MATTERS OF URGENCY - Morrison Government: Housing

This is a crucial and important issue to every Australian. I agree with the previous speaker that every Australian deserves to have a house and a home. There are obviously people who are in very unfortunate circumstances from time to time, and it's not always possible for governments to solve every particular problem. But I don't think there's been a Commonwealth government with more housing policies than this one. A raft of assistance is being provided to get people into a home and, most importantly, to allow them to own their own home. They are the programs that we took to the last election and have a mandate to roll out, programs that we put in place during the coronavirus pandemic as a key way of securing Australia's economic recovery. They've been very successful programs.

Clearly, given the nature of this motion and the fact that it comes from the non-government side of this chamber, there are complaints that these programs aren't doing what they want. I think there is a values difference here that needs to be exposed first, before we go further here. We, on this side of the chamber, unashamedly want to help people to own their own home. I listened to the individual examples given by Senator Waters, which are touching and tragic for those involved but ultimately come down to the fact that those individuals—I'm sure for a variety of reasons outside their control—did not own their own home. They were then reliant on landlords, perhaps on body corporates, and that is not a position I'd like to see most Australians in.

I want to see Australians being able to afford their own home so they've got their own security and can take charge of their own lives and not be beholden to a corporation or some property developer. Yet most of the proposals I've heard from the other side while listening to this debate would perpetuate such a dependence. They'd perpetuate dependence on a landlord or on rental payments, rather than give people the security and equity of their own asset, their own home to look after—one that they can't be unfairly kicked out of at any minute.

That is why this government is focused on policies that can help people achieve the goal of owning their own home. As I've said, we have a raft of these policies. I don't know if a government has done more, in recent times at least—perhaps in the immediate postwar period, when there was a real push by the Menzies government to get people into housing. I want to pay credit to the minister responsible here, Minister Michael Sukkar. I know how focused he is on giving people that dream of owning their own home. He is very passionate about a variety of these programs.

Before the last election, we announced the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. I don't think the opposition announced a housing policy; they certainly did not announce a policy to help people own their own home. The opposition just ignored that. There were no mechanisms provided by the opposition to help people own their own home. But Scott Morrison and Michael Sukkar announced a great policy before the last election to help people get their deposits together to buy their own home. This program is helping support 30,000 first home buyers to enter the market sooner. It will help an additional 20,000 people from 1 July next year. It will also offer a pathway to ownership for single parents, people who obviously would find it very difficult to save a deposit for their own home. But 10,000 single parents will be able to access a government family home guarantee that will help them unlock a loan and a deposit, or a no-deposit loan, to help them buy their own home.

The scheme has been very successful. As I said, it was opened up to 30,000 places, and, by January 2020, already 19,000 first home buyers had accessed the scheme to buy their first home sooner. Another 1,000 are at the preapproval stage to do so. As part of the budget, we're expanding this scheme to establish those 10,000 places for single parents. That will mean they will need a deposit of only two per cent. When my wife and I were struggling to save up for our deposit, we got to about 10 per cent. It was tough, but we had two people to do it. Obviously if you're a single parent it's very difficult, but two per cent is a very reasonable approach, and the government guarantee will help unlock that private sector finance for these people to own their own home, and then they won't be subject to the vagaries of a landlord or of the housing market.

The HomeBuilder scheme has been massively successful as well. It's pretty hard to get a tradie right now, partly because of the work that's been unlocked through the HomeBuilder scheme. That has provided funding for people to build their own home. It was of course a key measure in seeking to keep Australians in work during the coronavirus pandemic, and it has been incredibly successful. It's made sure that our construction industry has continued to go very strongly through a global pandemic, and it is building the housing stock, which will make for more housing supply and ease some pressures.

I want to recognise some of the points that have been made here. Given how successful our economy has been in the last year, given how many expats are coming home to Australia because this is perhaps the best place in the world to be right now—it normally is, but it's very much the best place to be right now, and we've got a lot of people coming home—that is putting a lot of pressure on our housing market. It is seeing massive record price increases, especially in our capital cities but also in regional areas like where I am. Vacancy rates in regional Queensland are very low—under one per cent in most towns—so it is very difficult for those who do not have secure housing. I recognise that.

The provision of social housing to those who can't afford their own home is principally a responsibility of the state governments, but the federal government does support their initiatives. We provide $1.6 billion each year under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to improve housing and homeless outcomes and improve social housing. We also provide $5½ billion a year through Commonwealth rent assistance to those who must be in the rental market. We have expanded these measures as well, with $23 million for new and expanded emergency accommodation for women and children escaping family and domestic violence, under the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation initiative. We've also invested $19 million to deliver more than 100 social and affordable homes as part of the Hobart City Deal. We are working in unison with other governments to do what we can to support, with the increase in prices and lower availability of supply that we've seen, but, ultimately, providing more housing options to people—more housing supply—is going to require us to build more houses. That's what we need to do. It's a good thing that we have this economic activity and that we're victims of our success, to some extent, with our successful and burgeoning property markets, but what we need to see is that supply response. We need to see developments occur. We need to see new housing being built. But the red tape that now exists, especially at a local planning level, is so high that it makes it very hard for supply responses to occur.

Right now, we have thousands of Australians wanting to move to regional Queensland. We've been desperately trying to market and sell the benefits of living in country areas for decades, Finally people are wanting to do that, but there's not enough housing available. There's plenty of land. There's good infrastructure—it probably needs a few upgrades, but there are no massive tunnels or any of the things you get in the cities. We can withstand more people in Rockhampton. We can take more people in Townsville and Emerald. But we need to get the housing developments approved, or else people won't come. People will not come to live on the side of the street. And if people move out to the regions, to a new home, that will free up the housing that we already have in the cities, and that will help all of us. I hope that we not only have specific programs to build more housing in this country but that we also tackle the red tape that stops more homes being built and, therefore, more people having a roof over their head.

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