House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


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

9:38 am

Photo of Michelle LandryMichelle Landry (Capricornia, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I stand before you to shed light on the challenges and concerns surrounding the Help to Buy legislation, which holds the promise of aiding first home buyers. However, as we delve into the details, it becomes apparent that the journey from promise to operation has been far from seamless. Firstly, let's acknowledge that the only housing policies currently providing support to first home buyers are those inherited from the former coalition government. The Albanese government, despite announcing this legislation over 20 months ago, has seemingly dragged its heels in introducing it as a policy. The Help to Buy policy, a key electoral promise, was slated to commence on 1 January 2023. However, we find ourselves well into 2024 and there is still no concrete time line for its implementation. In the midst of a housing crisis, the belated arrival of Help to Buy feels like too little too late. This raises concerns about the government's ability to deliver on its commitments within the promised time frame. The primary concern is: what has the Minister for Housing been engaged in and what has the government been doing, displaying such tardiness and breaching an election promise? This is another example of the government's failing to fulfil its commitments, specifically the pledge to have the scheme operational by 1 January 2023. To meet this deadline, introducing the bill into parliament in late 2022 was necessary. However, it took nearly 18 months for the bill to make its way into the House.

Presently, our country is witnessing record lows in housing approvals and builds. Homebuyer numbers are at their lowest since the Gillard government. Rents are soaring, vacancy rates are at historic lows and we are experiencing record levels of migration. At a time when construction approval for homes is dwindling and the rental market is becoming more challenging, we are grappling with both rising rents and a surge in migration. Last year alone, we saw over 520,000 migrants arrive, setting a global record in migration. Despite these pressing housing issues, the government's response is delayed by 18 months, resulting in a lacklustre offering. This is particularly disheartening, especially considering the urgency of addressing housing concerns. In addition to a previously discussed bill on vacancy fees, this seems to be a symbolic gesture of action, disguising the government's lack of substantial efforts in addressing the critical challenges faced by the Australian population. Moreover, the Help to Buy scheme relies on the active participation of states and territories. These entities are required to pass their own legislation to partake in the scheme. While Labor went to the election with promises of a shared-equity scheme, they failed to communicate the requirement of state government approval. This oversight leaves us questioning the feasibility of promises made without proper explanation of the details of operation.

The Help to Buy program, with an estimated cost to the Commonwealth of $5.5 billion, is not without its limitations. It is open to only 10,000 households each financial year, making it a relatively small and niche initiative. Shared-equity schemes, as we know from existing state-based programs, have proven to be underwhelming, with available places remaining unclaimed. This raises a fundamental question: why introduce yet another shared-equity scheme when existing programs are not seeing widespread adoption? The answer appears to be rooted in political optics. Labor, it seems, wants to be seen to be taking action, without necessarily addressing the core issues at play. The shared-equity model, while well-intentioned, does not seem to resonate with Australians, as evidenced by the availability of spots in various state-based schemes.

Shared-equity schemes, in the broader context of housing affordability, raise key concerns that cannot be overlooked. There is a fear that they may carelessly contribute to further growth in house prices, potentially intensifying the very issue they aim to solve. Moreover, encouraging individuals for whom homeownership might not be the most suitable option could lead to undue financial risk. Australians who aspire to homeownership often seek independence and autonomy, and the prospect of joint ownership with the government may not align with their aspirations. The symbolism of having government officials involved in the homeowner's personal affairs, especially in financial matters, raises genuine reservations. Shared-equity arrangements also present an imbalanced responsibility dynamic: homeowners bear the burden of repairs and maintenance, while the government claims a share of appreciated value upon sale. It raises the question of whether this is a fair and reasonable arrangement, especially when compared to the responsibilities shouldered by the homeowners.

After waiting for over 20 months for this legislation, it seems more like a box-ticking exercise for the Albanese government than a thorough and thoughtful approach to addressing the housing crisis. The legislation, as it stands, leaves us with more questions than answers. It is evident that the hard work required for a successful prosecution has not been done. The threadbare nature of the legislation prompts numerous crucial questions that demand immediate attention. What are the specific eligibility criteria for individuals or families to qualify for the Help to Buy scheme? If homeowners make improvements to their homes, what implications does that have for their participation in the scheme? Will they be required to invoice the government for repairs and maintenance, such as fixing a leaky roof? If an individual or a couple earns a cent above $90,000 or $120,000 respectively, will the government force the sale of their home? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure compliance with these thresholds? What reporting obligations do participants in the shared-equity arrangement have? How transparent is the process, and what measures are in place to ensure accountability?

In the event of a decline in housing prices and participants falling behind on mortgage payments, will the government force them to sell their homes for less than the purchase price? What are the property price caps under the Help to Buy scheme? Are these caps uniform across all states and territories? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state and territory? What criteria determine the allocation of these places? Are these specific lenders that have committed to participating in the Help to Buy scheme, and how is their involvement regulated? In essence, the current state of the Help to Buy legislation raises concerns about its viability, transparency and effectiveness. The lack of clear answers to these questions leaves us in a precarious position, considering the potential impact on individuals and families who might opt for this scheme.

One particularly concerning aspect is the imposition of a housing tax of up to 40 per cent every time a participant sells their home under the Help to Buy scheme. This tax, while aimed at recouping government contributions, raises questions about its fairness and its potential to discourage participation. We also cannot ignore the lessons from similar schemes implemented elsewhere. For instance, a comparable scheme in the United Kingdom was found to inflate house prices by more than its subsidy value in areas where it was needed most. This raises a red flag about the unintended consequences and potential side effects of the Help to Buy scheme on the Australian housing market.

The Help to Buy Bill seems to be more about fulfilling an electoral promise than crafting a well thought out solution to the housing affordability crisis. After waiting for over 20 months for this legislation, it appears to be more of a rushed effort than a comprehensive plan. The Albanese government must recognise the gravity of the issues at hand and invest the necessary time and effort to address them thoroughly. The Australian people deserve a housing policy that is not only well intentioned but also well implemented. The uncertainty surrounding the Help to Buy scheme demands urgent attention, and it is crucial that the government provides comprehensive answers to the myriad questions posed today.

9:47 am

Cameron Caldwell (Fadden, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to add my voice to the chorus of opposition to this disastrous and desperate proposal by the government. It's becoming more evident day by day that the Albanese government is long on spin and short on actual detail and genuine reform. While they say that they've got a clear plan, the stark reality is that it's the opposite. This Australian Labor Party is now introducing the legislation despite having made this policy position over 20 months ago. While Australians suffer in the midst of Labor's concurrent housing crisis and cost-of-living crisis, the introduction of this underwhelming Help to Buy scheme is simply too little too late.

The government has already failed to deliver a key election policy, it would have seemed, by the nominated start date of 1 January 2023. It won't see the light of day until well into 2024 at the earliest. Notwithstanding the limited and niche nature of this vanilla shared-equity product, election policies should be delivered in the time frame promised. The only housing policies delivering support to first home buyers are the housing policies Labor inherited from the former coalition government.

The Australian public have had enough of the government encroaching on their freedoms and involving themselves in their day-to-day lives. We've only just emerged from the COVID era, when the government took unforeseen and historic measures of intervention in people's day-to-day lives. The last thing that people want now is to have the Albanese Labor government taking a foothold in what would be their pride and joy: their place of residence, their home. When it comes to being effectively tenants in common with the Commonwealth government, who can trust anything that the Prime Minister says after the recent tax cuts backflip? If this legislation passes, how can a recipient trust that the Labor government won't change the rules after settlement? Can you imagine rolling over in the middle of the night and one of the Prime Minister's proxies, or the Prime Minister himself, is taking up 40 per cent of your bed?

Another issue is that Help to Buy also relies on the involvement of states and territories, with states being required to pass their own legislation to participate in the scheme. Labor went to the election promising to put in place a shared-equity scheme. However, they failed to explain that the scheme needs state government approval to operate. This means Labor has made yet another promise that it can't necessarily keep.

So what is this Help to Buy? It's a small, niche program open to only 10,000 households each financial year and will cost the Commonwealth $5.5 billion. What we know already is how underwhelming shared-equity schemes have been to date across Australia. These schemes are so unwanted by Australians that there are places remaining in each of the available state based schemes as we speak. For example, there are places in the New South Wales Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, Victoria's Homebuyer Fund, South Australia's HomeStart shared-equity option and Tasmania's MyHome shared-equity program. It begs the question: why on earth would the Albanese Labor government seek to introduce yet another shared-equity scheme when we know that similar schemes aren't being used by Australians? The answer is quite clear: Labor want to be seen to be doing something without actually delivering anything meaningful. They're currently panicking at the thought of being critiqued for their lack of a plan and have responded with what is effectively a very lacklustre proposal. This bill is far from the silver-bullet solution that they were promising young Australians.

Key concerns raised about the shared-equity schemes as a policy for tackling housing affordability are that they may contribute to further growth in house prices artificially, that they may encourage those for whom homeownership may not be the most suitable option to take on undue financial risk and that they divert resources from supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Those who want to buy a home want to own it themselves. They don't want the government owning a portion, and they really don't want people like the Prime Minister or the Minister for Housing sitting with them at the kitchen table. Where will it end? Will they be there when there are big moments for the family, perhaps attending funerals or weddings? If they're there for 40 per cent of your home, what's next? It hardly seems reasonable that, if you own a property jointly with the government, all the repairs and maintenance on the home are your responsibility and yet, when you sell the home, the government will come and take their proportion of that appreciated value—all the perks, none of the responsibility. Why is this not surprising coming from what is an out-of-touch Labor government?

After waiting over 20 months for this legislation, this appears to be nothing more than a box-ticking exercise for the Albanese Labor government to say that it's launched its signature housing policy. It is clear from this bare legislation that the government has failed to do the hard work, and we are once again left with more questions than answers. What are the scheme's eligibility criteria? What happens if you make improvements to your home? Will you have to send the government an invoice for repairs and maintenance when there's, for example, a leaky roof or a dripping tap? Will they help mow the lawn? What happens if you earn a cent over the $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government force the sale of your home? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure you don't earn a cent over that threshold? If you enter one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? Quite typically, there is absolutely no incentive for an Australian to get ahead because now we know that, the more you earn, the more Labor will tax you and, in addition to that, they will be asking for their share in your home back. What happens if housing prices fall and you're behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell that house for less than you paid for it? What are the property price caps? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state and territory? It's completely lacking in detail. Is this going to replace the four schemes that I mentioned earlier in my speech or add to them? We just don't know. Critically, we also don't know which lenders are participating in this scheme and the terms on which they will participate.

On this side of the House, we know that Help to Buy may soon equate to 'force to sell'. Without the right settings in place and based off this legislation, we simply don't know if they will be. What we do know is that every time a participant sells their home they face up to a 40 per cent housing tax as the government swoops in to take its share. We contrast this to the coalition's strong record of prioritising homeownership.

I haven't been in this place very long. My maiden speech is at the forefront of my mind when debating issues like homeownership for young Australians. I mentioned homeownership in my maiden speech because it is a critically important component of the lifestyle that Australians deserve. They want to seek the Australian dream, and they should have it.

In government, the coalition had a strong and proud record of supporting Australians to enter the housing market through a range of initiatives which pulled on varying economic and financial levers. We understand that owning your home is one of the most important hurdles to reaching the living standards enjoyed by retired Australians. We know that 85 per cent of renters aspire to own their own home. Homeownership offers security and stability for individuals and families. There is nothing more quintessentially Australian than owning your own home.

Over the last three years, the coalition government's housing policies have supported more than 300,000 Australians with the purchase of a home. The coalition has supported almost 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families into homeownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme, which consists of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee, with a deposit of as little as five per cent or two per cent, respectively. The coalition's Home Guarantee Scheme is now supporting one in three first home buyers.

We protected the residential construction industry with more than 137,000 HomeBuilder applications, which generated $120 billion of economic activity. We provided $2.9 billion in low-cost loans to community housing providers to support 15,000 social and affordable dwellings. This saved $470 million in interest payments to be reinvested in more affordable housing. We unlocked 6,900 social, affordable and market dwellings through the $1 billion infrastructure facility to make housing supply more responsive.

Since 1 January 2020, the home guarantee schemes have assisted almost 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families get into a home of their own with a deposit as little as five per cent or two per cent, respectively—a 2019 election commitment that has been delivered.

Of the 60,000 guarantees issued, 52 per cent have been taken up by women, which is well above the market average of 41 per cent of women entering into homeownership, according to CoreLogic data in 2021. One in five guarantees issued went to essential workers, of which almost 35 per cent were nurses and 34 per cent were teachers.

Addressing the deposit hurdle is one of the most challenging aspects of getting on the property ladder, which is why the first home buyers can accelerate their deposit savings through super with an increased release amount of up to $50,000—up from the former limit of $30,000. This means the average couple would be $20,838 better off under the coalition's First Home Super Saver Scheme than if they saved in a standard savings account. As of March 2022, around 26,800 first home buyers have released $371 million to purchase their first home. More than 21,100 of these first home buyers purchased a home after the 2019 election, following Labor's commitment to abolish the scheme.

I remind the House of the 137,000 Australian families that applied for a HomeBuilder grant of up to $25,000 if they built a new or substantially renovated home during the COVID pandemic.

HomeBuilder delivered a secure pipeline of construction work that kept hundreds of thousands of tradies and small businesses in work who would have otherwise been facing the unemployment queue. HomeBuilder broke every record, from the number of dwelling approvals to the number of commencements, and delivered $120 billion of economic activity during our most challenging time. But, importantly, it addressed the supply side of this housing issue.

The coalition government also established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, dedicated to improving housing outcomes by supporting efforts to increase the supply of homes for Australians. This included providing more than $2.9 billion of low-cost loans that saved community housing providers more than $470 million and supported more than 15,000 dwellings.

During our last three years in government, the coalition's housing policies aided more than 300,000 Australians in purchasing homes. First home buyer numbers increased from around 100,000 when the coalition came into office to nearly 180,000 in the coalition's last full financial year in government. Our commitment to first home buyers has also been reiterated with the announcement and recommitment to the super home buyer scheme, which will allow first home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation to a maximum of $50,000 to help with the purchase of their home.

Where the current Labor government seeks to encroach on your liberty, your independence and your bank account, only a coalition government will genuinely support self-determination. This bill before the House is simply not fit for purpose and definitely doesn't meet the lofty ambitious agenda that Labor insisted would be seen with them in government. The Australian people have been again led up the garden path by this Prime Minister, who desperately needs a solution. Quite frankly, this is not it. For the reasons I've outlined, I support my coalition team in opposing this bill.

10:01 am

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health) Share this | | Hansard source

As we debate the Help to Buy Bill today, I want to reflect first on how we have come to be in a position where the Commonwealth has to help people buy a home. In 1984, it cost $64,000 to buy the average home, and an annual income back then was a shade over $19,000, making the average house price 3.3 times the average annual income. Today, it's more like 10 times the average annual income. Late last year, PropTrack's Housing Affordability Report showed that Australian households on an average income need to save 20 per cent of that income for more than 5½ years to accumulate the 20 per cent deposit needed to buy a median priced home. Back in 1984, it took just two, not 5½, years to achieve that. According to the Visual Capitalist, Australia has three of the 15 most unaffordable housing markets in the world, including Sydney, where it costs 13.3 times the gross median household income to buy the median house price. Sydney ranks second most unaffordable behind Hong Kong at 18.8 times the median income by median house price. Melbourne is ninth in those rankings at 9.9 times and Adelaide is 14th at 8.2 times.

The reason I mention capital city housing unaffordability is that Australia is a massive country with regional communities that dearly would love to grow, such as regional towns in my north-west Victorian electorate of Mallee. Worse still, housing affordability is so bad that even in my regional electorate we have a lack of affordable housing. Relatively speaking, income levels for rural cities like Swan Hill mean rent is simply not affordable. The policy levers need changing, and what is lacking in the policy detail by this government so far is the realisation that Australians have undergone a tree change, a sea change, even a vine change if you like. Regional Australia Institute's Big Movers2023 report found an additional 54,000 millennials headed for the regions—who would have thought it?—during the latest census period, 2016-21, compared to the previous census period of 2011-16. The lockdown-happy Andrews Labor government intimidated the people of Melbourne, and they voted with their feet, relocating to regional cities or towns. Working from home became the new norm, and now workers are hoping to lock that in as part of their job entitlements. Many sectors of the economy realised work could be done from home, reducing building leasing costs for their companies but also overcoming the tyranny of distance in regional Australia. Our regional towns and cities have wonderful lifestyles to offer Australians, clean air and environments and close-knit communities where people care about each other. Yet time and time again in this place, we see initiatives designed to fix Sydney and Melbourne problems. That is the risk this bill poses among many other risks I will outline.

