in the world, and I just want to be able to make it that little bit better. That's what I'm here to do. But, for close to two years now, I've been watching the Albanese Labor government fail to do anything to help the hardworking Australians. In fact, what I've seen instead is that those opposite prefer to make it look like they're doing something. However, they're doing very little.

Take this Help to Buy Bill, for example. This piece of legislation was a key election policy put forward by the Albanese Labor government back in 2022. The Albanese Labor government promised to deliver this Help to Buy scheme by 1 January 2023. But, like we've seen, this is just another broken promise in a long list of broken promises. That includes, remember, the promised $275 reduction in our power bills. What's happened with power? It's gone up over 20 per cent. But this wasn't a slip of the tongue. This promise was repeated 97 times. We've seen increased taxes. We've seen higher interest rates. Interest rates have gone up 12 times under the watch of those opposite. We've seen rent increases. What else have we seen? We've seen infrastructure cuts—cuts to dam funding, roads and just about anything. I don't know what those opposite have got against rural and regional Australia, but their policies certainly do nothing for us.

Blind Freddy can see the promises made by the Albanese Labor government are worthless. The Prime Minister said, 'My word is my bond.' What a crock. It's now the end of February 2024, and this piece of unhelpful legislation has only just made its way to the House. It is clearly a long way from being delivered. What has the housing minister been doing? You could forgive the Australian people for asking what the Labor government and the housing minister have been doing. The fact is that this bill is only just arriving in the House over a year after it should have commenced. That's appalling.

What have the Prime Minister and his government been doing? We can thank them for the Labor-created cost-of-living crisis. Tick! We can thank them for spending billions of dollars on a failed referendum during a cost-of-living crisis. Tick! We can thank them for the national housing crisis that's leaving so many Aussies displaced with nowhere to go, forcing them to sleep in tents, in their cars or even on the street. Tick! We can also thank them for failing to explain to the Australian public that this key election promise and piece of legislation requires state government approval to operate. This means that the Albanese Labor government has made yet another promise it can't necessarily keep. We can also thank those opposite for copying and pasting a scheme that already exists at state level and that is so unwanted by Australians that there are many places remaining in the state based schemes. For the piece de resistance, in true Labor government style, they have released a piece of proposed legislation so void of detail that everyone is left scratching their heads, with more questions than we've received answers.

Here's what we do know. Right now, we have housing approvals and builds at record lows. Rents are skyrocketing. Vacancy rates are nosediving. House prices are at an all-time high, and the stock that is available is being snapped up before the house even hits the market. A year after the scheme should have started, we get this pitiful offering. It's embarrassing. It's nothing more than a box-ticking exercise so the Albanese Labor government can seen to be doing something, when really those opposite are doing nothing at all. The Help to Buy scheme is an incredibly limited and niche shared-equity product with only 40,000 places available. The details on how many of these places will be available in each state and territory are yet to be shared by the Labor government. The Help to Buy scheme would also mean that the Australian government would own up to 40 per cent of your family home, which is probably why these places are still available in each of the state based schemes.

I know that in my electorate of Dawson people think of their home as their castle. It's where you spend your time. It's where you make your happiest moments. It's where you raise your children and watch them grow into adults. The purchase of your first home and the all-consuming feeling of pride that you get from standing in front of the 'Sold' sign and having your picture taken is a memory and a feeling that no-one ever forgets. I don't know a single person who wants the Australian government standing in that picture with them. I don't know anyone who wants to skip hand in hand with the Australian government down the path to the first front door that they have ever owned. I don't know of anyone. This policy beggars belief. Why would hardworking Aussies want the Australian government owning 40 per cent of something they have worked so hard for? I asked this question of a hardworking tradie last night, and the answer I got in return requires a language warning. I abide by the rules of the House, so I won't repeat it.

The majority of Australians are just like this tradie. They don't want the Australian government having any part in owning their home. They don't want Prime Minister Albanese or Minister Julie Collins sitting around their kitchen table with them. They don't want those opposite sitting in their lounge room, watching TV with them after a long day, or helping them to get their kids ready for school in the morning. They don't want them hanging around during the reading of the will, with their bank details ready, waiting for their cut in the family home. The people of Australia don't want their children's inheritance to go to the Australian government. They want to know that their children and their children's children are going to be looked after. It can't be any simpler than that. They don't want the government there.

After waiting for so long for the details of this bill, that's about all we know. For anyone interested in applying for the Help to Buy scheme, the very first question they would ask is, 'Am I eligible?' I could confidently say, 'I can't answer that question.' At this point, we shouldn't be left with wishy-washy details on what the eligibility criteria are. Those opposite need to give us the detail.

Everyone remembers the purchase of their first home. Everyone remembers the feeling of starting their first round of home renovations. It is probably the best—

Hon. Members:

Honourable members interjecting

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

Order! The member will be heard in silence.

Photo of Andrew WillcoxAndrew Willcox (Dawson, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is probably the best feeling in the world at the time, and, boy, is it exciting. Maybe they've have bought their dream home, but the garden wasn't up to standard. It doesn't even matter, because the excitement of starting that first landscaping project overrules everything. Amongst the excitement, though, this bill leaves the people of Australia with more questions than answers, such as: What do they do now if they only own 60 per cent of their home? Would they have to get approval to complete major works on their own property? Can they send the invoice of 40 per cent of the costs to the Prime Minister—who has now joined us? What about the landscaping? If you buy a house and you start to do some landscaping on it, are those costs going to be added? Do they have to be reimbursed? What about maintenance? What about the effort that you put in, if you plant trees, if you work on your whole property? Is that going to be part of this? What about natural disasters?

Government members interjecting

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

Would members of the government please keep it down.

Photo of Andrew WillcoxAndrew Willcox (Dawson, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What happens in the north when cyclones come through? This scheme is targeted towards low- and middle-income earners. I know a few families living on low and middle incomes who wouldn't be able to afford the cost of repairs following a cyclone. With the cost of insurance for northern Australia at the moment, they would have to be extremely fortunate to even have insurance, let alone receive a payout for repairs. Let's say that, by some miracle, they can pass the cost on to the Prime Minister. The people of Australia could be left waiting over a year for the repair bills to be paid, just like they've waited over a year for this bill.

