Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Questions without Notice
Tasmania: Housing Affordability
My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Minister, Tasmania's housing crisis is at boiling point. The average Hobart renter is paying nearly a third of their income to keep a roof over their head, and that's on a good day. We've got people sleeping in their cars, families are camping out in friends' living rooms and, meanwhile, your government is running yet another talkfest inquiry on housing affordability. We don't need another inquiry. Your answers are already there. We already know what we need to do. We need more affordable housing. Why can't your government see this, and what action will you take instead of having just another talkfest?
I thank Senator Lambie for her question, although I reject some of the characterisation in that question. Indeed, our government has pursued multiple policies and is making multiple investments to support access to housing across Australia. We are providing an expected $9 billion through 2021-22 to support housing and homelessness across the country, which includes around $1.6 billion being provided to the states to meet their responsibility in support for housing and homelessness.
As a government we have put a particular priority in relation to supporting home ownership and into supporting more first homeowners into home ownership, and we are very pleased that programs our government has delivered over the last few years, under Prime Minister Morrison—from HomeBuilder through to the home guarantee schemes, including the first home guarantee, the New Home Guarantee and the Family Home Guarantee—have helped more than 300,000 Australians to become homeowners.
In the middle of the pandemic we have seen first homeowner numbers at their highest level in nearly 15 years. As parties of government that have long championed from a very foundation the importance of homeownership, we take great pride in seeing that achievement. We've made sure that we've put in place the policies to help those Australians who might have struggled to get a deposit, get a deposit and get into the housing market more easily. That is what our home guarantee schemes are doing.
In this year's budget, we made the extension of that home guarantee scheme to particularly support single parents to access a home deposit and the opportunity of home ownership. We know that is one of the best ways to provide a lifetime of economic security, particularly through retirement years, alongside of successful retirement savings policies.
Minister, the head of your talkfest inquiry, the member for Mackellar, said last week that a housing affordability crisis is a moral failure by the state and local governments. Isn't the fact that we have people sleeping in their cars a moral failure on the federal government as well or is it that it's everyone else's fault like usual?
In addition to the policies that I spoke about before, particularly the billions of dollars in funding, including to the states and territories, the work of our National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation and its infrastructure facility, in particular, has supported the delivery of over 6,600 new social, affordable and market dwellings. We have pursued policies and continued to deliver policies across the country that have helped with the delivery of additional social housing and affordable dwellings around the country. They help states and territories in the provision of support for homelessness and delivery of those policies. And they have helped more than 300,000 Australians—
I hear Senator McKim inviting me to tell him about our tax policies. Well, $1½ billion dollars extra into the pockets of hardworking Australians every month is also helping Australians to pay for their mortgages, their rents and their homes.
There are more than 4,000 people on the social housing waitlist in Tasmania right now. It takes nearly 18 months, on a good day, for the neediest applicants to get put into a home. My staff are taking calls from people who are at their wit's end and we have to tell them that there's nothing we can do; the housing just isn't there. Minister, your government holds the purse strings; we've seen this through COVID. This is happening on your watch and you have the power to turn this around. Why aren't you paying for the social housing we know that we need?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Yes, I am, Mr President. I don't think it's appropriate, given what has been handed down today, to have growling and dog noises coming from this side of the chamber while a female member in this place is on her feet. It happened. I don't know who was responsible for it, but it is inappropriate and if we're going to change culture from the top then that means all of us.
Well, I did hear it, because I in fact said, 'Who's growling?' I would ask one of the senators at that end perhaps to do the right thing and withdraw. At least fess up!
An honourable senator interjecting—
Gee, you're tough aren't you? You're happy to dish it out but you're not happy to take responsibility! I mean, really—
Senator Wong, I'm not challenging what you heard. I certainly did not hear it. I cannot ask someone to withdraw something I did not hear.
H onourable senator s interjecting—
Order! Senator Molan!
Senator Molan and Senator Wong! Interjections, as everyone in this chamber has heard on many, many occasions, are disorderly. I did call a senator who interjected across the chamber on my right to order. I did not hear the particular incident that you have raised. If it occurred, I would ask the senator involved to reflect upon it and to withdraw if they did do what has been stated. However, I did not hear the particular interjection myself. I think I'm calling the minister.
I do reject a number of the assertions in Senator Lambie's supplementary question. Our government is taking a most comprehensive suite of policies to support housing and homelessness. The work of NHFIC, which I referenced before, is delivering thousands of additional houses—low-income and affordable houses and dwellings—through its operation.
The work under our national partnership agreement with the states and territories provides $1.6 billion a year to them. The work in relation to home ownership that I referenced before is driving those home ownership rates higher, which we are so pleased to see and which we will continue to pursue and support as a government—those 300,000-plus additional homeowners who we have managed to achieve as a result of these policy settings. Indeed, specifically in relation to Tasmania, there's the work to provide a waiver of more than $150 million to the Tasmanian government in relation to their housing related debts. That will help them to pursue policies— (Time expired)