The coalition opposes this bill. I remind the chamber that the Albanese Labor government promoting this bill is a government that breaks its promises. They promised 100 times not to change stage 3 tax cuts and broke that promise before Australia Day. Today, on this bill, the Albanese Labor government would have us believe they didn't break their Help to Buy promise. This policy was due to begin 1 January 2023—a little over a year ago. After their doomed referendum with an almost half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer bill, Labor have been so distracted that they didn't get on with this initiative until now and broke their promise of starting it almost 14 months ago. Another looming broken promise is the ticking clock on the Albanese government's promise to build 1.2 million homes over five years from 1 July 2024. The Housing Industry Association has confirmed Labor will fail to deliver at least 200,000 homes on this target. Only the Labor apologists think the full target can be achieved. Those are the same delirious apologists who think Labor's $275 reduction in power bills will materialise in its promised time frame.

Unfortunately, the state-federal Labor sandwich that the voters of Mallee find themselves trapped in cripples the opportunities for regional economies to grow. Labor bled doctors out of the regions and prioritised childcare subsidies for the wealthy while failing to add childcare places in childcare deserts, such as my electorate in regional Australia. Labor left our roads wrecked by the combination of wet weather and heavy truckloads during bumper harvests. Road repairs have not been anywhere near sufficient. In the northern part of my electorate, the water minister prowls around looking for so-called willing sellers—who are actually distressed sellers—to sell their water to help Labor hang on to the electorate of Boothby in Adelaide. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has carried over—or, in layman's terms, not used—30 per cent of its allocated water for 15 years because they can't use all the water they have for the environment already. Yet here we are. Labor wants to buy more just at the time the Sunraysia economy was poised to boom. In my electorate of Mallee, the Mildura-Swan Hill region was expected to have a gross value of production in horticulture of $2.2 billion per annum by 2029-30. We were on a great and positive trajectory after the scarring of the millennium drought. But no—this water minister wants to seriously compromise the projected growth in my electorate through buybacks. We are at risk of losing 10 per cent of our water for irrigated communities in Sunraysia alone if these buybacks occur.

Then comes the state of the labour market. I've spoken in this place before about our agricultural workforce shortages, but today I want to focus on the shortage of labour in the housing sector. Mallee tradies will be hard pressed to find apprentices to address a skills shortage due to a collapse of trade training under Labor. The latest data from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research shows the number of apprenticeships and traineeships fell by 12.63 per cent in Mallee after the Albanese Labor government's first year in office. In just one year it's dropped 12.3 per cent. In the final months of the coalition government, the number of trade apprentices hit record highs across Australia. There were 429,000 as of June 2022. That's a 25 per cent rise on the same time in 2021. After just one year of Labor, apprentices and trainees have fallen to 377,645—a loss of one in 10 trainees. Labor promised to skill more Australians than the coalition, but the numbers don't lie—something the Albanese government could learn from. The apprenticeship downturn compounds the problems caused by Labor burying businesses in red tape with complex new industrial relations laws.

To make matters worse, Labor's tradie tax will drive up prices of tradies' work vehicles with the 2025 fuel efficiency standard, which could see vehicles you commonly see on work sites rise in price by as much as $15 ,000. Why? So people in the inner cities can show off their new EVs directly funded by the people of Mallee, robbing country Peter to pay city Paul. Labor policies have been an unmitigated disaster for Mallee tradies and farmers, most of whom are small family businesses. The Albanese Labor government have abandoned their blue-collar roots to appease their union backers and exert control over crucial nation-building industries.

Into this mix of Labor's poor management of the economy comes a huge inflow of migrants, a simplistic policy lever to prop up the economy without dealing with the productivity improvements that are desperately needed. As I asked in question time on Monday, the Albanese Labor government granted over 500,000 visas in the past year, with more than 1.6 million visas projected to be granted over five years. When housing supply is already in crisis, adding further demand is not helping. The Help to Buy scheme proposed in this bill comes with an expected spend of $5.5 billion, all on the credit cards of Australian men, women and their children because, let's always remember, it's not Labor's money being expended here; it's hard-earned taxpayer money. They today, or their children in the future, will be the ones to pay for the profligate spending by this government.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we have huge debt levels to pay down, but the Albanese Labor government wants to spend more on something that state governments should be doing. In fact, they are doing it. There are current schemes under Victoria's Homebuyer Fund, the New South Wales government's Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, South Australia's HomeStart Shared Equity Option and Tasmania's MyHome shared equity program. When you consider that all the mainland state governments are Labor governments, this bill represents a damning indictment on their own team. There is clearly a housing affordability problem, and responsibility lies at the feet of the states, where predominantly Labor have been in office for most of recent history.

By contrast, at a federal level the coalition set the standard on helping the housing market with the highly successful Home Guarantee Scheme and the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee to help regional homebuyers with as little as a five per cent deposit being eligible to receive a guarantee from the Commonwealth, with 10,000 places set aside for that program. During the pandemic, the coalition intervened in the mark to support our economy. Intervention was necessary as we faced the closest analogue to wartime Australia has faced in living memory.

The HomeBuilder grant drove the highest level of new home commencements in more than 20 years at that time—a lifeline for the construction industry, which was flailing from the start of the pandemic. HomeBuilder helped the 137,000 Australian families that applied for a grant of up to $25,000 if they built a new home or substantially renovated during the COVID pandemic. It's estimated that HomeBuilder generated $120 billion of economic activity. The HomeBuilder $15,000 to $25,000 grant encouraged individuals and families to invest hundreds of thousands in a new home. When considering the amount of money being pumped into the economy all the way down to the construction supply chain, the coalition government's HomeBuilder intervention generated an extraordinary return on investment. Few would have expected how successful the program would be and by how much it would exceed expectation.

Local builders in Mallee, like Garraway Developments, were at one stage run off their feet with 12 to 18 months of work ahead of them. The coalition can be trusted to support home construction because we have the runs on the board. What's more, we took policies to the last election to keep supporting our tradies and Australian families to afford their own home. The coalition has a strong record of prioritising homeownership because we understand that owning your home is important to Australian living standards. Some 85 per cent of renters hope to one day own their own home. It's an aspiration. In the last three years in office, the coalition government's housing policies helped over 300,000 Australians buy their own home, and 60,000 of those were through the government guarantees. I note that 52 per cent of the 60,000 guarantees were to the benefit of women, which is well above the market average, for entering into homeownership, of 41 per cent women, according to CoreLogic.

In conclusion, who can you trust to help Australians buy their own home? You can trust the coalition.

10:15 am

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (Monash, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. The housing issue is not an issue new to this parliament or previous parliaments before it. In fact, it was there in the time of Sir Robert Menzies, who was PM for more than 18 years in this nation and was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports by Her Majesty the Queen after his retirement. In the 1961 election campaign, at a public meeting, a gentleman called out to Sir Robert Menzies, 'What are you going to do about 'ousing?' And he said, 'I'm going to put an H in front of it, before I start.' And there lined up the 1961 election, which was won by one seat, I believe.

In the housing policies that emanated from there, from Menzies to prior to the election of this government, the coalition, as the member from Mallee has told us, has had a direct eye on getting people into homes. In fact, the nation's wealth from the Menzies years and his direction of bringing everybody into the housing market made the big difference in this country in getting us to the point where nearly 70 per cent of homes were owned by people who were workers, who were small-business people, who were managers. It was a direction of the egalitarian nature of Menzies to say: 'No, we are not going to have a class society where we've got the rich and the middle class and the poor. We're going to have the middle class getting all the strength that we can give them so we can look after the poor and so that the middle class can earn money, pay tax and own their own home.' That was the trust and that was the world that I grew up in.

Now, when people my age talk about paying up to 18 per cent interest rates, it means we always have an eye on the market and can say that interest rates, as you've seen them prior to the pandemic and post the pandemic, are not real. Of course, I've been wrong for a long time; they have remained low for a long time. Small businesses back in the nineties were paying 22 per cent interest, but, remember, at that time, my loan was $30,000. I was stunned a few years later, when Priscilla Ruffolo—who was a great help to me in the 2004 election campaign and worked with me and Senator Judith Troeth at that time—and her husband, I believe, went out and got a $400,000 loan. I nearly fainted! I didn't realise until then that that was the normal loan for people to go out and get.

I recently learnt of a couple that borrowed $1 million—well, it was probably five or six years ago—to buy their home and pay it off. Now, the problem with that is that one Reserve Bank governor said, 'We're not going to increase rates until 2024.' But 2024 came very quickly. Small interest rate rises, when you're on four and you go to six per cent—that's a 50 per cent increase in your outlays that you need to find out of your household budget. They say, 'It's only four to six.' No, it's a lot of money if you've borrowed a lot of money. Every intervention that I know of that governments have done since I've been around this place—in and out of it since 1990—has increased the price of the home by the value of the intervention.

I believe this policy from this government, the Help to Buy Bill—and it was stated by the member for Mallee, by the way, that programs like this already exist in each state. So why would you say, 'We're going to do that federally,' unless all you wanted out of a policy was something to talk about at a public meeting—so the Prime Minister can turn around and say in a public meeting, 'But we've got our Help to Buy Bill, which is going to help people to get into the housing market.'

What you've got to do to get people into the housing market, in my view, is get out of their lives as much as you can and get out of taxing them the way that you do. And don't forget state governments. The federal government can say, 'We'll give you a helping hand. We'll give you a first home buyer's grant. We'll find ways to get you into housing because it's very important for your wellbeing over your life span. We'll help you, and we're the best government to do it for you.' But then the state government comes along, and I think I've added up between five and nine new property taxes or interventions.

When I talk about interventions in the housing market, I'm talking about rentals as well, because a lot of people rent, and they choose to rent. They choose to rent. People that rent out those homes to those renters, the landlords—so condemned in this country so many times—have had restrictions put on them by state governments that mean their house has to meet a certain standard before they can rent it out. Some of those standards are onerous for an old home. The cost of renovating that house to bring it up to that standard may be too great—to conform with the new paradigm put in by the Victorian state government. Therefore the landlord has a dilemma, and so has the estate agent, because they can't break the law by renting out that house that hasn't got the facilities required.

The renter can't make a decision and say, 'No, that house will do me, it's fine, because the rent's cheaper and I can get into that house. I'll supply my own secondary heating source; I'll supply my own solar power or whatever is required by the Victorian state government. I'll do that and I'll have that house.' The problem is the estate agent is in trouble and the landowner is in trouble if they rent the house to the renter.

So what happens? The house sits vacant or is sold to someone who's going to live in that house, so it goes off the rental market. In fact, in one agent's area—a fairly large agent—150 homes have gone off his rent roll. A hundred and fifty homes disappeared off the rent roll for two reasons. One is that the owners of those homes were people investing in the property market. I've never been a big share investor. My family are not share investors; they're property investors. We always bought property. That was our focus. So these mums and dads, like me, would buy a property. They'd borrow to do it. But the recent increase in interest rates means that their costs have gone through the roof and they've got to hand that on to renters, so you're getting a higher cost of rental.

I heard in the Federation Chamber today from the member for Groom that in his electorate, in the town of Toowoomba particularly, the rental opportunity is only 0.9 per cent. That means there are practically no houses at all in Toowoomba to rent. Therefore, when there is a home to rent, what happens? You actually have a line-up of people bidding higher to gain opportunity to have that home as a rental. So they're paying more out of their income for their rentals because of the failings of governments previously, state and federal and local, that have held up property development, slowed down the opening-up of new land and slowed down planning permits. So people are struggling to get into the market.

There are a whole lot of pressures outside of what government's trying to do. It's like having a bucket full of holes. The federal government, with Help to Buy, wants to stand there with a hose and pour water into a bucket with a whole lot of holes in it. The holes are everywhere. That intervention by government at a local, state and federal level means costs and charges put on for every inspection of a new home. A friend of mine building his own home in the city said he couldn't believe the number of charges he had to face up to for every inspection on the home. Every time there was a stage completed in the home, the inspector came in and it was another $400, another $700 or another $1,000 for an intervention that, in the past, we wouldn't have had. My generation didn't face the property taxes we face today and a generation of developers didn't face the taxes they face today. So there are all sorts of barriers being put in place by government in the interests of the government's income.

I believe—I'm not sure, as I haven't checked with the Parliamentary Library ; I'd like to check with the library—that 60 per cent of Victoria's state government income is now coming from property taxes. Our generation didn't pay those property taxes. They didn't pay the land taxes. They didn't pay the increases in land taxes. There has been dramatic land tax increases in Victoria over the last three years, the last three budgets, and they're putting them up again. I've even had a member of parliament in this place who inherited a property from her parents complaining about the Victorian land tax bill that she has to pay and how it's risen. She has terrific tenants in there that have been there for years. She can't put up the price on those people. They're family to her.

So this bill, I believe, will not be a help-to-buy bill. I have a fundamental problem with government intervention. I hope I have made this point in this address—that is, when the government encourages a couple or an individual—

I hear from the member for Mallee that it's 52 per cent women. That's great. That never happened in my day. It's great women have the opportunity. But every time there's an intervention it puts another increase on the price that the individual pays either as a renter or as a builder. You can be encouraged to be in an arrangement that the Australian government is involved in where increases in interest rates or costs will leave you out of pocket and out of a house. The house will go back to the bank. For any of you who have never been here at a time when banks have gone to people and said, 'You can no longer afford to live in that house because we own more of it than you do and you're out and we've going to sell it off,' they have the right to do that. Anybody my age and a little bit younger would remember those days of people losing their homes. They'd remember the mortgagee auctions. You know who benefits out of that—only the wealthy. I pray that this bill does not lead people into an arrangement that will cost them dearly in the long run. A house and a home is very important to every family, from all the way back to Sir Robert Menzies. Put an 'h' in front of housing—that's what we have to do to concentrate our efforts on our next generation. Thank you for the opportunity to address the House.

10:30 am

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Services) Share this | | Hansard source

There are a lot of important issues on the minds of people living across the north-west, the west coast and King Island in the great state of Tasmania. Some very hard conversations are taking place across dinner tables or in workplaces that haven't been had for generations. They are conversations about not being able to get ahead; conversations about families not being able to keep their heads above water; conversations about not being able to afford to put food on the table, or not being able to afford to put petrol in the car; conversations about taking out a loan to get their kids back to school or to pay an electricity bill or to pay other bills that are stacking up; and conversations about needing to take a second or third job in order to get by, and being put on a never-ending waitlist for a childcare place. Without doubt, putting a roof over their heads is important on their list.

It's sad but true that one in three Tasmanians now believe that they will never own their own home; they've put that out of their mind. Whether it's buying or renting, the property market has never been so unaffordable or the rental market as tight as it is right now in Tasmania. When we start talking about regional Tasmania, housing is even more scarce.

The issue of housing is challenging. I have no doubt that all of us, on all sides of this place, acknowledge these complex challenges as a shared responsibility across all levels of government. This only adds to the complexity of implementing effective solutions. There's no quick fix. But, I'm afraid, the Albanese government certainly has a responsibility to be part of the solution. Those living across my electorate in the north-west, on the west coast and on King Island just want this government to do its job: nothing more but absolutely nothing less than they were elected to do. We're facing a housing crisis in my state; that's for certain. It's almost a daily front-page headline splashed across every newspaper in the country, and certainly across my state in Tasmania. Government's job is to develop effective policy based on evidence and analysis. Government's job is to have done the work to be certain that the policies being put before the parliament are effective in solving these problems.

Families across the nation are struggling with homelessness, or the threat of homelessness, or are unable to afford a home. They deserve assurance that this policy will produce the outcomes it seeks. Unfortunately, it does not. Firstly, it's not enough. This Help to Buy Bill 2023 offers a niche program that categorically fails to address the real and pressing need in the housing market. It fails to address the market. It's not going to have a real impact on increasing the supply of our national housing stock. We all understand the critical shortages, but is this the bill that the Albanese government should be introducing in response to our crisis? At best it is available to 10,000 households each financial year. The bill makes no sense. The Housing Industry Association has just confirmed that Labor will have a shortfall of at least 200,000 homes of its 1.2 million homes promised to the Australian people. Labor will need to build 20,000 homes per month in order to meet the 1.2 million target. What is their response? To introduce bills that promise to supply 10,000 households a year. The response does not match the crisis, but it must.

