Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (16:13): The worst of COVID is hopefully now behind us, but what it’s left in its wake is another crisis: a housing crisis. It’s harder to buy a house today than ever before. The cost of buying a house has skyrocketed in the last 12 months. It is up 20 per cent right across the country. It’s the same story with rent. It’s harder to rent today in many parts of the country than ever before. The big jump in the cost of petrol has already been mentioned in this debate. Petrol is now costing the average family 900 bucks a year more than it did last year. That’s a massive jump, but it pales in comparison with what’s happening with rent.
Just think about this for a minute: in Cairns, up in Queensland, the average rent is 2,000 bucks more this year than it was last year.
In Burnie, down in Tasmania, the average rent is now $2½ thousand more than it was this time last year. In North Nowra—not far from here, on the coast—it’s gone up by $2,800 a year. In Launceston, back in Tasmania, it’s three grand more than it was this time last year. On the Central Coast of New South Wales the average rent is $3,600 more this year than it was last year. Not far from here, in Yass, it’s 4½ grand more, and up in Darwin it’s now 6½ grand more than it was last year.
It’s the people living in places like this who will determine who sits in the Prime Minister’s chair after the next election. But it’s not just them. This is happening almost everywhere, right across the country. This is the biggest bill that millions of Aussies pay every week, and it’s going through the roof.
When rent goes up but wages don’t there are real-life consequences. Here’s just one example, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is a photograph from the Cairns Post, from a story from a couple of months ago. What it shows is a mum, a dad, a 13-year-old daughter and their dog sitting in the boot of their car on the edge of the Captain Cook Highway with a sign that says:
Then it has their mobile phone number. That shows you just how desperate and dire things are. These aren’t backpackers looking to hitchhike up and down the coast. This is a family trying to find an affordable place to rent.
Here’s another story, from Lake Macquarie, about a bloke who hired a car to sleep in. How in the hell does that happen? He hired a car to sleep in because he couldn’t find an affordable place to rent. Here’s another story from the Newcastle Herald about a young woman named Chloe. She’s 24. She’s a nurse at a local hospital. She’s sleeping in her car as well. Up the Pacific Highway, in Coffs Harbour, I heard a story about a place that was up for rent where 50 people turned up to have a look. The person who eventually got the property had to pay the rent 12 months in advance, but that’s not the worst part—she took out a personal loan just to do it.
Further up the highway, at Byron Bay, there’s not even a women’s and children’s refuge. I was told in Byron Bay that the local police commander reckons there are 400 women and kids sleeping in cars around the town. The charities in these places tell me that they’re now seeing as many as three times the number of people coming in for help that they saw this time last year.
When we ask questions about this in parliament, the Prime Minister tells us that there isn’t a problem. How out of touch is this Prime Minister! He needs to get out of the Lodge and get into the real world. He needs to visit his own electorate, where rents are, on average, up by $3,800 a year.
On top of that, we’ve got a homelessness minister, who’s at the table at the moment, who’s been the minister now for almost a year—for 344 days, to be exact—and has only even said the word ‘homelessness’ on eight of those days. He’s spent more days running away from 60 Minutes cameras than he has even saying the word ‘homelessness’. We need action here, and we need it now.