Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures No. 1) Bill 2017, First Home Super Saver Tax Bill 2017; In Committee

1:20 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

Labor will not be supporting these amendments. The amendments, while well-meaning, are an attempt to make the First Home Super Saver Scheme workable. Labor has a fundamental opposition to this legislation. This is, again, about this government seeking to undermine the superannuation system in this country. The government has legislation in the parliament that sets up an objective for superannuation that relates to retirement income. So, on one hand they're saying that superannuation is about retirement income, yet in this bill they want it to be for saving for a home.

This legislation contradicts the objective that this government is putting forward. No wonder we've heard nothing from the government recently on the objective of superannuation legislation. We will not support the First Home Super Saver Scheme legislation or attempts, however well-meaning, to improve this legislation. Unless this government deals with capital gains tax and negative gearing, young people who are trying to buy their first home will always be at a disadvantage against wealthy individuals who use capital gains tax and negative gearing to give themselves an advantage over young first home buyers. Young first home buyers are actually subsidising the investors who are going in there and using the tax loopholes to give themselves an advantage against first home buyers.

If this government were half serious about the issue affecting young people trying to buy their first home, if it were half serious about trying to deal with the ballooning prices in our major cities, then it would deal with capital gains tax and negative gearing. Billions of dollars of our money is going to investors to subsidise them, against young people trying to buy a home—over a 10-year period about $32 billion of taxpayer subsidy to rich investors, lining up weekend in weekend out against young home buyers who are trying to buy their first home. If the government were half serious about this it would deal with inclusionary zoning such that developers making billions of dollars out of developments would be required to provide a ratio of units or homes to people who need help for community housing. Do you ever hear them talk about that? No, you don't.

This is a government that doesn't have a clue about housing. This is a government that doesn't have a housing minister. This is a government that is so confused about how you deal with this issue that it just can't come up with any legitimate proposals to deal with it. This is a government that got rid of the National Rental Affordability Scheme that was on track to provide 50,000 affordable homes to Australians across the country. This is a government that says they'll introduce a bond aggregator. We agree about introducing a bond aggregator. But they are so dumb, they are so incompetent, that, although they say they will introduce a bond aggregator, they are doing nothing about the yield gap for low-income people—the yield gap that would need to be dealt with to allow the community housing industry to invest in housing for low-paid Australians.

Let's just deal with this issue of superannuation for a minute. We are talking about helping young people with their superannuation savings, but the average balance for a young person between the age of 18 and 24 is $6,789. That's what the ATO says the average balance is. So young people need to be putting money into superannuation for their future. That's the key issue in superannuation. If you are between 25 and 29, you've got a balance of $20,504. The reason these amounts are so low is that this mob across the chamber—this mob who are so concerned with their internal politics, are fighting each other, have a weak Prime Minister—are so consumed with their internal problems that they can't focus on the real issues for Australians: the cost of living, electricity prices, housing, education, homelessness, health. These are the issues that any government worth its salt would be dealing with. But this mob is totally incapable of dealing with those issues.

Those opposite are saying that if you put more money into your superannuation you'll get a tax advantage. When wages are stagnating, when workers can't get a pay rise and they are battling to put food on the table, how is this an answer to housing affordability? It is not. When you get Senator Cash on her feet—not so much lately, but she has been on a regular basis—attacking workers' rights to collectively bargain and increase their wages, attacking the trade union movement that helps drive wages up in this country, then no wonder we've got wage stagnation. These are big issues, and this government has got a very small view about the approach that should be taken, part of which is its attack on the superannuation system.

We've got something like 500,000 Australians in either mortgage stress or rental stress—in other words, over 30 per cent of their income is going to pay their rent or pay their mortgage. You don't hear this government talk about that. They come in with piddling little schemes like this that have got no credibility, no focus on dealing with the big issues of housing and homelessness, and it is just clearly a demonstration of how out of touch this government is—not only the government but the Prime Minister of this country. It's all right for the Prime Minister, living in absolute luxury on the shores of Sydney Harbour, to talk about how people are doing it tough. He has never known what it's like to do it tough. He has never known what it's like not to be able to pay your mortgage, not to be able to pay your rent. This bill will not deal with those issues.

For all of the good faith that Senator Leyonhjelm brings with his amendments to try and resolve the issue, the amendments are meaningless. The crossbench need to understand that this government is incapable of negotiating with the states and dealing with housing and homelessness in an effective way. The states are walking away from this government because they know that it hasn't got a clue; they know that it doesn't have the policies to deal with housing and homelessness in this country. They know that the government is leaderless. They know that the government doesn't have the policies that go to the key issues. They know this is a government that wants to give $65 billion to the big end of town—to big business—in tax cuts, while workers' wages are stagnating and when they want to put more tax on ordinary working people.

This government is an absolute rabble. It's an absolute disgrace. It's falling apart at the seams. It doesn't have the answers that ordinary Australians need from a government to deal with housing and homelessness. The state Liberal-National governments don't have confidence in this government, nor do the government's own members. The public doesn't have confidence in this government. To come here and argue that this is the way to deal with housing and homelessness and getting young people into their first home demonstrates how incompetent the government is on the economic issues that are affecting ordinary Australians in this country. The government needs to focus less on infighting and more on what is in the interests of Australians in this country so that ordinary Australians can look forward to pay increases and being able to pay their bills, put food on their table, send their kids to school and—maybe, once in a blue moon—have a holiday. But all this government wants to do is cut penalty rates, attack the trade union movement and come up with nonsensical positions like this to try and deal with housing and homelessness. It is an absolute disgrace.

No wonder the public is walking away from this government in droves. No wonder the public has no confidence in it—the government has no confidence in itself! The Liberals are fighting the Nationals, the Nationals are fighting the Liberals, and the Liberals are fighting each other. There is no continuity in this government. There are no broad policy parameters. They don't know what they stand for. They are an absolute disgrace as a government. If this is 'grown-up government', as they said when they came into power, they've failed to demonstrate it; they're still in kindergarten, this mob. In fact, kindergarten kids are better behaved. Kindergarten kids know they've got to get on with each other. This mob don't. This mob don't know how to run a government. They are totally incompetent and out of touch. To come here with nonsensical propositions like this and say, 'We are doing something about housing prices' demonstrates what a bunch of tricksters they are.

They try and trick the public day in, day out. All they're interested in is the big end of town that puts money into their election coffers. All they're interested in is making sure the banks get off without a royal commission for years, and, when the banks finally give them permission to run a royal commission, they have terms of reference that will make sure the banks are not put under any pressure. They have a time scale in the royal commission that ensures the banks will not be put under any pressure, because it's a deal between the government and the banks. The terms of reference were worked out between the banks and the government only 24 hours before they announced the royal commission that they were saying they wouldn't have.

How can you believe this government on anything? How can anyone have confidence that this government is acting in the best interests of first home buyers? How can anyone believe this government ever acts in the interests of the community? It simply wants to attack unions, workers and those who are falling through the cracks in society—the weak people who don't have an opportunity to get a job. The government's social security amendments are ridiculous; they're all about attacking the weakest and most vulnerable in our community. This mob does not have a clue. This amendment will not resolve the problems. But One Nation will cuddle up to them and vote for it. One Nation do nothing for those who are down and out in this country. One Nation attack the unions. They are their best mates in this place—One Nation and the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party have even sold out the National Party to cuddle up to One Nation. They are an absolute disgrace and don't deserve to be in power.


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