Another reason that this is bad policy—and I certainly don't agree with this approach—is that the policy doesn't seek to improve homeownership. It is a policy that moves desperate, would-be homeowners into co-ownership with the federal government. Having a government own part of your property is hardly the Aussie dream. Right across the country, would-be homeowners have seen straight through this. They've seen it for the rubbish that it is, because there are already schemes like this operating at the state level, and many states, in fact, have implemented them. They just don't work. Places remain unfilled in New South Wales's Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, in Victoria's Homebuyer Fund, in South Australia's HomeStart Shared Equity Option and, in my home state of Tasmania, in the MyHome shared-equity program. Australians just aren't interested in this type of scheme. It's stupid. In the minds of Australians, they think, 'Co-owning your home, the roof over your head, with the government—what could possibly go wrong!'

Where I live, they want less government intervention in their lives, not more. The MyHome shared-equity program in Tasmania was launched on 1 July 2022. Through this program, just 200 Tasmanians have been approved. Now, I'm not going to begrudge those 200 families getting into the housing market in Tasmania, absolutely not. But when one in three Tasmanians believe that they will never be able to afford their own home—and they're looking for help—this niche scheme just isn't enough. There are more questions than answers with this policy. This is simply another example—and they're starting to stack up right now—of this government not doing the work required and the analysis required of the market prior to developing legislation and rushing it through this place.

Important questions on this program remain unanswered, such as: What are the scheme's eligibility criteria? What happens if you make improvements to your home? Will you have to send the government an invoice for repairs and maintenance for a leaky roof or something like that? What happens if you earn a cent above the $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government force the sale of your home? What happens there? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure that you don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? What happens if the house price falls and you are behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell your house for less than you paid for it? What are the property price caps? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state or territory? What lenders are participating in the scheme? The questions go on and on and on.

This is the most significant, important, crucial and risky decision that families can make, particularly in these trying times, and these questions need to be answered in their minds before they go through and formulate that decision and apply that risk-mitigation strategy onto their decision. But these questions have been left unanswered.

Labor continue to break promise after promise that they made in the lead-up to the 2022 election. They promised to build 1.2 million homes over five years from 1 July 2024. Well, it's now likely that they will fall hundreds of thousands of homes short of that target, and the data backs it in. In fact, they're likely to deliver no more than 200,000 homes fewer than what was delivered during the last five calendar years under the former coalition government. Between 2017 and 2021, under the former coalition government, we built 1,029,043 homes across Australia. This was during a pandemic—the worst health and economic crisis in 100 years. It was an incredible achievement. Contrast this with this government's phase. Not only has it failed to contribute to the housing crisis solution, but, under this government, rents have increased 26 per cent in an already inflated environment. First home buyers and new home approvals remain at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Lending for new homes remains at a shameful 20-year low, and we've recently seen the weakest quarter of construction in more than a decade. Despite all of this, this government believes now is the time to implement its big migration plan.

Lack of affordable housing is a national crisis that requires real and meaningful responses from this government. The Albanese government has had two years in order to make up its mind and formulate this bill and to ensure not only that it is fit for purpose but that this policy makes a real difference. This bill is not what this country needs. Those living across the north-west of Tasmania, on the West Coast and on King Island, rightly expect much more to be done by this Labor government in order to support them getting a roof over their head.

10:40 am

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Owning your own home is still the great Australian dream. At the moment, for many people, their great Australian dream is to first find a rental property and then a rental property that they can actually afford. In my electorate, in the south-west of WA, lists current vacancy rates in the Bunbury region at 0.45 per cent. It's the nation's lowest vacancy rate for the seventh consecutive month.

Since Labor came to government, rents in Australia, as we know, have increased by 26 per cent on average, and Perth has been ranked Australia's second-worst city for rental affordability. Australia-wide, first home buyers and new home approvals remain at their lowest levels in more than a decade. At the same time, ASIC data shows that, between July 2022 and April 2023, 1,709 construction companies across the country went in to administration. But there was also a recent article that put the figure at 2,349 construction companies across Australia that have collapsed in the last year alone under the Labor government's watch. So it's no wonder we've recently seen the weakest quarter of construction in more than a decade.

When you see the Labor government's immigration policy of increasing overseas immigration to over 500,000 over the past 12 months and, in the same time frame, the number of new dwelling approvals at only 162,000, there's clearly a discrepancy in these numbers. They don't add up, and that's what you're hearing from people on the ground. It's adding to both housing and rental pressures for those living here and those migrating to Australia. Labor is going to add to this shortage by increasing migration by 1.6 million people over the next five years.

The dream of owning your own home is a dream shared by those who were born in Australia as well as those who've come here to live. For so many of our historical migrants who've chosen to come to this great country, Australia, they came because the opportunity was there to work hard and save money, and to buy, pay off and own their own home. Often that was their No. 1 priority and the opportunity they saw in Australia—one they didn't have in the country that they originated from. Owning their own home actually set them up for life and gave them the security they were so desperate for.

I saw this firsthand living in Brunswick Junction and Harvey with our early, mostly Italian, migrant families. Their absolute priority was to put a roof over their family's head, pay it off and own that home so no-one could take it away from them. Of course, some of these people had come from areas where they simply lived in a landlord's property and they didn't own any of it, so this was a golden opportunity that they took advantage of. But they've also drummed this into each subsequent generation, their sons and their daughters, and said: 'You need to work. You need to save your money and you need to buy a house.' I've heard this myself more than once.

But, when I look at this bill, what I don't want to see is this great Australian dream of homeownership turn into a nightmare for the people who sign up for this Labor government scheme. There is no detail of what people will actually be signing up to. What we do know is that, when you finish paying off your house, if it's a new home you build, the government will actually own 40 per cent of your home and will be entitled to 40 per cent of what you sell it for, whatever the increased value of that home is at the time that it's sold. If it's an existing home you buy, the government will own 30 per cent of that home and will be entitled to 30 per cent of the increased value of that home when you sell it. You won't own your home 100 per cent outright, which is the Australian dream. But there's actually no detail about what happens if your home decreases in value over that time. I've seen that in my own electorate and dealt with people who owed more than the house was worth.

For anyone considering signing up to one of these deals, please do your homework. Get sound advice. What upfront costs over and above the actual house price will you still have to pay for and factor into your calculations before you say 'yes'? There are several states already, as we know, running these types of government and private homeownership schemes. New South Wales runs a shared-equity scheme that is so attractive to the market that 94 per cent of the places are still available. I'm concerned about who will take advantage of this one. WA runs the Keystart program—another shared-equity scheme. In 2022-23, there were 90 loan approvals under the scheme. As at 30 June, 2023, 149 of these equity loans were in default, with eight loans deemed mortgagee in possession in 2022-23. Neither of these figures is really surprising, given the 12 interest rate rises under the Labor government and what those have done for people's mortgage repayments.

But what will happen to those who are in default under Labor's Help to Buy scheme and whose houses are deemed to be mortgagee in possession like those in the Keystart scheme? Do you know what that will be if you take it on? Who will the lenders be, and what arrangements will they have with the government and the homeowners themselves? How will the homeowners repay the loans? Can the owner refinance if they need to? None of it's explained in this bill. Will they lose their home? Given the state government owns 30 per cent of each of these homes and the federal government will as well, what happens next? What will happen to the people in these same circumstances under Labor's Help to Buy? At a state level, the government owns 30 per cent of that home. What happens when there is a decrease in value? At a federal level, it could be 30 or 40 per cent on an existing home. What happens if those housing prices fall, and you're behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell your house for less than you paid for it? There's nothing in this bill explaining this or even who will be eligible. What's the criteria? What happens if your home is damaged or needs repairs? Who pays and when? Who bears the cost and the value of that? What happens if your income increases, you earn some more money and you're above the threshold, so you no longer qualify under the rules? What happens?

Before people sign up, please find out. This is what you need to know. You will need to know all of this. Which agency will monitor and manage this side of things—your incomes? Who will monitor and manage that? Will it be the ATO or another entity? If so, how will that work? Will you have to buy back the government's share of your property, and if so on what terms and what time frames? Will the price caps be adjusted over time? Should property prices continue to escalate? Will those actual price caps be adjusted to match what you can and can't buy? This will be on a state-by-state basis. I just wonder how many of these 10,000 a year for four years will be available not only state by state but for those of us who, like the member for Durack and me, live in regional and remote parts of states like Western Australia. Do the price caps reflect the actual cost of building a home in a major capital like perhaps Sydney? There are some significant costs in trying to build a home in a place like Sydney. I wonder whether people with a HECS-HELP debt will actually qualify for a housing loan. That will depend, I think, on the lender and their criteria, but nothing's explained in this bill. If participants buy in popular areas, will this scheme increase the price of housing in that area more broadly? Would that provide a barrier to even more people who are not in the scheme to be able to buy into that area?

That's just a snapshot of the reasons. I'm actually asking people to please do your homework before you sign up. What don't you know that you'll need to know before you take this step? The government will own either 30 per cent or 40 per cent of the home that you buy or build. Primarily, people need to get full details—absolutely. They'll need to know what they will have to pay upfront outside of that actual home's costs. What are the other costs involved before you even get to building or buying the home?

There is no doubt that there is a severe shortage of housing. It's no different in my electorate of Forrest in the south-west of Western Australia. A number of my local governments have been actively calling for our state government in WA to assist them in being able to install basic services and basic utilities such as connecting electricity, sewerage, water, telecommunications and access roads. Some of them have got projects like that ready to go. We also need to speed up local and state government approval processes. The red and green tape is a nightmare and just so costly. It's adding to the cost of building a home at all. In WA, we saw the Aboriginal cultural heritage act that would have added to this and worsened the process, as would the original proposed changes to the water act in Western Australia that have since been taken off the table. All of that has simply made local governments even more hesitant in this space. It's further increasing the costs for local governments, developers and even those just trying to build their own homes.

In my patch, Albemarle, a lithium producer with the only lithium hydroxide plant in Australia, is having to build its own village to accommodate its workforce because there are no other options. When you look at the caravan parks and anything else that's available, often they're now populated by people needing permanent accommodation. In Dunsborough the local Rotary Club actually did a project providing lightweight swags for people who are living rough, living in the bush because they can't get affordable accommodation. They were surprised at the age of who came out of the bush to take advantage of these lightweight swags.

We've also got significant problems in WA with delays in Western Power approvals and the cost. The Help to Buy scheme will not meet the needs of Australians in the circumstances that I'm talking about. But, again, I want to warn those who are considering taking up this option to please do your homework. Do your own due diligence so you are fully aware of all of the costs from the beginning to the end of this process. This will depend on the criteria the government sets, because they're not there now.

The median house price in Bunbury is currently $718,000. Will this qualify people under the Help to Buy scheme? In Busselton, that amount is $685,000. Will this qualify? In Capel it's $469,000, according to We have a significant number of people right around Australia but even in my part of the world who are homeless. In the census of 2021, there were 809 homeless people in Bunbury, and I suspect that's a much greater number now. I hear about it when I talk to my agencies that are working in this space and doing everything they can to help people. The combination of homelessness and high rents is forcing more people into this space, people they've never, ever seen before, people seeking help with food and accommodation that have never had to seek it before. I'll end where I started. If anyone is considering this scheme, please make sure you get all of the information, know exactly what you're signing up for, and know that you are going into a shared-equity scheme where the government will own either 30 or 40 per cent of your property when it's time to sell.

10:55 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The word 'crisis' is often overused. Everything seems to be a crisis these days. But I tell you what—when it comes to housing in this country, we do have a genuine crisis. From south-west Australia, in the electorate of Forrest as we've just heard about, through to the top of Queensland and to the bottom of Australia down in Hobart in Tasmania, wherever you go and wherever you look, there genuinely is a chronic shortage of accommodation for people. Of course, without safe, reliable accommodation, you can't be healthy. You can't hold down a job. You can't raise a family. People end up in this spiral of disadvantage, and it's very, very hard to get out of. It's all for want of a reliable, safe, affordable roof over their heads.

It's no wonder the average age of death for homeless people in Australia is 44 years of age. I'll say that again, because that's just a staggering figure. The average age of death for homeless Australians is 44 years of age. That's half or less, Deputy Speaker, than what you and I might hope to achieve. It's no wonder there's something like 4,700 people on Tasmania's social housing waiting list, with an average wait time of more than two years for priority 1 applicants. These are staggering figures. This is in a population of about half-a-million people.

It's not just the homeless who are doing it terribly tough these days, of course. Rents right around Australia, especially in Greater Hobart, are high, are getting higher and are unaffordable. In fact, Hobart remains the equal-least-affordable capital city—a title it has held since 2018. To put that in perspective, we have some of the lowest average wages but some of the highest average rents, the result being that we are consistently one of the most unaffordable capital cities in the Commonwealth—and that's for renters. The situation is so bad, I've actually met people holding down a good job while living in their car, because they can't afford the rents that are being demanded. That is completely unacceptable.

Don't get me started about people who have thumping big mortgages and are suffering mortgage stress. In fact, it is judged that over half of the mortgage holders in my electorate of Clark are at risk of mortgage stress; 51.9 per cent in the electorate of Clark are judged to be at risk of mortgage stress. That's half the mortgage holders in my patch. Many of them are going without essentials. They're not going to the doctor. They're not getting their scripts filled. They're not having three good meals a day. They're not providing the opportunities for their children that we might take for granted as highly-paid and, I'm sure, accommodated people in this House.

It raises the question: how on earth could Australia find itself in this position? We are the 12th-biggest economy in the world. We are fabulously wealthy. It's not the shortage of money. In fact, when you look at mean wealth per adult, we are fourth in the world behind only Switzerland, the United States and Hong Kong. When you look at median wealth per adult, we're second in the world. Australians are the second-richest people on the planet when measured by median wealth per adult. And it's not like the government doesn't have enough money. In this financial year, the federal government will spend a forecast $684.1 billion—in other words, more than $684 thousand million. So it's not for lack of money. There's plenty of money in this country; we are a very rich and fortunate people. What's missing, for a start, is a lack of vision.

I do commend the government for the reforms that it is rolling out, including today's bill. I think today's bill is welcome, even though it has shortcomings. But, really, we're just putting bandaids over things and tinkering around the edges. We need more vision. We need more bravery. We need more political will, and we need less political division to see that vision realised.

Sadly, we do need to have a debate, for example, about negative gearing. But, as soon as there's a whiff of a mention of negative gearing, it doesn't become an opportunity in this place for an intelligent debate of ideas; it becomes a political opportunity to score points. I'll have a go at the opposition here. They're the worst offenders here. A debate about negative gearing would be a very worthwhile debate to have—for people to come in here in good faith to debate their point of view, and may the best and strongest point of view win the day and result in policy change. Instead, it's just an opportunity to score points and to drag down whoever's in government. I lament that fact. The country is the poorer for it.

There are so many things that we could be doing if we had that vision, if we had the political strength and if we had a less confrontational parliamentary system. For example, we should be increasing investment in homelessness and crisis accommodation and support services, including in workforce capacity and development. We can afford it; we're the 12th biggest economy in the world. This year, the government is spending two-thirds of a trillion dollars. We can afford it. We can afford to increase investment in homelessness and crisis accommodation and support services.

We also need to coordinate improved national rental standards which offer renters genuine protections and security of tenure. You can't bring up a family when it's month by month, six months by six months or even 12 months by 12 months. Why can't we look at other countries that have succeeded in this space? For example, look at some of the European countries, where people can have lifetime tenancy, with 20-year leases and 15-year leases. That's the sort of security that families need, and not just families—that everyone needs. Let's say you're an individual on the disability support pension, a client of the NDIS, and you're sitting in a private rental. You can't be worrying about where you'll be next month or in six months or in 12 months. For your health, for your recovery, for your peace of mind and for your mental health, you need to know that you've got a secure roof over your head and it's not something you have to be worried about.

We need to increase income support payments and, in particular, Commonwealth rent assistance. I note that this changes from time to time, but, again, I feel that we're tinkering around the edges. The sort of increase to CRA that is needed is a big increase. Now, my critics might say that that will just encourage landlords to jack up the rents. Of course, it would be a driver, in some areas, for increased rents, but then we loop back to my previous point about improved national rental standards and genuine protections. I know that the ACT has limits on how much rent can increase.