It's disappointing that this bill is only being debated now, over a year after those opposite had promised it would have been implemented and started. There is so much detail that should be confidently given in answer to these questions so I can go back to the people of Dawson. Instead, we get the copied and pasted answer we've heard from this government the whole way along. 'It will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.' That's reassuring, eh?

Let's look at the coalition record. The coalition brought in the Home Guarantee Scheme, which is now supporting one in three homebuyers. The Housing Guarantee Scheme consists of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee. The coalition also brought in the First Home Super Saver Scheme and the homebuilder grant during the COVID pandemic and established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation. All of these were designed and developed to empower every single person in Australia to be able to buy their first home with their own money, the money that they have worked hard for.

A coalition government does not want a stake in your family home. A coalition government wants to empower the people of Australia to be able to purchase their own home with their own money. A coalition government wants every Australian to have the means to feel that sense of pride, that sense of accomplishment, that excitement when they step into their first home. A coalition government does not kick people out of their home if they earn over a wage cap. A coalition government doesn't sit there, waiting for 40 per cent of your profits after years of appreciation on the property after you sell it. A coalition government doesn't inflate prices by more than the subsidy values in areas where they are most needed, like we found in the UK when they introduced a scheme similar to the Help to Buy Bill. A coalition government empowers the people of Australia to enter the housing market knowing that they own their own house and the government cannot take it away from them. A coalition government empowers the people of Australia to invest in themselves. The Albanese Labor government is becoming the dodgiest property investor that Australia has ever seen.

This Help to Buy scheme is late. It's another broken promise. It lacks detail. You must have known after the referendum that Australians want detail. They want the detail on their policies so they can make an informed decision. We've got the Prime Minister here. Please, the best thing you can do, Prime Minister, is get rid of this legislation.

6:18 pm

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

What a sad contribution from the member opposite. Here they are, opposing something that was a clear commitment that we made at the election—a clear commitment announced at our campaign launch and a key part of what is a comprehensive housing agenda that we have, building more homes through our National Housing Accord Facility; working with states and territories to speed up approvals and boost supply, which is they key; investing in public housing, something those opposite will never do; new construction and renovation; strengthening renters' rights; and the Help to Buy plan, of course, an important component about helping families buy a home of their own, about investing in the dreams of Australian families, which have been so important as part of the Australian story. They are people who have worked hard, saved up and made sacrifices but need a little extra help getting a deposit together and getting the start that they need. This is consistent with our approach. We want people to earn more, and that's why we've seen real wages lift in 2023—much earlier than Treasury said that they would. That's why we want people to keep more of what they earn. Our tax cuts, aimed squarely as low- and middle-income workers, will do that as well.

Help to Buy is a pretty simple scheme. It's one that, for the member opposite to be informed, operates effectively not just in places like Western Australia but, indeed, in other markets around the world. What it will mean is that our government steps up and takes a share of the equity. It opens the door to homeownership to tens of thousands of hardworking people.

The member asked for detail. Here it is. Under this legislation, if you've saved two per cent of your deposit—he doesn't want to stay and listen—the government will contribute up to 40 per cent of the purchase price for a new home, thereby encouraging construction, or 30 per cent for an existing home. It's a pretty simple proposal. Then, down the track, the purchaser can buy back, off the government, full ownership of their home.

It is a pretty simple system that works very effectively, but what it does, obviously, is reduce the amount that people need for a deposit and then reduce the amount of their payments. So, if a home is worth half a million dollars, and 40 per cent of that, $200,000, is equity from the government, then you're paying off a loan based upon $300,000 of borrowing, rather than the $500,000. I know that shouldn't be too hard for those opposite to work out, but they actually don't want government to pay a role in public housing. They don't want government to play a role in homeownership either.

We've heard a lot of talk from the Liberals in recent weeks about aspiration. We know, from the tax debate, that their idea of aspiration is just people at the top end. Their idea is that people who are working, low- and middle-income earners, aren't aspirational; they should just know their place in life and just stay there. That's not our approach. Our approach is to open up those doors of opportunity, and that's what this is about. But here, of course, we have a new 'no-alition' between the Liberals and the Greens political party. It's extraordinary.

Owning a home is about a sense of security, confidence, stability and belonging—a foundation on which you can build a better future for yourself and your family. And every member from the Labor Party of this House is proud to vote for this legislation. It's another positive step in our plan to increase homeownership.

This is what people have said, though, about this. The Leader of the Opposition, of course, has said that it's 'not liberating, it's modern collectivism'. This is another example of the creeping collectivism going across policies. But this is what David Crisafulli, the Queensland LNP leader, said in November 2020:

We will prioritise building an incentive framework to support home ownership, examining areas including first home-owner grant and shared responsibility schemes.

Jeremy Rockliff, the Liberal Premier, spoke about his successful MyHome shared-equity program, which helps Tasmanians build or purchase a property. Dominic Perrottet, the former New South Wales Liberal Premier, said:

Key workers, single parents and older singles will be able to have the security of homeownership … on the Government's equity share in a property.

Right across the board. Matt Kean, the former New South Wales Liberal Treasurer, said this shared-equity scheme 'will help those facing significant barriers to homeownership buy their own place sooner'.

The former South Australian Liberal Treasurer, Rob Lucas, said, 'We announced HomeStart shared-equity starter loans, and we expanded on that again.' Right across the board. Mia Davies, the former Leader of the Opposition over in WA, said this: 'I would also point out that, in 2010, it was a Liberal-National government leading the way nationally with shared equity.' Right across the board.

What did the Liberals say about their policy of raiding super? Malcolm Turnbull, on 12 March 2015, said it was:

… a thoroughly bad idea … That is not what the superannuation system is designed to achieve.

The current Leader of the Opposition, Mr Dutton, said on 13 April 2017: 'I think Malcolm Turnbull has got it right.' Those are words that he didn't often say! He said, 'It's not good policy and I agree with him. Then Sussan Ley, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in 2017 said:

Young people need their super for retirement, not to try to take pressure off an urban housing bubble …

Michael Sukkar, the member for Deakin, the current Liberal spokesperson, in 2017 said:

If all a government does is try to pump further liquidity into the residential housing market, inevitably all you do is push up housing prices.

