Monday, 4 December 2017
Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures No. 1) Bill 2017, First Home Super Saver Tax Bill 2017; Second Reading
It's great to follow Senator Paterson, who always gives such a well-thought-through contribution, and I thank him for it. It has been an interesting and robust debate so far. In the brief time I've got before we move to the adjournment debate, I want to put a few points on the record.
One is that this legislation is a part of a comprehensive package. I pay tribute, not just to Michael Sukkar, as Senator Paterson has, but also to Scott Morrison, for their leadership of this package. In my own portfolio, Minister Porter and I have worked on other aspects, including the social housing and the commitment to giving certainty for homelessness funding. When the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and the Prime Minister and others of us in the government looked at this, we didn't just look at one aspect, as some would perhaps have us do, we looked at all aspects. We looked at what levers can be pulled on the supply side and what levers can be pulled, in this case, for first-home buyers. I think it's a very well-calibrated package, when you look at the challenges for first-home buyers, to give this effective tax break, not just for people's retirement 30 or 40 years down the track but for that important first asset, but calibrated in a way so that it won't act as other incentive programs have acted in the past when, for instance, a lump sum is suddenly handed to people and we can see a sudden inflationary impact.
I also want to touch on some of the other aspects of the debate. The Greens say it's all about taxing people more, and we hear a lot about that. But they don't want to take responsibility for the policies that they often push—at a local council level, at a state and territory government level—that is, the restriction of land supply. It's always the restriction of land supply. They're always against new housing developments, whether that's unit developments or whether that's greenfields. I've seen so many examples, here in the ACT and right around the country.
Going back some years, I recall very well a Greens-inspired policy: there was a long-planned-for suburb called Throsby here in the ACT. It had been on the books for 30 years. And of course, when you don't allow it to be developed for other reasons—only light grazing and the like—it has some environmental values, and that's a really good thing, and we value that in Canberra. But the Greens' response to that was to try and have the suburb not developed at all—even though it had been there, on the plan for decades, so that it would be available for housing. Labor responded to that by wiping out a lot of the development in that suburb. What we have seen over the last couple of years is that land finally started to be released in Throsby for $1,000 a square metre—in a greenfields site on the edge of town: $500,000 for a 500 square metre block on the outskirts of Canberra. That's not affordable for a first home buyer. That was created specifically by this Greens-Labor policy of squeezing land supply because of environmental values. We can balance the two realities: we can preserve land for environmental values but still get land to market so that there can be enough for first-home buyers.
The Greens will often help create the problem, and then lament it. And their answer to it is more taxes. Well, we don't agree with that. We do agree with a range of policies that open up land supply, that create some of the right incentives—like we see with this bill—and that look after the most vulnerable people in our community, as evidenced by our homelessness package, where we have put money on the table that no governments previously done, because these programs always ended. The homelessness package that we have put on the table, this legislation, is one part of an overall housing package. That homelessness aspect actually puts money on the table in perpetuity for homelessness funding, which is exactly what the sector asked for. You wouldn't hear some of those opposite ever giving credit for that. But I absolutely pay tribute to people like Michael Sukkar and Scott Morrison, who have shown great leadership in this area.