I'll have a go at the government now. The government keeps saying, 'Yes, but this is a matter for the state and territory governments.' Well, be strong; be a government that leads. Get all the premiers and chief ministers into a room and say, 'Right, let's put aside our differences and let's work together to improve the safeguards for renters.' That would, among other things, help to keep a lid on rent increases as a result of Commonwealth rent assistance.

We need meaningful resourcing and decision-making power for the Indigenous community housing organisations. We need targeted incentives to local and state governments to deliver well-planned medium- and high-density social and affordable housing close to where people live, not way out on some greenfield site with poor services and poor public transport. I've left the best one till last, and that is implementing serious progressive tax reform to address systemic housing inequalities which are currently baked in and favour wealthy investors and developers over average Australians.

I know the government got badly burnt at the 2019 election. I get that. I can see why they're gun shy. But let's show some strength. And I can see why the opposition see this as a political opportunity to bang the government on the head if they even mention changes to negative gearing or capital gains tax discounts, for example. But can't we just, for one policy area—we do it on national security most of the time. Why don't we do the same thing on homelessness and say, 'Right, let's bang our heads together and have a think about this.'

Getting rid of negative gearing completely and immediately would of course be highly problematic for people who have made investment decisions in good faith, particularly as they're approaching retirement. But, heavens, can't we come in with reform that perhaps grandfathers investors up until now or perhaps puts caps on it? We can acknowledge that there are a lot of mum-and-dad investors who might have one investment property or two investment properties or whatever, but why can't we cap it and say you can't get negative gearing on 20 houses or 30 houses—in fact, the sorts of numbers of houses that some members in this place and in the Senate have, I would point out. There are ways to design these. But it's got to be something we work together on; otherwise, we're going to be back here next year and the year after.

We're fine. We're fat, dumb and lucky. I reckon everyone in this place has got a roof over their head. Many people in this place own a number of properties. I'm lucky, I'll admit it. My wife and I own a holiday shack down at the bottom of Tasmania. We're the lucky ones. But how about we start governing in the best interests of everyone else, the majority?

During the stage 3 tax cuts debate, I remember seeing a figure. Only about four per cent of Australians earn over $180,000—or taxpayers, I should say. I think that was the figure. Only about two per cent of Tasmanians earn over $180,000. In other words, compared to 98 per cent of Tasmanians, we're rich. We have a moral obligation to work together and not just argue over everything. Even this Help to Buy shared-equity scheme—okay, it's not perfect. Okay, it's only 40,000 properties. Okay, it's on a first come, first served approach. It's far from perfect. But, I tell you what, it's better than nothing.

Why do we have to fight over everything? Why is every idea from this side opposed by that side? Why is every good idea on this side opposed by that side? The losers are our communities that we are sent here to represent, and, when we do argue over everything and we fail to work in a collegiate way, we let our communities down. It's as simple as that.

I'll be supporting the bill. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. If we don't get this bill through the parliament, those 40,000 homes which hopefully will be bought or built will not happen. I take the point from the member for Forrest. Yes, there are lots of questions. Yes, people need to go into this scheme with their eyes wide open. But that doesn't mean we stop it. Maybe we need to amend something; we need to fix it—put in some safeguards. I don't know. But it's no reason to stop it.

11:09 am

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My electorate of Durack is the largest in Australia, spanning from the outskirts of Perth all the way up to Wyndham in the Kimberley. Despite the distance between each town in the total 1.4 million square kilometres and all the unique circumstances that my electorate faces, everywhere I go, everyone is suffering from a housing crisis.

Only last November I addressed this very House about the Australian dream of homeownership and the fact that it's slipping away from younger Australians. That dream is being stolen by the Albanese government. Sadly, statistics are showing our youth are losing hope about ever owning their own home. I must admit that I copped a bit of flak about that after that speech last November not because it was not true but because I didn't go far enough stressing that everyone is worse off under this current government.

Finding affordable housing is like finding a needle in a haystack. But we must find a solution. We owe it to those Australians who are trying to get their foot on the first step of the property ladder. Since those opposite were elected, rents have increased by some 26 per cent. First home buyers and new home approvals remain at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Lending for new homes remains at a shameful 20-year low, and we've recently seen the weakest quarter of construction in more than a decade.

What is this Albanese government's response to this housing crisis? Well, it's this so-called Help to Buy scheme before us today, a policy that is, frankly, too little too late. This policy was at the front and centre of those opposite's housing agenda before the last election, yet it has taken them some 20 months to bring it before the House. Despite the delay, we still have so many unanswered questions. Basic questions around eligibility and home improvements are yet to be answered. Honestly, they've had plenty of time to sort this out. It's unclear whether this Help to Buy Bill will instead force people to sell.

We know this government is not big on aspiration, but what happens once you earn over the $90,000 threshold for an individual or the $120,000 threshold for a couple? Will you be forced to sell your dream home? The reality is that Australians don't want to share ownership in their home with the government, and we know this because shared-equity schemes already exist across multiple jurisdictions in this country, and they are simply not being taken up. In New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania there are plenty of places left, but people are simply not taking up the opportunities. In fact, in New South Wales 94 per cent of places remain available. Are we really supposed to believe that Labor's very own equity scheme will drastically improve the housing crisis? I say no, it will not.

Even if this bill manages to pass parliament, which, at this stage, I don't think it will without some concessions being made to the Greens political party, the states and territories in Australia will need to pass their own legislation to participate in this scheme. I don't know how it's going to work when they've their own schemes that are not getting taken up. It's hard to see any Australian being supported by this scheme for many months, and this is despite this government's promise that it would start 1 January 2023.

This scheme is very underwhelming and contradicts the bold claims being made by those opposite. Let's remember that this is designed to support just 10,000 households per year. There are millions of Australians out there who are currently renting who are in the property market, with 85 per cent of renters hoping one day to own their own home. Even if this policy were successful, frankly, it would be just a drop in the ocean. Worse yet, this policy may contribute to further increases in the cost of housing. A similar policy introduced into the United Kingdom was found to have inflated prices by more than its subsidy value in areas where it was needed the most. So the solution from this government is a plan to legislate more inflationary pressures into the housing market. Honestly, it is just nuts!

There has been a lot of talk from the Albanese government about boosting the supply of homes. Their target of 1.2 million new homes over the next five years already now appears to be another broken promise. The Housing Industry Association has predicted that Labor will fall at least 200,000 homes short of this target. If new home builds continue at the current rate, Labor will be lucky to even get to 800,000 homes.

My electorate isn't just stuck with this hapless government over here, opposite us; it's also stuck with the incompetent WA Labor government, who are failing in their responsibility to supply social housing in Western Australia. There are significant wait times for social housing right across Durack. In the Mid West and Gascoyne regions, there is an average wait time of 133 weeks. It's 139 weeks in the Pilbara, 154 weeks in the East Kimberley and a whopping 226 weeks in the West Kimberley. While the state government brags about delivering surpluses, some of the most vulnerable people in my electorate are left waiting for years simply to get a roof over their head. They are failing to roll out the regional modular build program quickly enough, and their spot purchase program has contributed next to nothing to the number of social housing units in regional Western Australia. Frankly, it's remarkable that between June 2017 and July 2023 the number of social homes fell, despite WA's resident population increasing by over 200,000 people. The residential construction industry in WA is also going through significant turmoil, with at least 23 residential builders going into liquidation only last financial year. Dwelling approvals remain very low by historical standards, and the WA government is sitting on land that regional councils are hoping to have unlocked to house essential workers. Some towns literally have not one vacant home available and are unable to grow. While there is a serious supply issue, with fewer builds occurring than under our coalition government, there is also record demand for housing.

Under Labor we've seen the highest immigration numbers in our nation's history. In the 2022-23 period, migration added 518,000 people to Australia's population, and the Albanese government is planning for a further 1.2 million people over the next five years. Of course we need skilled workers, but that's not the full story with these numbers. In the 2022-23 period, 283,000 of these arrivals were international students. They're not here to build houses or to use their skills for other purposes, and they are competing with Australians for the limited housing supply on offer. It's no wonder the rate of rental vacancies has recently hit a record low, and it doesn't look like improving anytime soon.

Let me reiterate the madness of this approach. The government is bringing more people into the country than ever before and, at the same time, fewer houses are being built. More people, fewer houses; fewer houses, more people. Why can't those opposite understand that their strategy is driving up housing prices? It's simple economics. We know the Prime Minister is a student of economics. Maybe he needs to join some of those international students and go back to school to do a refresher course in supply and demand. This is an essential component that is driving the housing crisis, and it is in no way addressed by the bill that we are currently debating.

Only the coalition can be trusted to turn this around and restore the great Australian dream. As the member for Sturt noted in his contribution—and I note he's in the House with me—the Liberal Party has always been the party of homeownership. This legacy stems from the leadership and vision of the great Sir Robert Menzies, the founder of our great party. I'm very proud of the work that we did in government on this front. We established the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee. We established the HomeBuilder program during the pandemic and kept the construction industry afloat during a time of deep uncertainty. During our last three years in government, the coalition's housing policies assisted more than 300,000 Australians purchasing their own homes. Under our government, the number of first-home buyers reached its highest level in nearly 15 years. In our last full financial year in government, that number was close to 180,000. When we came to government in 2013, that number sat at just 100,000. Our commitment to homeownership and to that Australian dream continues, and we will take to the next election a strategy to support Australians to purchase their own home and to reinstate the Australian dream of homeownership.

This will include a sensible approach to immigration, as we need to get that balance right. I think all Australians understand that. We will do what this government has failed to do in reducing the cost of living. After all, how can a family possibly save for a home when they're living from pay cheque to pay cheque? It's simply not sustainable. We're also committed to introducing the super homebuyer scheme. This scheme will allow first-home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation up to a maximum of $50,000 to help with the purchase of their first home. This strategy will do far more to assist Australians into the housing market than the approach set out by those opposite. I believe housing will be front of mind as we head towards the next election, and Australians will be able to reflect on the terrible record of those opposite.

I'd like to switch focus very briefly by acknowledging the leadership of former prime minister Morrison. He has a legacy to be proud of, and it's not just limited to our strong record of housing. Given his valedictory speech yesterday, I'd like to thank him for his service to our nation. As former prime minister, Scott Morrison, the ex-member for Cook, arguably faced the most difficult circumstances facing a prime minister since the Second World War, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was very proud to serve in his cabinet, and I want to thank him for his support and encouragement. I'd like to thank him for his leadership and also to wish him and his family all the very best for the future.

11:22 am

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a pleasure to rise to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023, because this bill has more questions than it has answers. This bill has so little detail it's not funny. This bill requires so many links and the cooperation of so many that it's hard to see that it will achieve anything it is setting out to do. As a matter of fact, this bill should be taken away from this House, and the government should start again.

As the previous speaker has very eloquently noted, how can the government be bringing in 1.6 million people over four years and yet have policies in place which are leading to a decline in housing starts? Just to give this House a sense of what is happening, 1.6 million people is the size of the City of Adelaide. We're bringing in that many people in the space of four years. Where are they going to live? It's a very simple question that the government needs to answer. Where are they going to live? All we're seeing at the moment is housing prices going through the roof, rents going through the roof and rental vacancies collapsing. At the same time—and I have this straight from my own electorate—timber mills provide the wood that goes into the houses, but there's no demand for the timber that they're producing, because no-one is building houses. It is a calamity.

What does the government come up with? It comes up with this Help to Buy Bill scheme. What does this involve? It involves the government taking equity in your home loan. The first question we need to ask the government is: why are you putting your own program in place when the states already have equity schemes in place? The thing about it is not only do the states have their own equity schemes but they're not fully utilised. There are actually gaps and vacancies in the equity schemes at the state and territory level. Why is the federal government saying, 'We're going to come in and put our own in place?'

The Albanese government continues to, I should say, bemuse—though I think bemuse is the wrong word, because this is about people, especially young people, trying to get into homes. The Albanese Labor government keeps betraying what it said to the Australian people before the election. Before the election the Albanese Labor Party did not say that their Help to Buy scheme would be dependent on the cooperation of the states and territories. So for them to be able to introduce their scheme and for it to work properly they need every state and territory to come on board.

The one thing they've done is say they would pay for all the expenses around it, so I assume what the states and territories will do is say, 'We had our schemes in place, which weren't being fully utilised, so we'll take the money from the Commonwealth to pay for our own schemes because—as many members would know, and I'm sure the member for Bradfield would know this clearly—many of the states are going broke due to their economic mismanagement, and I particularly point to Victoria. It beggars belief, but the Victorian state government are heading towards $200 billion in debt. They would see Anthony Albanese coming from a long, long way, and they would say thank you for helping us! As we know, Dan Andrews and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are very close mates. We're starting to see that play out in the way this mob governs—

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

Victoria, shocking!

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I know, but he's giving him advice and he was giving him advice, and that's what we're seeing. We're seeing programs like this being run out by this government, and they're not going to work. They're not going to deal with the problems we're facing right now.

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to bring up a point of relevance regarding the member for Wannon. We do need to stick with the topic in this debate. I would also like to bring the member for Wannon back to reflections upon members and the correct use of people's names. I know he gets it.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I agree. The member for Wannon needs to refer to people by their designation and needs to avoid a discussion between himself and those opposite. I'm sure he understands that very well.

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Paterson for her point of order and her helpful guidance. One of the things I always find very useful is that when you make some political points which start to niggle a little bit and that those opposite know are very relevant and very true, they tend to take these points of order.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Wannon, stick to the topic.

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

Anyway, it is clear from this threadbare legislation that the government has failed to do the hard work you need to do when you're governing. Governing is not just some sort of ride at Luna Park. You actually have to do the work.

The following are the types of questions that we need answers for. What is the scheme's eligibility criteria? Maybe the member for Paterson could answer that for us, because we can't get it out of the minister—and many people would say that the member for Paterson should be on the front bench because she'd do a much better job than half the ministers who've been put before us by the Prime Minister. Maybe she could tell us what the scheme's eligibility criteria is. What happens if you make improvements to your home? Will you have to send the government an invoice for repairs and maintenance, such as a leaky roof? That's a very good question that we can't get an answer to. What happens if you earned a cent above $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government force the sale of your home? These are all legitimate questions that, when you go into a joint mortgage with the government, need to be answered, and the minister cannot answer them. Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure people don't own a cent over the threshold? So, if, all of a sudden, you get a pay rise, is that the end of your Help to Buy scheme? What does that mean to your shared equity? We don't have an answer. What happens if housing prices fall and you are behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell your house for less than you paid for it? Once again, maybe the member for Paterson will be able to help us with an answer to that question. These are pretty straightforward and simple questions. What are the property price caps? We still don't know what the property price caps are.

I might be mistaken here, but my understanding is that this policy was announced before the last election and that it was meant to be rolled out, I think, six months after, and we haven't seen that happen. Here we are now, nearly but not quite hitting the two-year mark, and we still do not have an answer for these simple questions. What are the property price caps? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state and territory? You know you've got to do this with the states and territories, but do you have any idea how many will go to Victoria, how many to New South Wales or how many to Queensland? We don't know. The Australian people don't know. Maybe the government doesn't know or maybe it does. Who knows? I think there are so many questions that it beggars belief, to be honest. And then what lenders are participating in the scheme? We don't know that. We're nearly two years in. This was a policy announced before the last election, and we have no idea about these answers.

One of the things we do know is that this scheme will cost the Commonwealth $5.5 billion. I must say, when we need housing addressed in this nation right now, when we need the rental crisis addressed right now, the government is spending $5.5 billion, and yet we've got nothing to show for it. At this stage, and maybe the member for Paterson can help again, has one house been built by this scheme since the government came in? Has one apartment been built by the scheme since the government came in? Have we had one?

So I'll just explain this again: 1.6 million people are coming into the country over four years. For those in the gallery listening, that's the size of the city of Adelaide. The government introduced a scheme before the last election to help with housing, and yet here we are, nearly two years into this government, and how many houses have been built? Zero. At least they haven't gone backwards. At least they haven't been—

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

Demolishing houses.

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

demolishing houses. I suppose that is a very good point.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

There's still time.

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

There is still time. Maybe by the two-year mark we will have seen houses beginning to be demolished. Like I said, you would be bemused if it weren't so serious.

What is it that the government could be doing? They could be taking a leaf out of our book, because, when we were in government, we were able to deliver new houses. As a matter of fact, our schemes helped support and contribute to the building of more than 300,000 purchases of homes. That is a track record that those opposite should have looked at and should have said, 'Okay, how can we build on that?'