Mathias Cormann, in 2014, when he was the finance minister of the Liberal Party, said:

Increasing the amount of money going into real estate by facilitating access to super savings pre-retirement will not improve housing affordability.

The truth is that they are all over the shop. They don't even historically support any of the things that they are putting forward now.

But it's not just the Liberals. If it were just the Liberals without their 'noalition' partner the Greens, it could go through the Senate. There's been a lot of talk about policy. Here's what the Greens took to the last election and what they have a mandate for. This is from their 2022 election platform:

In a property market rigged for investors, buying a home has become out of reach for an entire generation. This is why the Greens will establish a Shared Equity Ownership Scheme …

Newsflash for the Greens: they are not in a position to establish anything because they are not the government. All they're in a position to do is to vote for this government's proposal which is completely in accord with their policy. But their housing spokesperson, the member for Griffith, went on Insiders a couple of weeks ago and said: 'We have enough homes for people to live in.' So the problem's solved! Don't worry about supply. It's just absolutely extraordinary. When it comes to the proposal, one of the things that the member for Griffith has said in changing his rhetoric is:

You shouldn't have to win a lottery to have a secure home.

That was in saying this doesn't apply to enough people. But his own website says: 'An example of the Greens' vision for housing in Brisbane is 2,000 homes available to any Brisbane resident and assigned by lottery.' I kid you not.

That is beaten by the Leader of the Greens. They're opposing our investment in public housing. They opposed the Housing Australia Future Fund for so long. On public housing, when we announced the first Social Housing Accelerator program with former premier Daniel Andrews in Carlton, replacing 196 derelict, vacant public housing units with 231 new ones, the $2 billion that we announced in June, the Victorian Greens opposed the plan. They called it the end of public housing in the state. So building more public housing in the state of Victoria was a bad thing, according to them. The member for Melbourne told the House:

North Melbourne's and Carlton's towers will be the first to go. People will be kicked out of their homes within the next few years. It is wrong to destroy these vibrant and diverse communities. The people there have a right to a home—a public home.

That sounds okay except that there is no-one there because they're derelict. There are currently no residents in the Carlton towers because they're unlivable because they were built decades ago. What we're doing with our $2 billion is upgrading them into more homes for public housing, with newer residents—many of whom who have had to move out over a period of time because the towers are derelict, just like many of the old towers in Waterloo in Sydney are no longer fit for purpose. This is housing built 50 years ago that is simply not up to scratch. We in the Labor Party believe that people who live in public housing should live in quality public housing, and that is what our $2 billion is about. The Greens, instead, called for the derelict, vacant apartments to just be refurbished, an idea that the CEO of Homes Victoria dismissed as 'putting lipstick on a pig'.

The member for Brisbane, who of course will speak at some stage here as well, is also opposing a build-to-rent project in his electorate that would create 349 apartments. The site is currently a vacant lot. It is 200 metres from a major train station and walking distance from the Brisbane CBD. But, in his letter opposing the development, the member claims:

Brisbane residents are fed up with developers claiming they are addressing the housing crisis by 'increasing supply' …

I'm not sure how he thinks houses, units and apartments are built, but I'll give him a big tip: they require builders and they require investment. Build-to-rent projects are pretty sensible.

The member for Ryan, not to be outdone, is campaigning against a plan to subdivide a chicken farm into 91 new homes. The developer is the Uniting Church. In her letter to Brisbane City Council, claiming that the Uniting Church was not responding to community concerns, it said, 'It would diminish the natural character of the site.' It's a chook farm!

Between the Liberals, with their failure to support aspiration, and the Greens, with their failure to support anything at all—even their own policy in the platform—we have this 'no-alition' that will ensure that the coalition between the Liberals and the Greens, when it comes to opposing anything on housing, is an unholy one. It's one designed to just keep people in their place and not do anything to improve their circumstances. We on this side of the House support increasing housing supply as the key. Part of that is support for our build-to-rent tax incentives for the private sector. Part of that is our direct investment in public housing. Part of that as well is our incentive, particularly with a stronger incentive for new homes to be built, under Help to Buy. This is good policy. It should be going through this parliament. It is extraordinary that this coalition is combining to oppose it. But they'll be held to account for their opposition.

6:33 pm

Photo of Stephen BatesStephen Bates (Brisbane, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the Help to Buy Bill 2023. This scheme is like throwing a bucket of water onto a house fire. This scheme acts like a lottery, with availability for just 0.2 per cent of those eligible. It should go without saying that Australians shouldn't have to win the lottery in order to have a secure home. What's more, this scheme adds to demand, not to supply. It's actually going to push up house prices even further for the other 99.8 per cent of us. This Labor government acknowledges that we're in the middle of a housing and rental crisis, and we are, but it responds with this. It's a smoke and mirrors policy to make it sound like something substantial is being done when, in practical reality, it's a drop in the ocean.

The median house price in greater Brisbane is fast approaching $1 million, and it's already well over that in my own electorate. We're at even greater risk of unaffordable housing worsening due to the upcoming 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which have been shown to increase housing costs in host cities around the world. There are people lined up around the block for rental inspections with plenty of Australians now only one rental increase, one mortgage rate increase or one insurance rise away from homelessness. So where is the sense of urgency?

It was just under two weeks ago that the housing minister walked around my question on negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions to instead speak about increasing supply as the golden ticket out of this housing crisis. Well, Minister, where is this increased supply? Recent ABS data shows that new housing commencements have hit a decade low and are predicted to keep dropping even further. In fact, Labor's own Housing Accord looks like it will fail to meet its own targets.

The bottom line here is that Labor cannot keep expecting private property developers and banks to fix the housing crisis. The role of a private company is to make profit. Dramatically increasing supply to the extent that we actually need will reduce the profit margins of these companies. They're not going to do something that will reduce their profits. Property developers are not going to build enough houses to stabilise house prices, because they make more money the way things are.

This Help to Buy scheme allows people to purchase existing homes. It's what's called a demand-side housing support. This type of assistance adds demand; not supply. Economists and the Productivity Commission alike agree that this type of assistance has the effect of pushing up house prices and, as a result, lowers homeownership overall. What's worse is that, even if the government wanted to increase the scheme beyond the measly 10,000 households it has at the moment, it would only worsen these inflationary impacts.

