Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2023


Consideration of Legislation

11:36 am

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

It's pretty rich for Labor to stand up here and say that they have been negotiating in good faith. That is absolutely inaccurate. For months the Greens have been trying to get Labor on the table to actually negotiate in good faith so that we wouldn't be in this situation that we're in, so that millions of people out there wouldn't be in the situation that they are in—just one rent increase away from being evicted, sleeping in cars, sleeping in tents, sleeping on the street.

Do you know what Labor is really upset and angry about here today? It's that, once again, they have been shown that when the community and the Greens get together and fight tooth and nail, when we stand up for people who live in this country and are struggling and when we actually campaign for what is right, things change. That is exactly what happened a couple of days ago. After months and months of pressure from the community and from the Greens, Labor did give in. It's good that you did give in because we need that $2 billion right now to build new social and affordable homes.

But we also need to do something to support the millions of renters in this country, and your bill on the table at the moment does nothing. You can go on and try and spin it as much as you want, but it does nothing for renters. A couple of days ago, you showed that the federal government could incentivise the states to make a change. You have wall-to-wall Labor governments across the country, so incentivise them. Give them money so that we can cap rents so that millions of people get the relief they need. It is in your power. It is in the power of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to do that. He just showed a couple of days ago that this government could do that. Somehow $2 billion appeared out of the back of the couch. I'm sure that there's a bit more at the back of the couch somewhere, so dig in and find that money.

The National Cabinet meeting in a few months can make that decision, but you can make that decision now. We don't have to wait for National Cabinet. You can make the decision today to provide relief to renters—the millions of people who are struggling to keep a roof over their head while they're struggling to put food on the table, while they're struggling to pay their student debts and while they're struggling to pay for medication. You can provide some relief to those people right now. You must have heard those stories as well. You could negotiate a two-year rent freeze and caps on rent increases in the same way as you have negotiated this new reform and put the money on the table for the states and territories to build the social and affordable homes that are needed.

Here's the other thing. If you can spend $2 billion in one year, you can spend that $2 billion every year as well, because $2 billion as a one-off is not enough. It is entirely in your hands to make this change. You are the government and you have the numbers in here to be able to do something to cap rents, as many countries in the world have done. So do that. Don't stand here and be angry because our community campaign is working. Don't stand here and blame the Greens for not doing anything, because the opposite is true. We have stuck to our guns, stood with the community and have forced you to make that change, and we will force you to make a change and do something to provide relief to the millions of renters who are facing real hardship at the moment. That's what's at stake here, and that is why we are fighting hard for it.


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