Just to give you an idea—because these ideas might help: the coalition has supported almost 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families into homeownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme; protected the residential construction industry with more than 137,000 HomeBuilder applications, generating $120 billion of economic activity; provided $2.9 billion of low-cost loans to community housing providers to support 15,000 social and affordable dwellings, saving $470 million in interest payments, to be reinvested in more affordable housing; unlocked 6,900 social and affordable market dwellings through the coalition's $1 billion infrastructure facility, to make housing supply more responsive to demand; and established the First Home Super Saver Scheme, helping 27,600 first home buyers accelerate their deposit savings through superannuation.

Any of those schemes could have been picked up by the government and they would have delivered outcomes. We wouldn't be standing here now sadly mocking the government for not having facilitated, through this program, the building of one new dwelling—not one new dwelling. It is a shame and it's a pity, and it's actually leading to dislocation, it's leading to disharmony and it's leading to communities just asking what the hell is going on. If you're a young Australian at the moment, you are seriously now asking yourself: will I ever be able to own a home? And that is not a question that we want young Australians to be asking at the moment. What we need is for the government to provide answers to young Australians—and it's not just young Australians. There are many Australians right across the board, in whatever circumstances, who are now looking to purchase a home, and they look at the affordability question and they say, 'That is now beyond me.' As a matter of fact, the median wage now will not support you being able to buy a medium-value house. And that is wrong.

We need to address this and we need the government to act. They're not acting through this bill; as a matter of fact, they're making a bad situation worse, because the maths just do not add up. The questions are not being answered and it is another debacle. This is the absolute responsibility of the government. They need to do better and they need to do better quickly.

11:37 am

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to rise to speak on the Help to Buy Bill and the Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill and to follow the excellent contribution, if I may so, by the member for Wannon. As the member for Wannon articulated, the coalition opposes the Help to Buy Bill. Let's be very clear about what we support and what we oppose. We support effective policy measures to help more Australians buy their own home. We've always supported that and we have a very proud record of implementing effective policy which achieves that very objective. Sadly, the scheme before the House today, contained in this Help to Buy Bill, is not an effective policy. On the contrary, it is poorly targeted, it is badly designed and it is very poor value for taxpayers' money.

I want to be crystal clear: this is not a debate about whether one side of the House or the other more strongly supports all Australians who want to having the opportunity to buy their own home. That is something that on this side of the chamber we very strongly support. The question before the chamber today is whether the particular policy mechanism proposed by the Albanese Labor government, embodied in this bill, is an effective mechanism to achieve that objective or whether, in fact, it is ineffective and it is nothing more than a cynical political gambit from a party that wants to be seen to be doing something, when on any analysis the proposed measure is going to have, at best, an almost inconsequential impact.

Let me lay out the reasons I say—we say—this scheme is poorly targeted, badly designed and poor value for taxpayers' money. It is open to only 10,000 households each financial year. That is why the excellent, extremely effective, extremely experienced shadow minister for housing delivered, when he was the Minister for Housing, effective policy mechanisms which got hundreds of thousands of Australians into their own homes. He speaks with authority and experience on this subject, and he describes this scheme—I think entirely accurately—as a niche program with, in total, some 10,000 households. The maximum upper limit on the number of households who can participate each year is 10,000. For that niche benefit, taxpayers will be on the hook for $5.5 billion. While the Labor party never shows any evidence of recognising this fundamental reality, the amount of money available to the government to spend is finite. It's limited. It's not inexhaustible. That means you need to assess the range of policy options in the menu of possibilities in front of you based upon those which most effectively and efficiently deploy taxpayers' money. This scheme, I'm sorry to say, does not meet that test.

We can look at the experience of the numerous shared-equity schemes which have been in place at the state government level over many years—for example, the New South Wales government's Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper scheme, the Victorian government's Homebuyer Fund, the South Australian government's HomeStart shared equity option and Tasmania's MyHome shared equity option. The simple fact is that, in each of these schemes, there are places remaining. Demand falls short of supply. We do not have a constraint in the supply of places in shared-equity schemes around Australia. Yet, for some mystifying reason, the policy geniuses on the other side of the chamber thought it was a ripper idea to announce yet another shared-equity scheme, notwithstanding the clear market evidence that there isn't a shortage of supply; there's a shortage of demand for places in shared-equity schemes. There are more than enough places already available from the schemes provided by state governments around the country. Yet, for some mysterious reason, the Labor party at the Commonwealth level thought it was a ripper idea to announce another one.

Why would they do that, you might ask? The answer is pretty obvious. They want to be seen to be doing something about the problem of Australians getting access to housing without actually doing anything meaningful or that will make a material difference. There are well-recognised issues with shared-equity schemes, which means that they are a niche policy solution, as the shadow minister for housing has rightly said. Amongst those well-recognised problems is that that they may encourage those for whom homeownership is not necessarily the most suitable housing option to take on undue financial risk. They may divert resources from supporting those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including because of rental stress.

But there's another, more fundamental problem with shared-equity schemes which explains why they are at best a niche solution and why the number of people who have come forward to take up places in the schemes provided by state governments around Australia has fallen short of the number of places available. That problem is this: if you want to own a home, you want to own a home. You don't want to own a home on a shared basis with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing. You don't want them or their representatives to be sitting around the kitchen table when the will is read out to determine who gets to take a share of ownership when you've died. You want to own a home. This has been an aspiration of millions of Australians for decades and decades. Millions of Australians have embarked upon the homeownership journey, and it has benefited them for many reasons throughout their life, including by giving them that sense of security and stability that you have when you own your own home and by giving them greater autonomy because they can make a choice about whether they want to put up some pictures on the wall without having to check with the landlord.

Of course, there is also the fact that purchasing home, as most of us do—very few of us are in a position to buy a home outright—is a means of enforced saving and a means of building wealth throughout your life. It is particularly important when you get to your retirement years that you own a home. That is one reason why the policy objective of having as many people as possible owning their own homes is very important. It's important for a range of reasons, but certainly one of those is that more people owning their own homes in their retirement years means that more people will be able to enjoy a retirement in which they are not continually anxious about their housing options and about paying for those housing options. That is a fundamental philosophical reason why the relevance and the applicability of shared-equity schemes is always going to be at best a niche policy response.

On top of that fundamental design or philosophical issue are a whole range of important questions of detail in relation to the operation of this particular scheme that have not been adequately answered by the government, which leads one to suspect that they haven't yet worked out the answers. What, for example, are the eligibility criteria to participate under the scheme? What happens if you, as the co-owner of a home with the Australian government, spend money on making improvements to your home? What if you spend money on making necessary repairs to a leaky roof? Do you then send an invoice to the government so that they pay 50 per cent of the cost? What happens if you spend $50,000 on a kitchen or a bathroom renovation? Do you send an invoice to the Commonwealth government for 50 per cent of the cost of that? That will contribute to the increased value of the home when it's ultimately sold. As the details of this scheme, such as they are, suggest, the Commonwealth will then be entitled to 50 per cent of the gain in the value of the home—the price that you sell it at compared to the price it was bought at. But if some of that gain comes because you, the homeowner, have spent $50,000 on a bathroom or a kitchen renovation, how is that to be equitably worked out?

The answers to those questions remain, it must be said, an enduring mystery. What about the income test that applies for eligibility under this scheme? We know from what the government has said that your income must be below $90,000 if you are an individual or below $120,000 if you are a couple to be eligible to participate in the scheme. What happens if you've bought a home under this scheme with the Commonwealth government as your co-owner on an income of $80,000 and then a couple of years down the track your income increases—you get a pay rise or perhaps you change jobs—and suddenly you're earning $95,000. That's very good news, but it won't be good news if the fact of having increased your income means that the Commonwealth government then says to you: 'Right, you're out. You're no longer meeting the eligibility requirements of this scheme, so pack your stuff and get out of the house. It's got to be sold.' Again, we don't know the answers to these questions.

What are your reporting obligations if you participate in one of these shared-equity schemes? What happens if housing prices fall? It does happen sometimes. More often than not over the past 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, house prices have risen, but from time to time they fall. That's in the nature of markets. What will happen if housing prices fall and if you, as the owner or co-owner, are behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government step in as the co-owner and say: 'We're at financial risk here. We insist that the home be sold'? You're out on the street. And the sale price that you realise is less than you paid to get into the house. All of these are perfectly foreseeable scenarios, but it is very hard to know what the answers to these questions are, because the government's been extremely vague.

One of the other undistinguished features of this government's poor administration of this area of policy is that Australians were promised—Australians were told at the last election—that this Help to Buy scheme would be in place by 1 January 2023. It does not take much intellectual effort to work out that that deadline has been hopelessly missed. We're already almost a year and two months past that deadline. But, of course, there's another factor here—although the Labor Party didn't make this plain to Australians when they announced this policy—which is that, because of the way it's designed, the state and territory governments each need to pass their own legislation to allow the scheme to operate.

Members of this House should not think that, once this legislation passes the federal parliament, this government has delivered on its promise. On the contrary, there's more work to be done. We are already more than halfway through the term of the Albanese Labor government, and this is but one of many areas where it is hopelessly behind time and where what it is actually delivering falls vastly short of the soaring rhetoric of its promises. Members might well ask, 'What's the urgency in getting this done and why has the government moved to guillotine this evening so that the bill has to be passed?' It might very well be because they're pretty embarrassed about the fact that, as of 1 March, we're going to tip over from one year and two months to one year and three months, and they want to try and at least get the legislation through.

But I say to Australians: do not think that, once this legislation is through, there's going to be a miraculous change in the availability of housing, because there's more that needs to be done. It's a niche scheme at best, and poorly targeted, badly designed, poor value for taxpayers' money, and politics over policy substance. The coalition opposes this bill.

11:52 am

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to congratulate for their contributions the Manager of Opposition Business and shadow minister, together with the shadow minister for immigration, both of whom I've had the opportunity to listen to while I've been in the chamber.

There is so much wrong with this bill, the Help to Buy Bill 2023. I want to start with the last point. In my maiden speech I referred to an Italian phrase which I spend a lot of time thinking about, particularly in my public life. Loosely translated, it is 'between the saying and doing, there's the ocean between'. And so it is here in terms of this shared-equity proposal by those opposite. There is a long way between the saying and the doing.

What was the saying? The saying was in the lead-up to the last election. With much fanfare, faced with a growing cost-of-living crisis and particularly a housing crisis, the wannabe Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, indicated that his government—were they to be brought to government—would legislate this scheme and have it operational by 1 January 2023. That was the saying. But we're now well and truly into the doing, unless of course you don't think that much can be achieved in 14 months, which of course it can be. That's the best-case scenario. We're at 14 months right now.

Not that it was shared publicly with the Australian people at the time, but, as we have just heard and as is the case, in order to make this policy operational—I won't say 'effective'—there will need to be legislation mirroring it in each of the state jurisdictions. This proposed bill hasn't even left this place yet, so to think that it would be operational by the end of this calendar year is optimistic. I think it's a more likely scenario, and perhaps the reason to guillotine it, that those opposite have indicated: 'We need to get it legislated so that we can do one of two things. Either we can say, "Well, we've done our part," and blame the states'—which is something that occurs regularly—'or, alternatively, we can avoid any criticism associated with the scheme having not kicked off.'

The first thing is their rank delay in doing anything in this space so as to effectively hoodwink the people of Australia into voting for them but then not being able to carry through. It's a theme that's becoming increasingly consistent for those opposite. But the next point is, quite frankly, we have a Minister for Housing who comes into this place and is fond of saying—presumably from information she's finally got from the conga line of round tables that she conducts—that the solution is supply. Then why would she provide a proposal which is all about being a demand-driven mechanism? This proposal, as ineffectual and niche as it is, is all about driving up demand. It has nothing to do with supply.

While I'm talking about how niche this proposal is—it's 10,000 homes, and that's if it's able to be legislated with all the conditions present—this is against a backdrop of, as we heard from the shadow minister for immigration, 1.5 million new arrivals on our doorstep. I don't live in Adelaide, but I've spent a lot of time in that city, of course, because I'm a South Australian. While I'm here and whilst we're talking about housing—obviously 10,000 homes are insignificant when we're talking about needing to house an additional 1.5 million people, and that's not to mention the crisis that we're facing right now in real terms—I want to pause for a minute and say that it's not just houses that you need to provide when you're seeking to grow your population by that number over such a short period of time. A population the size of Adelaide needs schools, roads and hospitals. Just like the way those opposite have been ham-fisted in this proposal, they're not working on the infrastructure and investment you need to support those other elements.

Why would you think about legislating a shared-equity scheme like this when shared-equity schemes exist all over the country, in almost every jurisdiction, and they're undersubscribed, in many cases, by 90 per cent? There's no shortage of opportunities for people who might want to participate in a shared-equity scheme to do so. But here's a newsflash for those opposite: they don't want to. The reason why they don't want to is that Australians, on average, want government out of their life and not in the kitchen. That's the reality. They want government working for them, not controlling them.

I think this is the greatest example I've seen for a while of the differences between the two major political parties. I think the most significant achievement of our founder, Robert Menzies, was taking private homeownership to a majority level here in this country. Sadly, we're now seeing the rates of private homeownership fall off the cliff. Why is private homeownership important? We need Australians to take an interest in this country. You can't have a property owned democracy if nobody owns property in the democracy. Homeownership also provides security for retirement. The cases I see around elderly Australians and stress invariably involve them not owning their own home. So if we can get a greater percentage of Australians owning a stake in Australia and, importantly, their own home then, yes, it will provide security for their retirement, but it's more than that. As a cultural conservative, I will say this to the last breath I have: a strong society is a product of strong families. Strong families need the support and security of a family home.

Now those opposite would have the government not only at the kitchen table but on the title deed as a second mortgage holder. We have heard from the Manager of Opposition Business about all the difficulties associated with that, and I will run through those in a minute. But the principle is this: we do not want the government having an interest in your home; we want you to own your own home. I can highlight the difference between our respective policy positions. The shadow minister is here. He did so much as minister, whether it was around HomeBuilder or other schemes, to assist 300,000 Australians to get into a home during our time in government. The 'home first, super second' policy that we took to the last election is one that we have recommitted to.

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

It's a terrible policy, raiding your super.

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

'Terrible' I hear. I'm going to take the interjection. Those opposite would like the government to take an interest in your property but don't want you to use your own savings to do exactly the same thing. Newsflash for those opposite—

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

It's for retirement.

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take the interjection that it's for retirement. I have to tell you that money in a bank account ain't much good to you in retirement if you don't own your own home. That's why it's got to be home first, super second. I want Australians to use their own funds to get themselves into a home. Young Australians who are working hard and putting money away in their super should be able to access that as a deposit for their home. Those opposite—and you heard it from the member for Bennelong—are opposed to that. I think that may have something to do with the position that industry super takes in relation to this. And, of course, who runs industry super funds? Those opposite want industry super funds investing in housing stock so that they can own the homes but don't want you to use your own super to buy your own home.

While I am talking about consistent themes, I have to say that something struck me about this proposal and I thought: 'Goodness! I remember a debate like this—high on rhetoric and low on detail.' The rhetoric here is that it is a help-to-buy scheme. It sounds pretty cool. I would love help to buy a lot of things, particularly a home. But what about some of the detail? The last time we had a debate that was high on rhetoric and low on detail it was a catastrophic failure for the progressives. It was the Voice campaign. It was high on rhetoric but very low on detail.

I have some simple questions for those opposite. I think Australians are entitled to have answers to these questions. After all, this scheme is going to cost the Australian taxpayer $5.5 billion. That rolls off the tongue, but let me put it another way. It's $5,500,000,000. That is more money than you could fly a rocket ship over, and so the Australian people deserve some clear answers. What's the scheme's eligibility criteria? What happens with improvements to the home? Do you need approval before you extend the home?

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Just call Albo.

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, put a call in to the PM! What happens, as you heard asked by the Manager of Opposition Business, if at some point your income exceeds the threshold of $90,000, or $120,000 for a couple, thanks to pay rises or other things? What happens when the property is sold? What happens if the price of the property falls? Are we going to be forced into selling homes? Will this Help to Buy scheme become a force-to-sell scheme? I would really like to know where these 40,000 places will be. What percentage of them will be in regional Australia, for example, or regional South Australia particularly? These are all questions that are unanswered. I think it unreasonable that the Australian people be asked to spend $5.5 billion on this niche program without those details to hand.