It's called Help to Buy, but how will it actually help? There are over 4½ million renters in Australia who may be eligible for Labor's Help to Buy scheme, yet the scheme would only be available to 10,000 households a year. That means it would end up being available, as I said, to 0.2 per cent of those people while leaving behind the other 99.8 per cent. It goes without saying that this does not address the enormity of the housing crisis we are facing in this country.

This bill gives no details on eligibility outside of income thresholds. Who of the 0.2 per cent are eligible? Who will be prioritised? Will certain regions be prioritised over others? Are there selection criteria? None of these questions are actually answered or addressed in this bill.

In terms of current supply, what we're seeing in the market over and over again is property investors buying existing homes that could have been purchased by a renter as their first home, driving up the cost of housing and locking millions out of basic housing security. This cannot keep going unchecked. We saw during the GFC, in very recent memory, what happens when the housing market collapses as prices soar and the market destabilises. Change must happen. We cannot just wait for this bubble to pop and hope for the best. This is going to require a multifaceted approach beyond just increasing supply.

The Greens are proposing to phase out the grossly unfair tax concessions, like negative gearing and capital gains taxes, for the government to directly invest that money into building affordable housing. Recent Parliamentary Budget Office modelling shows that, in total, property tax deductions and the capital gains tax discount for investment properties will cost the federal budget $38.9 billion in forgone revenue in this financial year. The latest Tax expendituresand insightsstatement outlines that the majority of the benefit of these tax handouts goes to the highest incomes. In fact, the top 30 per cent of income earners get 65 per cent of the benefits.

It wasn't that long ago that we built tens of thousands of new public homes in this country, but now it's next to nothing. We're propping up property investors at the expense of people being able to call a home their own. This injustice is glaringly obvious, but, because Labor and the coalition are so beholden to their donors—to the banks and to property developers—we're led to believe that the status quo must be maintained and that we have no other option. The reality is that negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount mean that it is often easier for a property investor to buy their second, third, fourth or fifth home than it is for someone to buy their first. This is just incredibly, deeply unfair. How can these major party ghouls look in the face of young Australians, knowing that they are costing them their future of owning their own home? Without the ability for young people to own the roof over their head, how are the major parties expecting them to have any faith in our political or economic system?

The Greens went to the 2022 federal election with a policy of phasing out negative gearing and mortgage interest deductibility for landlords with more than one investment property over the next five years, along with scrapping the 50 per cent capital gains tax discount, to be replaced with indexation of the asset cost. We could save billions by doing this and use these funds to mass build good-quality public homes in the same way that governments used to do in the 20th century. This is a commonsense remedy to get back to where we need to be. Just imagine: instead of billions of dollars going to property investors each year, we actually use the money to build houses. But we shouldn't have to imagine; we should have a government that actually does that.

This Help to Buy proposal is the last of Labor's announced housing policies to enter this chamber. Is this really Labor's final effort to deal with the housing crisis before the next federal election? The Greens want people to be able to afford a home and be able to pay their rent. The reality is that more people are being locked out of homeownership than this scheme could ever remotely hope to address. More people are experiencing rental and mortgage stress and more people are being forced into homelessness. That's why the Greens are fighting for an end to unfair tax concessions for property investors and for a massive build of public housing. This is how we tackle the crisis, with the courage that the Australian people actually deserve.

Labor's public refusal to negotiate on their housing lottery bill will be short lived. They cannot go to a federal election telling people that they did everything they could for housing when almost everyone feels worse off than they did three years ago. The Greens were able to secure $3 billion for public and community housing during our negotiations with the government on their previous housing bill, and I am hopeful that Labor will come to the table on this bill as well.

Our communities are not asking for the world. They are asking for shelter—for the most basic of human rights—and for the government to have their back. Right now, there are millions of renters struggling to keep their heads above water. House prices are soaring. Mortgage rates are soaring. During times of crisis is when we expect our governments to step up, not tinker around with bandaid solutions that really do nothing and expect everyone to thank them for it. Australians deserve and need more than a housing lottery bill where 99.8 per cent of renters get nothing.

6:42 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Access to safe and secure housing is one of the most basic human rights according to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Alas, it's a right from which too many Australians are currently priced out. Over the decade to 2023, median house prices in Sydney rose from $615,000 to around $1.2 million. Housing stress is on the rise all around our country, and some 10 per cent of Australian households spent up to half their wages on housing in 2019, and that share keeps increasing. What those statistics hide is that it is mainly low- and middle-income households bearing the brunt of the housing crisis and being locked out of the market. New research by YouGov suggests that nine in 10 young Australians will never own their own home—the great Australian dream deferred, maybe for life.

This national trend has also hit the Northern Territory hard. In 2023, the median house price increased by 7.3 per cent in Darwin. As of December 2022, the NT had the equal second highest average rental price for a three-bedroom house. Darwin was the third most expensive capital to rent in Australia. Rental prices are now approaching the records set in Darwin in the 2010s. The Darwin Community Legal Service's head of tenants' advice, Matthew Gardiner, has been contacted by renters facing increases of more than $100 a week. He told the ABC that people 'basically are looking at moving interstate because there's nothing left here and they can't continue to stay here if there's nowhere to stay'. He says, 'It's really desperate times.' One of those people is local gardener Danielle Buxton, who rents in the Darwin suburb of Fannie Bay. She says:

We live week-to-week, day-to-day, really …

…   …   …

I don't want to have to move out to ... somewhere cheaper and then disconnect myself from the community and the support network that I do have here …

…   …   …

But it's going to get to the point eventually where I probably will have to do something like that—or—


move home to Melbourne.

Renting, let alone homeownership, has become extraordinarily difficult for far too many Territorians. While governments can't control market behaviour, they have an important role to play in improving housing affordability and availability.

The Help to Buy scheme is just one of the ways that our government, the Albanese government, will help tens of thousands of low- and middle-income earners be able to afford to buy a home. Under a shared equity scheme like this, the homebuyer shares the capital cost of purchasing a home with an equity partner, sharing the financial risks and benefits of that investment. This scheme will support up to 40,000 eligible Australians to purchase a home by providing an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent of the purchase price for new homes and up to 30 per cent for existing homes. It will be open to applications for four years, with 10,000 places available per year. The Help to Buy Bill 2023 gives Housing Australia the power to enter into these shared equity arrangements. The scheme will give those on low and middle incomes an opportunity to buy a home with at least a two per cent deposit. This will allow them to access homeownership, which is linked to short-, medium- and long-term economic security, as all members understand. The scheme will help participants overcome both the hurdle of saving for a deposit and that of servicing a mortgage. We all know that these are some of the key barriers to homeownership.

