Doorstop Interview – Sydney – Thursday 6 August 2020



SUBJECTS: The Morrison Government’s failure to invest more in social housing; HomeBuilder.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: We’re in the middle of a health crisis at the moment that’s creating an economic crisis and soon will lead to a housing crisis. Over the next few months, we’re going to see more and more Australians struggle to pay the mortgage, struggle to pay the rent, and the risk that more and more Australians might find themselves homeless.
There’s a report that’s come out today that shows that only one in 10 people who rent who have lost their job over the last few months have got a rent reduction. That shows you that there’s a hell of a lot of people that are really doing it tough at the moment. Over the next few months, as unemployment keeps going up and support from the Government goes down, there’s going to be more Aussies that are going to struggle to pay the mortgage and pay the rent.
I was glad to see a report in the papers today saying that the Government is going to make housing a “key plank” of the Federal Budget in October. I was glad to see in that report, the Government saying that they’re planning to expand the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. That’s a good thing – Labor’s been calling for that now for months. We’ve said with a scheme that supports first homebuyers to get a foot in the market, that it would make sense at this time to expand that scheme. To lift the cap on that scheme for people who are first time buyers who want to build a new home. It’ll help them and it’ll help tradies who are desperate for work and are going to need more and more work in the months ahead as the housing construction industry teeters on the edge of a cliff.
I was also glad to see in that report that the Government is considering making changes to improve the operation of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility. That needs to happen. I asked a question in Parliament two months ago about this that showed of this one billion dollar fund, this important $1 billion fund, only $200,000 so far had been spent on “capacity building exercises.” That needs to change. It needs to be used to help build more housing for people who need it.
The Government is also going to have to expand the HomeBuilder scheme. This was a scheme that was announced two months ago this week. And there’s less than five months to go until the scheme is supposed to wrap up and still most Australians can’t even apply. As I’ve said a number of times, this is too small and it’s rolling out too slowly. The government’s going to have to do more here.
What disappoints me is that in that story this morning, the Government said they’ve got no plans to invest any more money in social housing. This is sheer bloody-mindedness. It’s not just the Labor Party that’s saying the government needs to invest in more social housing to support tradies and keep the construction industry going. It’s the construction industry itself. The Master Builders Association are saying this, the Property Council is saying this, CSR one of Australia’s largest building products companies is saying this, and they’re saying it because they know that we can get this work up and going quickly, and it can keep tradies in the construction industry going. The Government’s argument is spurious. They say this is the job of state governments. That’s a rubbish argument. It’s the job of federal governments and state governments to build and maintain social housing. Federal governments have been funding this for decades. The Federal Government does it now but now at this time when we’re in recession, when people are losing their jobs, they need to do more. State governments are doing more – state governments all across the country from Queensland to New South Wales to Victoria to WA, are spending, all up, more than $1 billion in extra funds to build and maintain more social housing to keep tradies in their states working. And so far the Federal Government hasn’t invested one extra cent in social housing.
We did this during the GFC. We invested more than $5 billion in building 20,000 more social housing dwellings and repairing more than 80,000 dilapidated rundown social housing dwellings. And it worked. It helped us stop us from going into recession. It saved the jobs of thousands and thousands of tradies and it helps to put a roof over the head of people who really need it. And we could do that again. We need it now more than ever. We’re in a worse situation today than we were a decade ago. We’re already in recession. We’re told another 240,000 people are going to lose their jobs by Christmas. It could be worse now, given everything that’s happening in Victoria, and so I call on the Government to stop being so bloody-minded about this. Think about it again. This would be a win-win. It would save the jobs of tradies and put a roof over the head of people who desperately need it.