With respect, the minister should spend her time focused on supply. Can I tell you what's happened in the last 14 months? Housing starts have almost stopped in this country. As the member for Barker, I'm privileged to represent areas home to the radiata pine industry. That industry is principally about structural timber, and that structural timber goes into the frames and trusses of the homes around this country. I get a very early lead indicator of what's happening in terms of housing starts across the country because I drive past timber mills on a very regular basis and I see what's happening to their stock and inventory. I can tell you right now that they're running out of space to stack the timber. Why? Because there's no demand for it. Why is there no demand for it? There's no demand for it because housing starts have stopped.

We've got a minister over here fixated on a policy that Labor promised in an attempt to hoodwink the Australian people to deliver them to government. While she acknowledges that it's all about supply, supply, supply—because that's what all of the peak bodies in this portfolio space are telling her—she's fixated on delivering a policy which is all about driving demand up. Demand's not the problem. There are more Australians that want a home than can get into a home. Newsflash: supply is the problem. That's why the price of housing is going up to unaffordable levels. That's why Australians can't afford to rent. We need to get more stock onto the market, and you're not going to do that with a help-to-buy scheme, particularly when you already have those schemes all around the country and many of them are 90 per cent undersubscribed.

Please, minister, focus on supply. Roll out the supply this country needs so that we can maintain ourselves as a property-owning democracy. Don't focus on these niche programs; help people to get into homes. Drive down the cost of living. Get on and do your job.

12:07 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

It's great to be able to speak here today on housing, homelessness and some of the issues that Australians are experiencing around the country. Homelessness, in particular, has gone through the roof under the Albanese Labor government in the last two years. It's just skyrocketed.

The coalition will oppose the Help to Buy Bill 2023. The reason why is that we think $5.5 billion could be better spent elsewhere. As the member for Barker just said, very correctly, this is bad policy. This is policy on the run. When you talk about the minister, I really think that she has no idea what she's doing in this portfolio. When you speak about the HAFF, she doesn't even know how it was going to be invested. In giving more social housing to the states, how is she going to reduce the maintenance bill through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement? For Queensland, where I come from, every dollar that we give is spent on maintenance, every year. There isn't one new social house; they spend all the money we give them on maintenance. What is the minister going to do about that? No idea. Labor's record has seen homelessness increase considerably. In the midst of a housing crisis, this underwhelming Help to Buy scheme is too little too late. The Australian dream is to own your own home, not one with the government. They don't want to own it with the government.

The problems with the scheme have been pointed out during this debate. First of all, it needs all the state governments to approve it. But the states already have help-to-buy schemes. They already have schemes that are very similar to this one. Guess what? Not all of the places are full; a lot of those places are still empty. The member for Wannon said earlier—and I agree—that the federal government is going to give a whole lot of money to the states in order to get them to sign up for this scheme, and what are they going to do with that cash? We don't know. They'll probably use it to replace or invest into their existing schemes, which currently are not full. Only a Labor government would come in and go, 'Well, if we've got these schemes all around the country in different states and they're currently not full, we're going to bring in another scheme on top of that.'

What happens if wages go up? The Leader of the House, the minister for industrial relations, comes into this place every day in question time, spruiking how wages are going up. Mind you, they're not keeping up with inflation. But he comes in every day, saying, 'Wages are going up. We're doing this; we're doing that,' but what happens if you go above $90,000 and you're in a help-to-buy scheme? Does that mean the house then has to be sold? Could it be sold at a loss? These are questions that neither the minister nor anyone else in the government has addressed during this debate.

What about insurance costs? Who is paying for the insurance? We've seen insurance under the Albanese Labor government go through the roof. It is not just rents and mortgages; insurance has gone up considerably. So, if the government owns 30 or 40 per cent of the house, are they going to pay 30 or 40 per cent of the insurance bill? What about the rates bill or the local council? Are they going to pay 30 to 40 per cent of the rates bill? There are no answers. What about repairs and maintenance? Something might need upgrading. Are they going to pay 30 to 40 per cent of that bill, or is that all on the person that has 60 to 70 per cent of the ownership? Will the Australian Taxation Office be auditing income to ensure they don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of these shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? These are all questions unanswered by this Labor government. What lenders are participating in the scheme? How many of the 40,000 places will be available to each state and territory? What are the property price caps? None of this has been communicated.

Let's face it: Labor's record when it comes to housing and homelessness is pretty atrocious. I'm not talking just about the Albanese Labor government; I'm also talking about state Labor governments. In Queensland the Palaszczuk and Miles Labor governments have a particularly shocking record. Homelessness has increased. It's gone through the roof in the last two years. There wouldn't be a member in this House of Representatives who hasn't seen more rough sleepers starting to emerge around the country. The member for Lindsay agrees. The member for Herbert agrees. We're seeing it all over the place. I'm sure we'd also see it in Victoria. It is partly because of the 12 interest rate rises that we've seen under the Albanese Labor government. When the coalition was in, there was one interest rate rise. Then we had 12 consecutive interest rate rises.

At the same time, we have Labor governments—not just the Albanese Labor government here but around the country—talking down negative gearing. We know that the Prime Minister and the Albanese Labor government do not like negative gearing. We hear it from their coalition partners, the Greens. The Albanese Labor government can't get one piece of legislation through this parliament without the support of the Greens in the other place, so the Greens have been continually barking on, for the last year and a half, encouraging them to break the stage 3 tax cuts after the Prime Minister and the Treasurer said they wouldn't. They said 100 times they wouldn't. Eventually, they caved in to the Greens and broke it. What they don't tell you is that people earning over $135,000—a lot of public servants in Canberra and others, a lot of small-business people who work hard—will see their taxes go up by seven to 15 per cent under this government, and they're given a lousy three per cent at the bottom and. Who in Australia has ever heard someone saying, at 19 cents in the dollar, they're paying too much tax? But this government's big idea was to reduce that to 16 cents. That's the Prime Minister 's big plan for stage 3 tax cuts. The truth is no-one in this country would be getting a tax cut if it weren't for the coalition government, and this is all very relevant because the cost of living is going through the roof and we're seeing more homeless people. Meanwhile, Labor are out there spending half a billion dollars on Voice campaigns.

We know that in 2019 the Labor government took to the election that they were going to get rid of negative gearing. They were going to change it. Now their coalition partners in the Senate—the Greens—are asking them to do exactly the same thing. Guess what? Ninety per cent of the housing in this country is owned by the private sector. If you can't negatively gear it when interest rates are going through the roof, what does that mean for rents? It means that there will be more rent increases because if you can't take a loss against your income when interest rates are going through the roof, rents will go up. It will also mean—as this government talks down negative gearing and increasing taxes on people earning over $135,000—the very mums and dads and the very people who are more likely to build an additional investment home, and that's exactly what we need at the moment.

We've got 1.5 million migrants coming in under this government over the next few years. Three times higher than what it was under the former coalition government when we were bringing in 160,000 a year. They're bringing in all these people with nowhere to live. We've got homelessness going through the roof, and at the same time they're talking down negative gearing and putting up taxes on median income earners who earn over $135,000. How are they incentivising people to build an investment property to help out in the middle of this housing crisis? It's not good.

The reality is that the minister has no idea. The coalition's record has been particularly good. In the last three years of the coalition government, we had 300,000 Australians purchasing homes. That's a hundred thousand per year. This scheme helps 10,000 people a year—10 per cent of what the former government was doing. NHFIC was a landmark coalition achievement that delivered $2.9 billion in low-cost loans to community housing. We know that the state Labor government in Queensland hates community housing. Palecek and Miles have done nothing for 10 years up there. Now, finally, they're starting to look into it. Why did they hate it? Because Campbell Newman, the former premier up there, liked it. 'Oh, we can't do anything that the coalition did up here.' The coalition federal government helped 21,000 people into social and affordable housing in our term. That would be more people, by the way.

Labor has changed the name of NHFIC to Housing Australia to somehow take ownership of it. Guess what? It's a coalition policy that they've adopted. Good on them for doing so, but at the end of the day that's what's been working. Under the coalition, first home buyers reached their highest levels in 15 years. More than 60,000 people in Australia—first home buyers and single parent families, predominantly women—were supported into home ownership through the Morrison government and through the coalition government through various home guarantee schemes. They are still running today, and that's good. We want to expand them further when we come back to government.

The First Home Super Saver Scheme, which some of the members that have been here a few terms voted against, assisted 27,600 first home buyers in accelerating their deposit through superannuation—another good scheme of the coalition. Over 137,000 HomeBuilder applications were processed. That absolutely turbocharged supply. That's what we need when you're bringing in 1.5 million migrants in the next few years and when you're talking down negative gearing and pushing up interest rates like this government has done.

We've seen homelessness go through the roof. When we talk about homelessness, this is this record of the coalition. We get the figures for homelessness through the census every five years. The last census was done in 2021, before that it was 2016. In that time, the population increased significantly. Guess what? While the coalition were in government there were 564 less rough sleepers in Australia in the 2021 census than there was in 2016.

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Exactly, member for Grey. It gets better. There were 1,128 less couch surfers. That's people that have gone through separation, kids that have had fights with their parents sleeping at their mate's house on the couch. Homelessness reduced by 1,128 under the coalition.

We heard the Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Prime Minister opposite, when they were spruiking the Voice, talking about overcrowding. Guess what? Overcrowding went down under the coalition. We reduced it by 3,193 people. There were 3,193 fewer people in severely overcrowded dwellings, which mainly impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Pacific Islander people that are living in Australia. That's our record. They are the facts. You can't dispute them.

Do you know what went up? Supported accommodation. There were 3,056 more people in supported accommodation. Do you know when that happens? It's when the government builds more houses to help women and children escaping DV. They are counted as homeless because they don't have a lease, but they are living in brand-new houses. It's still homelessness, and we will continue to work on that. Is the minister doing anything about it? Is she talking about these figures? I can tell you now that there wasn't a government in Australia talking about these homelessness figures until the Morrison government started doing it. Most members in this House wouldn't even know that there are five different categories of homelessness.

There were more people in boarding houses as well, but the Morrison government wrote, with the Queensland Labor government, to all boarding houses on how to reduce homelessness. It reduced in Queensland. Do you know the worst state for homelessness? Victoria. It went up by some 6,000 people in that space of time. Pathetic. Do you know what the best state was? New South Wales. We had a Liberal government at the time.

So the reality is that when it comes to homelessness I am prepared to back the coalition in every day of the week because the record shows that we had a significant impact in government in reducing it. When the next census comes out in 2026, if the Albanese government is still in power, I expect to see a big increase in homelessness. I don't want to, but the minister has had two years to act, to get cracking and to start talking about these things rather than schemes like this that cost $5.5 billion that we don't particularly need.

The coalition will take our super homebuyer scheme to the next election. We will be taking that scheme into Bennelong. We are happy to debate the member opposite, who got in on the back of the lie that that they wouldn't change the stage 3 tax cuts.

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

I welcome it.

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Bring it on, mate. We will be there spruiking it. We have super funds run by industry. It's all right for them to invest in social and affordable housing. AustralianSuper and all the rest of the mates of the members opposite that run these industry super funds can invest in super, but they won't allow mums and dads and their kids to use their super to invest in their first home when, on sale, the money goes back into their super. They'll be better off. We will be spruiking this right up to the next election.

12:22 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Buying a home has been labelled the Australian dream for a reason. You work hard and you save and getting the keys to your own slice of Australia is truly one of life's greatest accomplishments. You may go it alone. You may achieve this with your partner or a business partner. But now the Albanese Labor government have decided they want a slice of the pie as well. The Help to Buy Bill 2023 is a shared-equity scheme that will see the Albanese Labor government own up to 40 per cent of your home, your safe haven, your sanctuary. It will not be yours wholly and solely.

As awful as this bill is, the government has already failed on its delivery. This was a key election policy that had a nominated start date of 1 January 2023. Twelve months on, we are only now debating it in this place. What on earth has the housing minister been doing? What on earth has this government been doing? Eighteen months late, we get this pathetic bill. In the midst of Labor's housing crisis, you would think that they would be pushing their election policy to be delivered on time. Right now, we have housing approvals and builds at record lows, and homebuyers are at their lowest level since the Gillard government. We've got rents skyrocketing, vacancy rates at record lows and now record migration. Regardless of how ineffective we on this side are proving this bill to be, it is too little, too late. People don't want to co-own a home with the government. This is a big-government strategy. If the failed time line isn't enough, then the contents of the bill should prove that Labor have no understanding of the wants and needs of everyday Australians when it comes to housing.

Let's look at what this scheme is doing across the economy. This small niche program will only be open to 10,000 households each financial year and will cost the Commonwealth—the taxpayer—$5.5 billion. An article in the Australian stated 'Labor needs guardrails on spending'. With policies like this, that could not be truer.

The ongoing issues that present themselves in this bill are of great concern. Homeowners are set to be tied to this Albanese Labor government for the lifetime of their homeownership. Who will be responsible for repairs and maintenance? You will be. Who will be responsible for making any improvements to the home? You will be. If the government own 40 per cent of your home, shouldn't they pick up 40 per cent of the bill? But you can bet your bottom dollar that, when the house is sold, the government will be there to collect their portion of the sale. Does that include its appreciation value? The Prime Minister's sitting at your kitchen table because he owns 40 per cent of your home. This is a big-government approach—government well and truly in your life and not out of it. For the Prime Minister to own 40 per cent of your home just goes to show how out of touch he is with normal Australians. The fine print of this scheme perfectly describes this government: all care, no responsibility.

But the most concerning part of this legislation is an age-old Labor tactic. It's what it doesn't say. As always, this government's legislation leaves more questions than answers. What are the eligibility criteria? What are the owner's reporting obligations? Are there price caps? How many places will be available in each state and territory? How many will be available in Townsville? This is not the first time I've been in this place asking question after question of a government who have put forward an ill-thought-out piece of legislation with holes that we on this side need to patch up for them.

I'll use an example the shadow minister used. We were told during the election that there would be no income caps for eligibility and that, in the end, it would mirror some of the income caps in other legislative schemes. Let's assume that this scheme will apply to people who earn up to $90,000 a year, for example, or couples who earn up to $120,000. A question the government can't or won't answer is: what happens if you've got two people and they earn $120,000 a year—$60,000 each—and they enter into the shared-equity product with the government, and one or both of them get a pay rise? All of a sudden they are over the $120,000 cap of the eligibility criteria. Will the government, the 40 per cent owners, sell the home out from under them? What happens if you fall behind in your mortgage repayments? These are legitimate, reasonable questions. You'd think the minister would have answers to them, but you'd be wrong.

We on this side of this House are all about opportunity and reward for effort. We understand what it means to Australians to own their own home and what comes with it—independence, security, self-pride. We want to give all Australians the opportunity, and we have a strong track record in backing this up. We implemented the Home Guarantee Scheme, which supported almost 60,000 first home buyers and single-parent families into homeownership. Australians were able to get into the housing market with a deposit as little as five per cent. This saw record rates of women, essential workers and single mums jump at the chance to become homeowners. The scheme was oversubscribed and should be used as a case study when implementing new housing policies.

We set up the HomeBuilder applications which protected the residential construction industry and generated more than $120 billion of economic activity. More than 137,000 Australian families applied, and the scheme delivered a secure pipeline of work that kept thousands of tradies and small businesses in work. This was a record-breaking scheme and contributed to our robust economic activity during one of the world's latest challenges.

A landmark coalition achievement was the creation of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, now known as Housing Australia. Since its creation it has delivered $2.9 billion in low-cost loans to community housing providers and supports 15,000 social and affordable dwellings. We know that homeownership is the Australian dream, and we have made a possible for thousands of Australians. The coalition's housing policies have always been successful and have always been in line with the wants and needs of everyday Australians.

During our last three years in government, our housing policies aided more than 300,000 Australians in purchasing homes—21,000 social and affordable homes, with first home buyers increasing by 80,000, reaching their highest levels in nearly 15 years. They were successful because we listened to what the nation wanted. We set up the opportunities, delivered them and then backed away to let individuals and families do the rest—a small government approach. The same cannot be said about the Albanese Labor government, who, 20 months after they committed to the unwanted Help to Buy Bill are still yet to pass it. This is clearly another big government approach. The Albanese Labor government continues to encroach on the lives of everyday Australians, and this bill is no different. They want to tell you what car you buy, and now they want to tell you what state they want your family home.

It's already abundantly clear that Australians do not want this. We know this because we've seen the failures of other state Labor governments' attempt to implement shared-equity schemes. There are places remaining in the schemes in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It just goes to show that the Labor Party are not the party for the people. They do not understand the wants and needs of everyday Australians. If they did, they would not be implementing yet another shared-equity scheme, which has already been proven unwanted across the nation.