Help to Buy is designed to improve housing outcomes for Australians by reducing the upfront deposit hurdle and the ongoing mortgage repayments associated with purchasing a home. The scheme is intended to support Australians who otherwise would not be able to purchase a home. The government understands that safe and affordable housing is central to the security and, indeed, the dignity of all Australians and that many Australians are finding it hard to find an affordable place to buy. Not only have we got the difficulty of high rents and the barriers to buying but also it is often difficult to find an affordable place to buy. That's why the government has committed to an ambitious housing reform agenda, which includes establishing this Help to Buy scheme, to help more Australians into their own homes. As I said, this is just one pillar of our efforts. It is an important one though.

With the Commonwealth providing an equity contribution, scheme participants will have lower ongoing repayments from a smaller home loan. The financial risk and benefit—that is, the capital gains and losses—will be shared between the participant and the Commonwealth, proportionate to their interests. So the taxpayer also gets some capital gains, as they should, for their investment. States will be required to pass legislation for the scheme to operate in their jurisdictions. But territories, like the NT, do not need to pass legislation. Places will be allocated between participating states and territories on a per capita basis. Each state's allocation will be available to eligible residents on a 'first come, first served' basis. I know many in my electorate are keen to go.

Help to Buy aims to support Australians to achieve homeownership by enabling them to purchase moderately priced homes, with a price cap varying in each state. In the Northern Territory, the price of an eligible house will be capped at $600,000. You can build a good house for that. You can also buy a great existing property for that.

The Help to Buy scheme is one element of the government's commitment to improving housing affordability. Our plan includes the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, the $3 billion Social Housing Accelerator payment and the largest increase to Commonwealth rental assistance in 30 years. In the Northern Territory, we also have a commitment to more housing for the homelands in remote areas of the Territory, which is important.

The Albanese government has also helped more than 86,000 people across Australia into home ownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme, including 13,000 through the new Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee. So I reject the idea that there is any trade-off between Help to Buy, a very innovative policy to help alleviate the housing crisis for thousands of Australians, and assistance to renters. Housing experts have signalled that short-term measures like rent caps and freezes do not work and that they would have perverse outcomes, including a reduction in the number of properties available for rent. Help to Buy is aimed at supporting Australians, including renters, to purchase a home. We also continue to work with state and territorial local governments to deliver better housing options and outcomes, including for renters.

At the national cabinet in August last year, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments committed to a better deal for renters to harmonise and strengthen renters' rights across Australia. It was needed, and we did that. This included developing a framework for genuine reasonable grounds for eviction, moving towards limiting rental increases to once a year and phasing in minimum rental standards. These changes will have a real and tangible impact on the almost one-third of Australian households who rent. The government has delivered the largest increase to Commonwealth rent assistance in more than 30 years, as I mentioned, and that will assist low-income renters.

National cabinet agreed in August of last year to an ambitious new target to deliver 1.2 million new well-located homes over five years from 1 July this year. The Commonwealth is also providing $3 billion for the new homes bonus, a performance based payment to incentivise taken territories to undertake the reforms needed to help achieve this target.

We are tackling the housing crisis on multiple fronts. The government understands that affordable housing is critical to economic wellbeing and is committed to supporting more Australians to access housing, which is why we took the Help to Buy Scheme to the election in 2022. I know that many in my electorate, like those around the country, are very much looking forward to this becoming the law of the land. I'm very much looking forward to seeing that occur. Honourable members will understand through these measures that we are taking real action to help with the housing crisis in Australia and we will do more in the future.

6:52 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023. This bill was announced with much fanfare. I note that the Prime Minister was actually here in the chamber to talk to this bill, so it does signify the importance of this to the government. But this is the latest iteration of many policy announcements to address the housing crisis, both the availability of housing and the affordability of housing.

Unfortunately, it will be another lame duck scheme that will attract very little interest. Why do I say that? I'm not trying to be pessimistic; I'm just trying to be realistic. There are multiple shared equity schemes already that the states run, quite appropriately, because under the Constitution the states have the head of powers and the responsibility for public housing and for housing regulation. New South Wales has 6,000 places on its scheme, with 30 per cent equity being offered for existing homes and 40 per cent for new homes. Victoria has a scheme as well, only it has 13,000 places. South Australia's HomeStart shared equity scheme is smaller but it is out there. Western Australia has a shared ownership scheme via their home loan lender called Keystart, and Tasmania has the MyHome shared equity scheme. What do they all have in common? They have in common very poor take-up by people who are meant to benefit from them, and the reason is people have done the sums. It's a bad deal, even with the initial concept of not having to pay interest on large amounts of capital. Who would feel comfortable with that? A family's home is their castle, but they wouldn't own it all! They're going to end up with as little as 60, 70 or 75 per cent equity, depending on what scheme and which state they're in.

The deal is that you pay 100 per cent of the transaction cost, the stamp duty and all the legal fees, but the government owns a sizeable chunk of it. Under the rules of the scheme, you also only get your portion of the capital gain and the government gets proportionally more because they don't share any of the stamp duty or legals. And it traps buyers with an income ceiling to remain eligible. If they earn more than $90,000 per year as a single person, or $120,000 as a couple, for two years in a row, all of a sudden they get 'please explain' letters and have to pay back some of it. And if you really get a wage rise, or your business takes off and you're doing well, you might have to pay up in full. So a lot of people who thought they were going to be in a stable situation with a long time to pay off their equity, paying increments slowly, could be short-changed. It's also a bit of a worry because a lot of people are going into a scheme when they don't really have enough capital behind them. If you're paying your own insurance for your loan, which is another thing that's insisted upon, that could cost you up to $30,000 over the duration of the loan.

