Repairing social housing

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (16:40): Imagine for a minute a single mum, aged 39, raising four kids on her own, all living together in a small house, and there’s something else living in the house as well—mould. It sounds like a simple problem; a bit of Exit Mould will fix it. But it won’t fix it; it’s not as simple as that in the house that Shae and her four kids live in. There is mould on the walls, mould on the ceiling, mould on the floors, mould on the carpets—the place is riddled with it. There is mould on the kids’ soft toys, mould on the mattresses and mould on the kids’ clothes. Just imagine what’s in their lungs. One of the kids has severe asthma. The place is a health hazard.

Who do you think owns this house? In a sense, we all do. The Australian people do. It’s a government house. It’s public housing. If it were any other government building or office, it would have been fixed yesterday. If it were any of our offices, it would have been fixed in a flash. But Shae has been struggling for years to get anybody to help her to fix the home.

That’s just one story. Here’s another one. Casey’s house is that bad she can’t even live in it. Her place is so bad—it’s full of mould, leaks and rot—that you can smell it when you walk through the door. She is afraid to let her two kids sleep there at night. In fact, they don’t live there at all; they are all crammed into her mum’s house. But she’s still paying the rent, for a place she can’t even live in. It’s the same story as Shae’s; it’s a government house being left to rot.

There are 100,000 more stories like this right around the country, 100,000 places that need urgent repairs or basic maintenance. These are two examples from my own electorate. I have seen with my own eyes places where there are holes in the ceiling above a baby’s cot or raw sewage leaking out of pipes and pouring into people’s bathrooms. As I said before, if these were our offices they’d be fixed in a flash. What’s the difference between our offices and these homes? They are both government buildings. The difference is that we have loud voices and microphones, and these mums and kids don’t. If there was ever a time when we should put our minds to fixing this, it is now, when we are in a recession and tradies are running out of work.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently put out a report in which they showed that, in the six months since COVID-19 hit, 12,000 carpenters have lost their jobs, 9,000 bricklayers have lost their jobs, 10,000 painters have lost their jobs, 4½ thousand roof tilers have lost their jobs and 11,300 electricians have lost their jobs. That’s a lot of tradies out of work—and, if the predictions are right, another 40,000 tradies will lose their jobs in the next six months. They could be put to work right now, fixing places like Shae’s or Casey’s or those 100,000 other places in towns and suburbs around this country that need these urgent repairs and basic maintenance. It’s a simple, commonsense idea. There are houses that need to be fixed and there are tradies who need work. Just put them together. It would be a win-win.

I know what the government will say; it is what the government always says on this issue. They say, ‘It’s not our job; it’s the job of state governments.’ But it’s the wrong way of looking at this. It’s not about whose job it is—whether it is the state government or the federal government. It’s about the jobs of those tradies—the thousands of carpenters, electricians and plumbers who are out of work and could be put to work doing this. And it’s about Shae and Casey and their kids and the 100,000 other families around the country who need their help.