Whether you own a home or are in the process of saving up or it's still a distant dream, I want you to think about how you'd feel when the keys of the front door, your slice of Australia, are handed to you. If you're like me, you'll be flooded with a sense of pride, achievement, accomplishment. You'll have feelings of freedom, independence, safety and security. You'll throw your head back, smile and say, 'I did this; this is mine.' Think about how you'd feel knowing that the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, owns 40 per cent of it.

Australia is not a dictatorship. We're a democratic society, and we have been chosen to make the best decisions possible in behalf of our communities. We know that Australians don't want this. This bill should be scrapped, and the Albanese Labor government needs to set up policies that get out of your way, not in your way. People don't want more politicians in their lives. People don't want a government owning 40 per cent of their home. People want the freedom to live the life that they choose, to buy the car that they choose, to not feel the hand of government on their shoulder as they purchase a home, worried about what happens if they get a salary increase, a promotion; what happens if they sell; what happens if there is depreciation; what happens to their future.

These are questions that the minister should be able to answer. I know from well before my time in politics that I didn't want government in my house. I didn't want government's hand controlling what I do. I wanted small government. Make decisions, national decisions, big decisions on behalf of the Australian people. Don't tell me what I can and can't buy. Don't tell me that the government needs a percentage stake in my house. The Prime Minister doesn't sit at my kitchen table. I don't want him to sit there, and neither does the majority of people around this country.

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

You don't have to apply for it.

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't want the member for Bennelong to sit in my kitchen either, to be honest.

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

You don't have to use it.

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Why waste taxpayer money then? It doesn't work around the country, yet the member for Bennelong wants people to have the government sitting inside their homes at their family table.

The coalition wants a smaller government. The politicians on this side of the House do not want to tell people what cars they have to buy. They don't want to force people to go into partnership with the government to buy their home. We want people to be aspirational and to have that vision and to have that security. That's why we will oppose this bill.

12:36 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is an essence of truth within this Help to Buy Bill, which is that it is the Australian dream to own your own home. Menzies knew that and he drove policies which led to record levels of homeownership in Australia. Owning your own home is the best superannuation investment you will ever make. It is an investment in your family and your business security. It is the launching pad for success. I can't tell you how pleased I was when the last of my three children signed on the dotted line for a housing loan, because I knew they were on the sticky paper, that pathway to success. I knew they would make that commitment to make the payments on their home and that would give them the leverage in later life to do a whole host of things which, if they'd had to pay rent for their entire life, would likely be beyond their reach.

But how do you get there? How you get into ownership in this increasingly challenging world of the rising cost of construction and, even more so, the rising cost of land around our urban centres, which can constitute more than half the price of the home, is a difficult and vexing question indeed. Just to go off on a little bit of a tangent, I often debate with friends about whether we should be having urban infill and people living in higher density—it's better for your transport options and that kind of thing—or whether we should continue this sprawl outside our capital cities. In my case, they're coming into my electorate in the southern reaches of Grey onto the Adelaide Plains, where previously high-value farming lands are now being covered up with what we would have once said were quarter-acre suburban blocks, but of course they're not anymore. They're 450 square metres, and the house takes up the whole block. How do you trade that off?

I think back to my own childhood and upbringing. My own children actually had the run of a farm, but even the kids in the town had the run of the streets. Now, of course, parents in this modern world aren't prepared to let their children go out unaccompanied on the streets. So they come home from work and they pick the kids up from child care and they all but put them on a leash and take them down to the park. They don't put them on a leash, obviously, but you understand what I mean. This is a problem. How we get people into their own homes and onto this pathway for success is a moot point.

I can't see the punters taking up this scheme. I just can't see them signing up. It is full of uncertainty, like other programs the government has put forward in recent times. There's a big announcement and then we'll sort the detail out on the way. Of course that was the pathway of the Voice: 'We'll sort it out. Don't you worry about that. We'll sort it out later.'

I was fortunate enough, quite some time ago now, to have been in a position to purchase a unit in the city when my kids reached the age of attending university. I figured it would be better off to keep the rent internal than it would be to pay it to someone else, and it's proved to be a good investment, and I'm certainly mindful of the fact that not everyone is in a position to do that. I have to say: it's a nice little place, but it sits on a strata title. And when I say 'but' it's a soft 'but'. I have six other very good residents or owners. We are able to sit down and negotiate whatever needs to be done, whether the units need to be painted or whatever it might be at that particular time, whether we have the white ants specialists in. But I can tell you what, it comes as a bit of an awakening to me, who was raised on a farm, that you actually have to consult with someone else before you make alterations to your own place.

And that is at the basis of this proposal of the government—there is somebody else that has an interest in your home. In this case it's the government, and, because there is no detail in the bill, we don't know what that exactly means. We do know that there are a number of state schemes already that offer shared ownership—New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania—and they're all undersubscribed. That's why I think this one will be undersubscribed. I think it'll be drastically undersubscribed.

We assume that the 60 per cent owner of the home is responsible for 100 per cent of repairs, but we're not too sure. We certainly assume that they will be responsible for 100 per cent of the rates and 100 per cent of the insurance. What will the government say if you're underinsured? Will there be somebody vetting the level of insurance on your property? Repairs are one thing, but there are not many people that own a residence, let's say, for a period of 20 years and don't improve it. You might put in a pergola, a garage out the back, another bedroom or an upgraded kitchen. You might even put a swimming pool out the back if you've got enough room. Who the hell owns that? And is somebody else going to chip in? Are you going to extend your loan or whatever to make this happen? All those things. Anything that is this murky is pretty hard to sell, and that's why I think the punters will hold back. Then, of course, there are the income thresholds which aren't included in the bill but were part of the now government's spiel leading into the last election, the $90,000 for the single income earner and the $120,000 for a combined household.

One of the great things, of course, about seeing my kids line up and sign their documents for their housing loans is that all of them have had increases in their wages because their skill level has risen since the time they signed those documents. It's one of the things about buying homes in Australia: what looks to be a difficult task early, if things go right for you—if things go as they normally would—it actually becomes an easier task as your life progresses. It makes sense that somebody who is 35 would be earning on a higher wage level than someone who is 25, and that someone that is 45 would be earning more than they were when they were 35. That's not just because they've been on the job longer: it's because they've gotten better at the job and taken a promotion. They've moved their way up the steps. Not everyone will do that, and I understand that, but it is certainly the case for most people.

So it seems almost inevitable, even though this $120,000 mark would, presumably, be indexed, but we don't know that either. Presumably, the government would seek to index it. But even at that rate it is almost certain—$120,000, let's face it, for a couple is a modest income in the current world—that they will break that point at some stage. So they'd be living in a house where there's a disincentive to earn more money and a disincentive to improve your property. I would have thought that is a pretty negative position to put yourself in when you are signing up for what is the biggest investment in your life that's going to have the greatest outcome on your quality of life as you age.

The next question is, of course: what happens when the purchase is complete? I've looked at the numbers and done a back-of-the-envelope calculation on this, and it looks like the government is allowing for $5½ billion over four years for 40,000 homes. I think that equates to a loan of about $350,000. It would be fair to say that's not going to buy many places in Sydney—or in Adelaide, for that matter. Consequently, these are unlikely to be new builds. They're likely to be older builds. But what happens when you have reached this point of paying off your portion of the loan? One would presume that you would then be able to purchase the other 40 per cent from the government if you choose to. The house would have to undergo some kind of evaluation. But what happens after that point? Do you pay interest on the outstanding amount, and what will that be calculated at? There will be the RBA interest rates and the market interest rates. All these are just completely unknown. I am and think everyone should be reluctant to sign a piece of paper when they don't know what the answer is, at the end of the day. Markets can go up and down. Mainly, they seem to go up. But, in real terms, they can take a bad turn on you, and everyone needs to allow for that possibility.

Surely the better way forward here is the pathway we've trodden before, which is low-interest loans. In fact, there are a number of options still available in the NHFIC, which we established. It has a terrific track record. The thing, of course, is that, with a low-interest loan, it should be the second mortgage after the initial loan that you take out, presumably with a bank or some sort of home loan corporation. You pay down the liability as you go along, but it's your place, and it's your incentive to pay the loan off quicker. It's been successful. I don't really see why government is trying to abandon this pathway and come up with one which I think will be pretty unpopular. As I said, your investment in your house will be the best investment in superannuation and your future that you are ever likely to make. Of course, the coalition took a policy to the last election—which was opposed by those opposite and by the superannuation industry, unsurprisingly—which would have allowed people to draw down on their super accounts for the deposit on their first home. This is not the super saver account that you actually have set aside within your superannuation savings.

Given that this is, as I said, the best investment you are ever likely to have and that, should you sell the home at some future date, the indexed amount would be paid back into your superannuation fund, it effectively is your superannuation saving. In fact, people in better conditions are able to buy property and put it into their self-managed superannuation fund. I don't think they can do that with their house, incidentally, but they can with other properties. Actually owning your own superannuation investment is not anathema. It's not an untrodden pathway. It is a way to success. The fact that your super is tied up in your house will give as good a return as anything else—I'm absolutely very confident of that—and it gives you the ability to do other things along the way, like establish your business and whatever. I think the proposal as it stands won't do any harm, but it won't do any good. It's likely to be underspent some way down the path. We'll say, 'Well, that one didn't work.' I guess you could say that at least the money wasn't wasted, but, if it it's not going to do any good, I wonder what on earth we're standing here debating for today.

12:49 pm

Photo of Colin BoyceColin Boyce (Flynn, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. Housing is no doubt one of the most significant issues even in my electorate of Flynn and throughout Australia. Many communities have vacancy rates of less than one per cent, leaving families filled with stress and anxiety about keeping a roof over their heads.

In the midst of the housing crisis, the underwhelming Help to Buy Bill is too little too late. Help to Buy relies on the involvement of states and territories, with states required to pass their own legislation to participate in the scheme. Labor went to the election promising to put in place a shared-equity scheme. However, they have failed to explain that that scheme needs state government approval to operate. This means that Labor has made yet another promise that it can't necessarily meet—not that the states will withhold their approval, because, after all, the Albanese government is offering to pick up the cost by funding a shared-equity scheme when the majority of states already offer shared-equity products. Help to Buy is a small, niche program with only about 10,000 households each financial year, and it will cost the Commonwealth $5.5 billion.

What we know already is how underwhelming these shared-equity schemes are. These schemes are so unwanted by Australians that there are places remaining in each of the available state-based schemes already. The Labor government has failed to do the hard work, and we are once again left with more questions than answers. What are the scheme's eligibility criteria? What happens if you make improvements to your home? Will you have to send the government an invoice for repairs and maintenance such as for a leaky roof? What happens if you earn a cent above $90,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple? Will the government forced the sale of your home? Will the ATO be auditing incomes to ensure they don't earn a cent over the threshold? If you enter into one of the shared-equity arrangements, what are your reporting obligations? What happens if housing prices fall and you are behind on your mortgage payments? Will the government force you to sell your house for less than you paid for it? What are the property price caps? How many of the 40,000 places will be available in each state and territory? What lenders are participating in the scheme? What does the affordable house even mean, and what defines 'affordable housing'? Help to Buy can equal 'forced to sell'. What we do know is that, every time a participant sells their home, they face up to a 40 per cent housing tax as the government swoops in to take its share. A similar scheme in the UK was found to inflate the price of houses more than its subsidy value in areas where it was needed most.

The Labor government can claim to be supportive of building more homes, but their policies say otherwise. Chris Bowen announced in Gladstone in 2023 that 215 of Australia's largest carbon emitters would be required to cut their emissions by 4.9 per cent and each year till 2030 to help reach its climate emissions targets. As this safeguard mechanism or carbon tax begins to take its toll, impacted businesses will be forced to pass on their costs to consumers, adding fuel to the flame of Labor's cost-of-living crisis. This will see the cost of everything from food to housing skyrocket when families can least afford it. Two hundred and fifteen of the largest industrial facilities affected by the safeguard mechanism, 28 are operating in the electorate of Capricornia and 18 in the electorate of Flynn. Around 30 per cent of these targeted facilities are in Central Queensland. One of the targeted facilities in my electorate is to Cement Australia facility at Fisherman's Landing. It is the largest cement kiln in Australia. If Labor is going to impose these taxes onto these critical industries, of course they are going to have to pass on their costs to consumers, so concrete will become more expensive and therefore houses will become more expensive. We are seeing new home builds become more expensive amid the cost of energy-intensive resources such as cement, glass, and aluminium all increasing.

Since Labor's safeguard mechanism was announced, I have called it an attack on heavy industry and the thousands of workers that work in the sector, and it has proved to be exactly that. It has also proven to be an attack on housing. Aussie manufacturers rely on cheap energy to make things on shore, but Labor's continued demonisation of gas and coal, broken promises to bring down power prices and the implementation of things like safeguard mechanism will force more Australian Manufacturing offshore. This means fewer jobs for Australians and fewer jobs for my local community, and seeing exactly that. It will also mean fewer products to build houses with. An article by ABC Wide Bay quotes from an interview with Jesse Zielke, a builder in the Bundaberg region. Jesse said:

We've still got some products that we're struggling to get when we need them, particularly concrete.

Those products that do require a lot of energy also take up a lot of room on a truck, so the fuel required to get the bricks and concrete to site is definitely still rising in price.

Mr Zielke also raised the challenge of sourcing labour, which remains difficult.

There is a high record of immigration under Labor's 'big Australia' policy, confirmed by the ABS. Record overseas immigration added 518,000 people to Australia's population in the 2022-23 financial year, according to the ABS statistics. Jenny Dobak, head of migration statistics at the ABS, said overseas migration was at a 'record high'. This is 8,000 more people than Labor's forecast on Monday, an increase of 2,000 people a day in just four days, and 118,000 more people than the government forecast in the May budget. People will be asking Labor: where will all these people live? Migrant arrivals increased 73 per cent, to 730,000, from 437,000 arrivals a year ago. International students accounted for 283,000 arrivals, an increase of 100 per cent. Labor say they don't want a big Australia, but under the Albanese government 900,000 people will arrive over two years and 1.625 million people will arrive over five years. Labor will not commit to reducing their record immigration levels, as Australians endure cost-of-living pressures, housing shortages and rent hikes.

Experts continue to make the link between Labor's 'big Australia' and the housing crisis. For example, AMP Deputy Chief Economist Diana Mousina said:

The high pace of immigration is not compatible with the level of housing supply that we have in this country. We're just not building enough homes to keep up with our population growth.

Brendan Coates and Trent Wilshere, from the Grattan Institute's immigration policy work, said:

Slowing migration would help vulnerable Australians whose rents are rising today.

Qualitas Group Managing Director Andrew Schwartz said:

… the most sensible solution is a short-term reduction in migration to release some pressure in the economy, to give homeowners and renters a break and to buy some time to allow our housing infrastructure to catch up with demand.

The former Treasurer Peter Costello said:

That is an enormous adjustment for an economy to bring in 500,000-600,000 people. If they're in family groups … we're talking about another 200,000 homes. No wonder we've got rental shortages in Australia.

ANZ Chief Executive Shayne Elliott said:

Immigration is a really big driver of housing demand and from our perspective, from one of the largest providers of home loans in the market, it's a material driver.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said:

Strong population growth has added to demand for rental properties, particularly in major cities …

The financial adviser and journalist Alan Kohler said:

… the government is doing the opposite—it's doing its bit to increase inflation and make life tougher for borrowers, in two ways: through "cost-of-living relief" subsidies and, most of all, through immigration.

The former Deputy Secretary of the Department Of Immigration Abul Rizvi said:

The problem for the Albanese Government is that it cannot deny the blow out in net migration under its watch.

Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said:

The rapid recovery in immigration is adding to the pressures in the housing market.

AMP Chief Economist Shane Oliver said:

Current immigration levels are running well in excess of the ability of the housing industry to supply enough homes exacerbating an acute housing shortage and poor housing affordability.

We need to be thinking about policies that support the Australian dream of homeownership. Since 1 January 2020, the home guarantee schemes, consisting of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee, have assisted almost 60,000 first home buyers and single-parent families get into a home of their own, with a deposit of as little as five per cent or two per cent—a 2019 election commitment that has been delivered. Fifty-two per cent of the 60,000 guarantees issued have been taken up by women, well above the market average of 41 per cent of women entering homeownership. One in five guarantees issued went to essential workers. Almost 35 per cent were nurses and 34 per cent were teachers. Eighty-five per cent of family home guarantees were used by single-parent mothers.