For those of you don't understand it, a shared-equity scheme means that the government puts up some of the capital and has a covenant over a portion of your property. The reason that the states run it, as I mentioned, is because it's their constitutional duty to be involved in this. Community housing has become a bit of a hybrid situation, where philanthropic groups that build houses to rent have taken over from classic housing commission as the predominant community 'not owned, but rented space'. We have existing large schemes to give that section of the building industry low-interest loans. This government is continuing that great initiative, the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, which offered billions of dollars and developed and delivered thousands of cheaper homes for rent. And once you're in the community housing space, Commonwealth Rent Assistance kicks in from the federal government.

The other problem with this scheme is that it's not going to affect affordability favourably. In fact, it may increase the price of homes. As we know, there's a short supply issue, and this initiative is not addressing the shortage in supply. It will not curtail demand, it will probably increase demand—although the reluctance of buyers will limit that. As I mentioned, in our federal Constitution there is no mention of housing. That's why we also need to seek approval from the states for this system to go ahead. The state treasurers must be licking their lips and rubbing their hands together, thinking: 'Here we go! We can now cost shift some of our responsibilities over to the Commonwealth,' as they have done successfully in public education and public hospitals over the last 15 or 20 years. They used to be responsible and run it all, but now the Commonwealth is treasurer for many of the state responsibilities. That's a major problem for our Federation, because we have different responsibilities; we have welfare payments, the NDIS, Defence and all these other things, and the federal budget can't be expected to pay for six states and two territories as well. But, hey presto! Where we've ended up is that we're responsible for half of this.

Having the federal government trying to fix housing shortages is a bit of a moot point.

There were initiatives when former prime minister Morrison was the Treasurer and responsible for housing. He released some federal land in Sydney, Melbourne and, I think, Brisbane—I'd need to check the records. That is a great initiative because that's half the problem. The states need to release more land. Local councils need to rezone more land for housing. The federal government effect is accepted, and people take it, but it's not going to fix the fundamental problem, which is mainly in the domain of humble local councils and state governments. That's where I think we should be focusing to get these costs down.

As I mentioned, in a country town like the many I have, the rate-limiting step to getting housing developed is getting development applications approved by the council. It might take a year or more, let alone getting a construction certificate and getting new areas rezoned. It's laboriously slow. Builders in my region are tearing their hair out. There is money for affordable housing through community housing approval, and there are private landowners that would develop that in a flash for those community and affordable housing providers, but, again—hey, presto—it's not held up because of anything the federal government's doing or anything the state government's doing; it's the local council. That is what is really frustrating people around Australia. There is overregulation of simple development. Also, local councils are pretty much refusing to do any of the major headworks even though they end up getting an income stream of rates for generations to follow. They put it all onto developers.

Depending on which state you're in—in New South Wales, for instance—with a new area set aside for developing housing, often the land developer has to buy the same amount of land to offset clearing for housing, so poor land buyers or first home owners are paying for two blocks of property. The one that's offset is a cost on their property. The developer has to do the NBN development and telecommunications in the block, obviously, but, if there is major sewerage work or new water supplies, councils are now adding those responsibilities, which are in the DNA of local government to do.

We have all these other things barrelling down at the construction industry such as same-job same-pay and closing-loopholes bills, which are going to put many self-employed, subcontracting tradesmen in the situation of being looped into being an employee, which they are not happy about. They certainly don't want to be paying $17,000 more for their next ute or their light commercial vehicles, which is coming barrelling out of this Labor government. The states and councils really need to get their act together.

The other issue is that state governments and councils are allowing in our metropolitan areas this unstoppable urban sprawl, which is not good use of land. It's not good economics. I know a house-and-land package is everyone's dream, but, with the costs and the lack of infrastructure, we really need to do more urban consolidation. We need to re-assess the heights of domestic buildings. There are plenty of cities the size of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that have houses quite regularly three storeys high. You might have several families in them. The quarter-acre block is a gone thing unless you're really moving out into the regions.

In the vein of consolidating valuable urban land, I suggest that the useless bits of land, maybe the size of these desks here in parliament, between each house to make them separated buildings, would be better used by making semi-detached buildings, taking that dead space between each house and putting it into footpaths or big urban squares over the whole development. Semidetached houses were a really effective use of land when they were built at the turn of the century. Many smart builders are looking at this, but we should be insisting on it.

The other thing we can be doing is hiding in plain sight. Regional Australia is crying out for more people to come and grow the regions. You can have an affordable house-and-land package. We need companies that pay above award, with high costs to get good workers moving to regional Australia, but we need state and local governments to allow for more water storage, land rezoning and land release and also to make sure that there are things set aside for services when they develop these lands. Those are things like community shops, petrol stations or a connection for bus routes or trains. One of the things that we were great at doing in the last two governments was getting up schemes like the First Home Super Saver Scheme, where you could put a maximum of $50,000 of your superannuation—not more than half your superannuation—into your first home deposit. There were 300,000 people on the first home loan insurance guarantee. Single mums, single parents and women who were going for their first home benefited from all those coalition policies. Some of them continue under a new name, with a bit more capital thrown in. But that's what we should be doing rather than this well-intentioned but half-baked and muddle-headed thinking about shared equity.

The states have shown it doesn't work. We need to fix the fundamentals, increase the supply of housing, make it easier to develop at the state and local government levels and insist on this from states at the equivalent of COAG meetings. Then we will see better things happening in land and housing prices. The other thing is that we must stop this rampant, unchecked immigration that is not sustainable while we're in the middle of a housing crisis. We need to really shrink it to highly skilled workers and refugees and leave it at that.

7:07 pm

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before coming to this place, I had the pleasure of spending 10 years in local government. In that time, there wasn't a week that passed in which housing wasn't talked about or on the agenda. We talked about housing targets, the cost of housing, housing diversity, affordable housing, planning reform, renters' rights, strata reform, inclusionary zoning and voluntary planning agreements—it went on and on. I've been at the coalface of the policy response to housing for a long time. In that time I've learnt that, for elected officials to address this properly, we need every level of government in a bipartisan way singing from the same song sheet. We need no politics—just progress.

For decades, we've had politics on housing. It's been so, so long. Politics on housing has put us into the mess we're in today. In my time on council and as mayor, New South Wales was governed by a state Liberal government. Throughout that time they would say that affordable housing was a priority. But the thing is they'd never do anything about it. Upon becoming premier in June 2017, former premier Gladys Berejiklian declared that housing affordability was the biggest issue for her. Liberal planning minister after Liberal planning minister would say nice things about affordable housing and the need for more of it but then actively stop people or governments from trying to do something about it. They promised to reform the planning system and didn't. They rezoned urban activation precincts across Sydney and New South Wales, saying that affordable housing would be provided, and it wasn't. Then they actively opposed local government plans to force developers to build affordable housing. We see the same thing happening today here in this parliament. It's a different level of government, but it's the same old Liberals and the same old politics. The Liberals here on one hand are complaining about the housing crisis that they exacerbated, yet they are actively opposing policies to address it. They voted down the Housing Australia Future Fund. They criticised the Housing Accord. They criticised state Labor governments' attempts to address housing supply. They criticised our fee-free TAFE program, which is addressing huge shortages in construction workers. And then, probably worst of all—and we just heard it from the member who just spoke, the Member for Lyne—they backflipped their views on bringing in skilled workers to help address skill shortages and now instead choose to blame migrants for the housing crisis that they created.

The housing crisis has been around for a long time. It didn't just happen because of last year's migration levels. It didn't happen when the Albanese government was elected. It's been around for a long time, and it exists because of decades of inaction by lazy politicians. It exists because the Liberal federal government hadn't adequately funded housing supply. It exists because the last Liberal federal government didn't care about housing or work with the states to deliver it. It exists because Liberal state governments have blocked schemes to deliver more affordable housing. It exists because politicians keep on playing politics.

The housing crisis existed before the last election, and Australians elected us to help address it. We were elected on the promise to deliver: Help to Buy, the Housing Australia Future Fund, investments in social and affordable housing. Since my election I have been inundated with calls and emails from constituents about the cost of rents, the lack of housing supply and the growing cost of housing. These are people who work hard, who contribute to our communities and who simply seek a place to call home.

Whether it be young professionals striving to enter the property market, families yearning for a place to raise their kids or seniors seeking dignified retirement living, the lack of accessible and affordable housing options is a growing social crisis. It's a reality that cannot be ignored. It's a crisis that demands action. Yet whenever this majority Labor government, a government that was elected with a mandate to address the housing crisis, proposes a policy to address the housing crisis, we're met with bad-faith actors in this place who are more interested in playing politics with this crisis than delivering solutions for our country.

I have outlined the Liberal's record on this. The Liberals now have a third coalition partner to play politics with. The Greens political party, here in this place, are working hand in glove with the Liberals and Nats to block, delay and vote down policies to address the housing crisis. They may say different things, but the results are identical.

I say to the Greens and the Liberals: you can't say you want to help renters when you oppose policies to address housing supply. You can't say that you want more people to own a home when you block shared equity schemes like this. This two-faced politics is a betrayal of the people who supported you, and it's putting politics ahead of progress.

The Help to Buy scheme isn't just about bricks and mortar. It's about giving people hope and giving them an opportunity to own their own home. It's about helping renters who are unable to save a deposit. It's about getting someone into the property market for their first home.

Just like the Liberals, the Greens also say they want housing action, yet their actions in this place say the absolute opposite. The Greens alongside the Liberals are blocking progress all while claiming to champion the very causes they hinder, and they use strikingly similar measures to do it: they spread misinformation, they sow doubt and they politicise, which all result in less action to fix this crisis. Their claims that measures like Help to Buy will inflate housing prices are misleading. The reality is that these initiatives are tightly targeted—a bit too tight, if you ask me, but anyway—and have been endorsed by experts who say that impacts on pricing would be modest, if there would be impacts at all. Sound familiar?

The Greens and the Liberals are peas in a pod. Just like the Liberals, the Greens have made quite the habit of using misinformation as a tool to sow confusion, obstruct progress and further their own politics. All that leads to is Australia's housing crisis to become worse.

In February 2024, the Member for Griffith falsely stated that the Greens negotiated an additional $3 billion for public housing, with the government conveniently omitting that this allocation was not a result of negotiations. And just in this House moments ago, the leader of the Greens claimed that Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts only changed because of the Greens, when this decision was made squarely by the Labor cabinet and then by the Labor caucus. It's just the Greens taking credit for things.

Just like the member for Dickson misrepresented the reality of the impact of vehicle emission standards, the member for Griffith misrepresented the reality of vacant properties from census data. No, Max, we don't really have a million vacant homes. Just like the Liberals, when they ignored departmental analysis and advice, the Greens failed to acknowledge the complexities surrounding unoccupied properties, ignoring research indicating various reasons for vacancy including holiday homes and temporary unavailability.

The Greens, the Nationals and the Liberals will do anything in their power to stop this government from addressing the housing crisis, but we are determined to do something about it. It's why I was elected and it's why we're in government. Help to Buy will support the purchase of up to 10,000 properties per year over four years.

Australians, including citizens in Bennelong, are fed up with politicians playing political games with essential policy that will help them. Whether it's the climate wars or the housing crisis, people don't want politicians to come in this place and use their time here to obstruct. They want this place to work constructively and in good faith to find solutions to their issues, and they're fed up with the Greens' and Liberals' selfish and shortsighted tactics. They are tired of their obstructionism, which only serves to exacerbate the housing crisis and leave countless families struggling to find a place to call home.

I'm proud to be part of the only party in this place that is prepared to do something about housing and ensure that as many people as possible can achieve the great Australian dream of owning their own home. I'm proud to be part of a government that has already delivered the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, the $3 billion Social Housing Accelerator scheme and the most significant increase to the Commonwealth rental assistance in 30 years.

At its core, Help to Buy is yet another policy designed to help with the housing crisis. It will help renters into home ownership, it will help renters who cannot save enough for a deposit by only requiring two per cent of the purchase price and it will help people who can't afford to pay off a big mortgage, because the government will provide an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent.

This policy is here to help renters own their own homes, and yet the Greens and the Liberals want to oppose it. They want to oppose it because it's all politics for them. Despite their grandstanding, we're determined to get on with this job. I commend this bill to the House.

7:17 pm

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

I quite like the member for Bennelong. But I have to say that while I said I quite like the member for Bennelong I didn't say that I liked his contribution to this debate. I think he's rather living in hope. I might remind the member for Bennelong and some of those newer members in this House, that constitutionally the responsibility for housing belongs to the state governments.