Addressing the deposit hurdle is the most challenging aspect on the property ladder, which is why first home buyers can accelerate their deposit savings through super with an increased released amount of up to $50,000 from $30,000. This means the average couple would be $20,838 better off under the coalition 's First Home Super Saver Scheme than if they saved in a standard savings account. As of March 2022, around 26,800 first home buyers have released $370 million to purchase their first home, and 21,000 of these first home buyers purchased a home after the 2019 election, following Labor's commitment to abolish the scheme.

More than 137,000 Australian families applied for the HomeBuilder grant of up to $25,000 if they built a new or substantially renovated a home during the COVID pandemic. HomeBuilder delivered a secure pipeline of construction work that kept hundreds of thousands of tradies and small businesses in work. They would have otherwise been facing an unemployment queue. HomeBuilder broke every record, from the number of dwelling approvals to the number of commencements delivered—$120 billion of economic activity during our most challenging time.

The housing crisis is an issue that needs cooperation from all three levels of government—local, state and federal. States and councils need to introduce policies that unlock land for development and make the development of new housing stock less expensive. All too often we have seen local governments lock up land and prevent housing developments while imposing a list of demands on property developers and ultimately treating them like cash cows. The coalition brought a comprehensive housing policy to the 2022 election and, if re-elected, the coalition would have: established the super homebuyer scheme to allow first home buyers to invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, up to a maximum $50,000, to help with the purchase of their first home; given Australians over the age of 55 the ability to invest up to $300,000 per person of their superannuation fund outside the existing contribution caps from the proceeds of selling their primary residence; doubled the asset test exemption for two years when pensioners downsize their family home, giving them more time to plan for the future; and helped more first home buyers get over the deposit hurdle by raising the number of low-deposit guarantees for first home buyers to $35,000 each financial year.

The coalition government also committed to delivering increased property price caps for home guarantee schemes to ensure Australians continue to have a choice when purchasing their home. We will increase the supply of new homes in regional areas by incentivising the purchase of new home builds, providing 10,000 low-deposit guarantees, each financial year for those moving to or within regional areas. This includes non-first-home buyers and permanent residents. We will expand homeownership opportunities for single-parent families by increasing the number of low-deposit guarantees for single-parent families to buy a home with a deposit of as little as two per cent to 5,000 each financial year and support greater investment in affordable housing, with an additional $2 billion of low-cost financing for social and affordable dwellings, bringing total low-cost financing to $5.5 billion, supporting around 27,500 dwellings.

I wish to conclude by saying that the Help to Buy Bill 2023 does not provide solutions that are in the national interest. That's why we oppose the bill.

1:04 pm

Photo of Terry YoungTerry Young (Longman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise with great pleasure to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. Homeownership has been the great Australian dream for a long time. It was Menzies, that great Liberal prime minister, who instilled that dream in people. Even today, 85 per cent of people who rent tell us that they want to own their own home, and for a lot of reasons they can't. The sad part about it is that so many of them believe that they'll never achieve that. I think that's a tragedy, when I hear people say that. It crushes dreams. The problem is that markets keep moving and, because of the cost-of-living crisis, they can't save a deposit.

I can remember when I bought my first home, at 21. We had 18 per cent interest rates back then—you're probably old enough to remember that, Deputy Speaker Buchholz—but we were able to do that on one income with three kids, which is nearly unheard today. Again, that's another reason I feel very sad for the current generation. They face far greater challenges. My first home cost less than two years of my annual salary at the time. That would be akin to buying a home today for about $180,000, and that just doesn't happen. The current generation are doing it tough when it comes to homeownership. I'm happy that the government is trying to find ways to encourage homeownership. As the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday, one thing we can't argue about is that both sides of the House want to help Australians in their own way. Where we don't agree is on the methodology. This is one of those classic examples.

There's another thing I'm not terribly happy about: this is something those opposite talked about at the election, and it took them 20 months to do something about it. In my electorate, I've never seen the homelessness situation worse. I've also talked to many people in construction, and they are saying that the phones stopped ringing last year. There are no contracts being signed. Many of the homes that are being built now are actually a hangover from the coalition government's time in government, when we had great initiatives to ensure people got into their own home. The focus has been on other issues, like the divisive Voice referendum and those sorts of things, but, at the end of the day, people need a roof over their head. It seems to me that should be the government's priority at all times.

The thing that I have against this particular legislation is that it's getting the government involved in people's lives. I know that socialists and the communists agree that this is what should happen—that the government should be in control of people's lives as much as possible. As a conservative and someone from the coalition side, I believe in governments making sure that we have supports, but people should always make their own decisions and the government should be involved in people's lives as little as possible. Partnership in business is all about partner selection. Having had five business partners in my time in small business, I can say that partners are a great thing; I really believe in them. But the challenging thing with partnerships—I know people who haven't had great partnerships in business—is selecting the right partner. In partnerships, you have to have people that are reasonable, and they have to share all the cost and the profits in a way that is proportionate to their investment. I would be very hesitant to enter into any sort of partnership with any level of government.

The other problem with this bill is that it's too complicated. It also relies on state and territory cooperation, which is a recipe for disaster. There are so many unanswered questions on this bill. What I want to know is what happens if someone wants to buy out the government's share in their home, either a piece at a time or in whole? How do you set that value? When you have a business partnership, you have a shareholders agreement that spells this out very clearly. What if there's a dispute over the valuation? What if the government says, 'According to our valuers, the property is worth $500,000,' and the other partner says, 'No, I think it's worth $600,000, or $400,000'? Whatever it is, how do we settle that? Which lenders have signed up for this scheme? What's the point of offering equity if the banks aren't on board? We haven't heard any news at all on that. What happens with the expenses associated with the home along the way? In a business partnership, these costs are shared proportionately by all the partners. Imagine if I went into one of the businesses that I was in partnership with and I said to my business partner, 'You can pay all of the rent, wage, electricity and phone bills, but we're going to share the profit equally'? How long do you think we'd be in business together? I'd say, not long, because if I'm going to earn the rewards, proportionately, I need to pay for the expenses proportionately. It's called commonsense and fairness. But this is not the case.

What happens when the rate bills come? Do you send an invoice to the government and say, 'Give me 40 per cent of the rates.' Stamp duties? Land taxes? What about their share of the insurance bill? And then what happens if you improve the property? What happens if you put a pool in or a pergola? What if you add another room onto the house? You've paid the money—the home owner. The one in there who owns maybe 60 or 70 per cent pays the entire capital outlay, and yet when that reward is reaped at the end they'll only receive 60 or 70 per cent, whatever the proportion is, after outlaying 100 per cent. It is completely unfair. The government needs to make sure that they are contributing to these ongoing costs. It's as simple as that.

This just shows the lack of general business experience on the other side of the House. They have a few people who have been in business but the majority have not. I understand why they just cannot figure this stuff out. I get it's because they haven't lived it. This is the problem when you have governments that are mainly made up of people who are ex-bureaucrats, public servants, union officials or have worked in political offices. I don't have any problem with those vocations, but it means they are not set up and don't have the skill set to be able to make decisions that affect people who aren't involved in those industries. And that's not the average Australian. They are supposed to be a party that represents the average Australian and they simply don't.

Ten thousand places doesn't scratch the surface. In comparison, the past three years of coalition initiatives have helped 300,000 people to purchase a home. Let's talk about initiatives like us supporting 60,000 first home buyers and single parent families into home ownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme, the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee. Deposits of as little as two per cent allowed so many who wanted the dream of home ownership but they'd thought that dream was dead. Now they're living that reality of home ownership. And I note that 52 per cent of these recipients were women and 85 per cent of family guarantee recipients were used by single mums. As a dad who has two daughters that are single mums, this is welcome news. These coalition measures ensured that the construction industry was absolutely protected and jobs were assured, with more than 137,000 home builder applications generating $120 billion worth of economic activity.

The coalition saw that state governments were failing people with social and public housing. For example, in Queensland—our home state, Deputy Speaker—between 2015 and 2020 the Commonwealth government provided $1.7 billion for social and public housing. That's a lot of money. In that time we had a net increase of dwellings of 241. Just over $7 million per home. Seriously, I'm in the wrong game.

By contrast, the coalition brought out the scheme where we had low-cost loans to community organisations who provided community housing. That investment was $1.7 billion and that provided 15,000 dwellings. Let's compare $2.9 billion for 241 dwellings or $2.9 billion for 15,000 dwellings at an average of $194,000 per dwelling. That's a better use of taxpayer money. And let's remember, it's taxpayer money, not the government's money.

The coalition established the First Home Super Saver Scheme, which helped 27,600 homebuyers accelerate their deposit savings using their super. That's right: their super—not the industry super funds' super, not the government's super but their super. It's their money. Imaging letting people spend their own money on what they want! Isn't that a foreign concept? How strange! 'I'd like to buy a house for when I retire. Even though I've paid all this money in super, I still don't own a home. I couldn't get into the market because I could never get a deposit. So I'm going to go on the pension and become a burden.' Well, how about we help them get into a home so that they own it by the time they retire so they don't have to go on a pension? How about that? That's a bit of long-term thinking, and we can't get involved in that, can we, Member for Casey? Why would we bother doing that?

You've got to wonder why the federal government would put out a scheme that state governments have already got. They've already got them, and the take-up hasn't been completed. The states still have spots available in schemes that are almost identical to this. So the questions are: Why would you even do that? Why would you introduce a scheme like the schemes that the states already have no complete take-up in? The answer is: it's all about the headline. You've got to have the perception out there that you're going to fix things. But the devil is always in the detail, isn't it?

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Or lack thereof!

Photo of Terry YoungTerry Young (Longman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Correct. Well said, Member for Herbert. It's all about the headline, and it's all about spruiking: 'Look at us; look at what we're doing.' In reality, the scheme will deliver no help, and that is completely reprehensible.

I'm all for supporting the government in any type of initiative that will actually help people. And there have been times when there has been bipartisan support for different bills, which have gone through. When we were in government, they supported some of ours. Now they're in government, we have supported some of theirs. But we will not support the bills that are not going to cut through and that are not the best spend of taxpayers' money, and this is one of those cases. It's as simple as that. It's our job to make sure that the government are spending taxpayers' money wisely, and in this case they are simply not.

So I'm asking the questions: Why do Labor hate people getting on with their own lives? Why do they have to be involved? Why do they have to run people's lives? The greatest gift that you've ever been given as a human being as the gift of choice. When you take away choice, you dehumanise us, and that is simply unacceptable. I say to the government, credit for trying to do something but please readdress this. Implement some of the coalition's schemes that worked. Look at the results and implement things that actually work. I commend the bill to the House.

1:18 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the Help to Buy Bill 2023. When I was looking at the bill here in front of me, I thought we might have had a typo. It's actually 2024, last time I looked. We're nearly into the third month of 2024. Upon doing a bit of research into the aspirations of this bill to help 1.2 million people into homes, it seems to me that this is a bit of window-dressing, a bit of looking like you're doing something when you're not really doing something. Quite frankly, if this were of such an urgent nature, this legislation would have come into the House last year when it was drafted, and we would have dealt with it by now. Owning a home is important, but I'm not sure owning a home with the federal government as your partner is the way to go about it.

There are so many unanswered questions around how this works. If you want to put another storey on and expand the house, what happens with the value of the federal government's contribution, that 40 per cent, if you want to sell sometime down the track?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not opposed to schemes that help people get into homes. I'm remined of my time when I was mayor of Gwydir Shire back in 2004. Gwydir Shire had a homeownership scheme in partnership with the credit union. I suppose that's the advantage of living in a small community. You can assess what are largely younger couples that were solidly employed and good citizens but did not have that required deposit. For the assistance the council gave to help them into that home there was a slightly higher interest rate. Once the repayment schedules were being met, largely those people transferred over to a commercial lender. Twenty years on, many of those younger people then are well established now. They own most of their own home. As they look into their future, their retirement will be much more solid.

One thing I've learnt in 16 years in this job is that, for retirees, if you don't own your own home, life is much harder—incredibly so—than it is for those that do own their own home. We need to encourage people to be able to do this. I think the proposal the coalition had to allow people to use part of their superannuation—their own money—to help get the deposit to get onto the housing treadmill is a good, sensible solution. Once people make that big step—and I know it is quite a nervous time for people to make that step to purchase a home, but my observation and experience is that, the sooner you do that and the younger you are, the better the chance you've got of securing a house at the right price. There's a lot of social housing across the Parkes electorate, and one of the issues we find is that people are living in homes that they don't own and have absolutely no possibility of owning. There is a higher incidence of maintenance costs and general upkeep of those homes compared to people who own their homes. Some years ago in the town of Bourke, I was at the opening of a couple of new homes that were part of a scheme where people were able to get into them with a lower deposit. Rather than being social housing, they were actually from day one paying off their own home. Drive around the streets of Bourke now, 10 years later, and those homes stand out in the way they're presented: the pride and the way people have looked after them, because it's actually their home, not a rental home.

It is an issue, and homeownership is important, but I also think that there's got to be a bit of realism. Not everyone can own a home with a water view or close to where they might want to be in some of the more salubrious parts of town. Sometimes it's important that you buy a home that you can afford. I know numerous people of my generation who live in the city who are probably on their third home now. Their first home might have been a flat or a unit. They've paid them off and worked through them. I won't talk about the first home that I took my new bride too when I got married, because there are enough log cabin stories in this place as it is. I used to say that the mice didn't have to slow back to second gear to go through the holes in the floor, and a new bride with a brown snake with its head out the knot in the wall is not a good start to a marriage! All jokes aside, people can start off in a humble home and work their way up. They don't need to have the McMansion as their first home, and I think that's part of the issue that we're dealing with.

We've got some realistic and pressing issues in my electorate. One of them—would you believe it in an electorate that's half of New South Wales—is availability of land. In Broken Hill and Lake Cargelligo, this is really significant because Broken Hill, at the moment, is under a period of boom. During the pandemic, tourism blossomed in Broken Hill because people couldn't travel overseas. There's a large stored compressed-air battery being constructed in a disused mineshaft, the first of its kind in Australia, which will provide genuine 24/7 renewable energy to that area, and it's going to employ a lot of people. We've got a cobalt mine that is being developed. There's a magnetite mine as well as the other existing mining sector. So Broken Hill is in desperate need of new houses, but it's under western lands lease. It's surrounded by land that has a native title claim over it. I know that the community out there's very frustrated that they live in a vast landscape, and they can't expand the city. So much so that the council was actually involved in an auction that sold up a lot of the disused houses in the town to try and encourage people to come in and either renovate older homes or demolish them and build newer ones on existing blocks. This was because you can't buy land.

Lake Cargelligo's very similar. It's one of the most picturesque towns in the Parkes electorate with magnificent waterfront land that could be ideal to build houses on, but there are issues around native title, western lands lease and other things which are making it very difficult to actually open up that land. The irony of it is, in a sparsely populated part of Australia, access to land should not be an issue.

But there are other bright spots. I was at a regional development conference put on by the Orana RDA last Tuesday, and we heard a presentation from a representative of the Maas Group, which was started by Wes Maas. It's an iconic inspirational story for western New South Wales. Wes Maas came home from playing football for south Sydney with enough money to buy a second-hand truck and he borrowed the money, I think, for the bobcat. At the age of 41 or 42, his company is worth over a billion dollars. The Maas Group now have 8,000 blocks of land around many regional centres—Dubbo, Orange, Mudgee and I think up in Rockhampton in Queensland—and they are building houses as quickly as they can.

If this government wanted to help in that situation, we'd be doing more to encourage our young people into apprenticeships. The apprentice scheme that the previous government had was very popular. It encouraged young people into the trades. In my electorate, in the last year or so since Labor came to power, we've seen a significant drop in young people taking up those apprenticeships. And so, part of the issue is that people can have the money to buy a house, and, in most towns, there is land, but we are really struggling to find a skilled workforce that can construct the homes that we need.

There are a lot of other issues that the government could be dealing with that would stimulate the construction and purchase of homes without setting up a scheme where lying next to you in bed is the federal government as a part owner in your home. So we certainly think that this proposal is not to be supported. I won't be voting for this bill, for that very reason. I ask the government to go back to the drawing board and look at some practical, sensible solutions to help Australians own their own home. It is an important aspiration. It is securing the future of the next generations, and they need to be able to do that.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.