I'll give him a little bit of a life example of what has happened in Queensland. For the past 35 years, Queensland has been governed by a state Labor government. I remember in my early days in the banking industry, on a Thursday when people got paid their pensions or their Centrelink allowances they would come in and pay their social housing payments. You had two types of payments. The first type of payment was for people who were on a rent-to-buy scheme. We have seen over the years those people successfully own their own home, and great credit to them and the effort that they have taken. They've worked hard to get to a point where they own their own property. The other scheme was for those who were renting. The rent was limited to approximately 30 per cent of those people's incomes.

I represent an area that the member for Bowman would well know because it includes places that are also in his electorate like Eagleby, Kingston, Woodridge and Capalaba. It even includes areas in and around Beenleigh and Browns Plains, which are in the Treasurer's electorate. Those areas were where the Queensland Housing Commission built numerous homes during the sixties and seventies for people to either go into on a rent-to-buy scheme or to rent. Can I say that until the last couple of years I'd seen very, very little done in the intervening 20 or 30 years by the Queensland Housing Commission to replace the stock that was bought or that people eventually owned—and credit to those people for their hard work and effort, as I said before. But the Queensland government under Labor leadership and the Queensland Housing Commission didn't see fit to reuse those funds to build new properties to replace the ones that came out of the system. We have seen an ongoing discussion over the last number of years about the quality of the remaining Queensland Housing Commission properties there are for rent because the Queensland Housing Commission has failed miserably to upkeep those properties.

The Prime Minister, in his contribution earlier, referenced housing commission towers I believe in Carlton, in Melbourne. They tell a similar story of woe—that the Victorian state government has failed to maintain those properties in a manner in which they are fit for people to live in. Now we have the situation where our state governments are turning around and saying, 'Oh well, it's not our problem.' They pass the buck to the federal government, and we finish up with schemes like this to try and solve a problem that is entirely of the making of the state governments because of their failure to continue to provide social and affordable housing since the mid-eighties. It's about time the state governments stepped up and took some responsibility for their failure in that space.

In addition to their failure in that space, they have failed to ensure that our planning schemes have kept pace with the needs of a growing community, and they have failed to see that our infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the needs of our growing communities. As the member for Bowman would know, as the member for Capricornia, who is at the table, would know, we have a multitude of infrastructure problems right across south-east Central and North Queensland as our communities have grown and our population has grown. But the state governments have been asleep at the wheel. They seek to continually shift responsibility and an expectation to the federal government to solve the problems that they have failed to deal with that are actually their responsibility. So let's actually shoo home that responsibility to where it belongs.

Now, that brings me to this bill. What can I say. Before I came in here tonight I just checked with a builder of mine, and this program covers whether you buy an existing house or you want to buy a new house and land package. Some of those suburbs that I mentioned earlier—Woodridge, Kingston and Marsden in the Treasurer's electorate and Eagleby in my electorate. I was talking to a real estate agent out Marsden way the other day. A fairly rundown modest three-bedroom fibro house is $700,000 plus. I don't know what it is Capalaba or Alexandra Hills, Member for Bowman, but I suspect it's not that far away. In Eagleby, it's sort of $600,000 or thereabouts.

I just had a look at Park Ridge. Park Ridge South is where the new development area is in my electorate. I was speaking to the builder, as I said earlier, and they said it's roughly $400,000 for a block land. For a modest house that's 150 square metres, three bedroom, nothing special—now, that's not generally a house that's built these days. Generally people want four bedrooms, a study and all the bells and whistles. At $3,000 per square metre to build a modest 150 square metre home with a nice but not over-the-top fit-out is $450,000. If you add that to your $400,000 block of land, it's $850,000 plus stamp duty, legal fees and all those other things. I ask the question: even with a fund like this, how many of these people who are struggling to save for a deposit will be able to afford it? At $850,000 that's a deposit somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 in round figures, looking at stamp duty of another $15,000 even with the concessions they get from the state government. So now you're at somewhere around $30,000 to $35,000 as a minimum requirement before anything else.

As a number of other people have said, these programs at a state level remain unfulfilled. So why is the federal government stepping in to provide an additional program which already exists at a state level which the public doesn't take up? Why would you repeat a mistake that's already being made? Why would you repeat something that the homebuying public doesn't want? That just makes no sense to me whatsoever. I would far rather see state governments held to account to undertake their constitutional responsibility and for the federal government to introduce some KPIs and say to them: 'You go and build your social and affordable housing and then you send us the bill. We're not going to give you the money until such time as you actually build these houses.' I can tell you that, if you give the money to the state governments, you can't trust that they won't put it into consolidated revenue and it won't go somewhere else. We've seen plenty of that over the years. So hold the feet of the state governments to the fire and actually get them to do what they're supposed to do constitutionally. That would be a far better solution in my book. But we aren't seeing that. We're seeing a big song and dance about rolling out a new program that for all intents and purposes I don't think is going to achieve the outcomes that are being sought. If you look at $5.5 billion over 10,000 people, that's $550,000 per person. That's an expensive exercise, not that I think it's going to go that far or have that many people take it up.

We do need to encourage people and give people the opportunity to own their own home or, if they're not in a situation to own their own home, have a secure roof over their head, paying a level of rent they can afford. Nobody in this House disagrees with that proposition—nobody. But I don't believe that this bill as it's currently constructed without the relevant KPIs to force the state governments to do their job of providing social and affordable housing will achieve the results we're seeking to achieve.

I'm proud of the measures that we took when we were in government to try and encourage homeownership through providing grants and/or guarantees. Interestingly, the only thing that this government has so far successfully done in this space is continue those programs that were set up by the coalition government. This program was supposed to be up and running, I believe, a year or so ago. So I don't think the government are even really convinced that it can do the job that they have proposed that it can do.

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It can't without legislation.

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

It's taken you two years to bring on the legislation, so that shows how committed you are to it. Once again, we see the government trying to solve a problem that the state schemes like this that already exist aren't solving because they are not being fulfilled. We need to continue working towards reducing those costs. Until we see some definite, concrete measures, that is not going to occur, and I'll continue to oppose this bill.