Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Wednesday 30 September 2020


SUBJECT: Social housing.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Welcome back to the program. With me now as the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare. Mr. Clare, thanks for your time. The Opposition Leader gave a pre-Budget address today signalling some of these key priorities. One of them is social housing. The Morison Government is saying that the states should in fact be borrowing more and focusing on this issue. Why the feds not the states in your view?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It should be both. And the states are. I think the states have borrowed an extra billion dollars to build more social housing in the last six months, and they’re doing it for the same reason were arguing the Commonwealth should do it and that’s to keep tradies working. This is an industry – the housing construction industry – that employs about a million people, a lot of them tradies, and all of the evidence is that the industry is shrinking fast. According to Treasury estimates, it’ll drop from building 170,000 homes last year to 140,000 this year, the housing industry thinks it could be worse than that. If you build fewer homes, then fewer tradies have jobs, so it just makes sense to try and fill that gap with social housing. One of the things that’s pretty obvious to most people, Kieran, is that because the borders are shut, there’s no migration so the population is not going up. That means fewer homes being built because demand is not there and that’s going to be the case for a couple of years. You need to fill that gap in the teeth of a recession with the government building government housing. It’ll put a roof over the head of people who need it, but it’ll also keep the people who work in this industry in a job.
GILBERT: When you look at the expenditure already in the face of this recession, as a percentage of GDP, you’re talking upwards of 15 per cent already spent in terms of stimulus from the federal government, the states are two to three per cent of GSP, or gross state product. They’ve got a bit more room to move, haven’t they, in terms of expenditure? Shouldn’t they be driving this?

CLARE: I’d like to see the states put more into social housing as well, but the Commonwealth has pretty much flagged in the Budget that they’re going to put billions of dollars into infrastructure. So, the question we should ask ourselves is, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck? There was a report I saw yesterday, 49 economists were asked if you’re spending money in the Budget to get people working and get the economy revved up again, what’s your top priority, and they said social housing. There’s a reason for that: because for every dollar you spend on building a house, you create $3 flushed around the economy. So, it makes a hell of a lot of sense to put money into building houses. If private demand is down, then you pick up the slack with public demand. There’s a lot of damaged, worn out, mould-ridden social housing premises around the country that need work. You could get in there quick; the states have got at list. I’ve seen plenty of them myself. If government offices were in as bad shape as some of the government-owned homes around the country, they’d be fixed in an instant, and yet we’ve got places that are so mould ridden that they’re not just places that need to be fixed, they’re a health hazard to the kids and the families who live in them. We could be creating work for tradies now by getting them to go in there and fix it, and in the midst of a recession, this is the sort of thing that we could do really quickly and really easily.
GILBERT: Where are the worst pockets of neglect in that space? Which states, which cities?
CLARE: It’s right across the country. There’s not one part of the country – city or the bush, not one electorate that doesn’t have a long waiting list of people needing to get into social housing, or a lot of properties that desperately need work. I was in one in Riverwood in Sydney two weeks ago. The place is riddled with mould. I opened up the wardrobe, it was just black with mould. The clothes all had to get thrown out because the mould was growing on them. There’s three little kids; one four-year-old, one three-year-old and one less than 12 months who sleep in that bedroom. You can just imagine what’s growing in their lungs. This is why I say it’s a bloody health hazard, and there’s tradies there that are running out of work. The Department of Housing in New South Wales says they can’t fix it for another three years. We could get cracking now, fix all of these sorts of problems that we know exist and as I said, if it was a government office it’d be fixed tomorrow, but it’s government housing so it has to wait three years. You’ve got a shortage of work for tradies, it makes sense to get the federal government and the state governments,  bang their heads together and get this work done quicker and keep people in work rather than just building a longer line out in front of Centrelink.
GILBERT: Do you think the government will extend the HomeBuilder grant scheme? It’s currently scheduled to, applications close December 31. Will they extend it? Is it working?

CLARE: I think they’ll have to. They’ll have to do that, but they’ll probably extend it and say because it’s been a raving success. I think they’ll have to extend it because it hasn’t. It was announced four months ago. The data is now in. It shows that even with the HomeBuilder Scheme factored in, the number of homes that are going to be built in the next 12 months is way down on what it was last year. We got data out today that showed us that again, the number of apartments that have been approved is down by double digits. The Housing Industry Association forecasts that in the next 12 months, the number of apartments built is going to drop by about 40 per cent, and even bigger in places like Sydney and in Melbourne. The scheme is not doing enough to keep the industry going at the rate it was last year. If they try and fix it, that’s good. Let me give you another example, Kieran. You’ve got to sign an application form by the 31st of December at the moment to qualify for the 25 grand. That basically rules out most of the 3,000 families who had their homes burned down in the bushfires because they can’t get their planning approvals done and their insurance processes done in time. So, I hope they extend it but that alone is not going to be enough to get us back up to that 170,000 homes a year and that’s why I say build more social housing. But I’ve got to tell you, mate, it’s not just the Labor Party. You’ve got the Master Builders Association, you’ve got the HIA, you’ve got the Property Council all arguing that we should build social housing as well. They’re not affiliated to the Labor Party. They’re not raving socialists. They’re not saying this because they think it’s going to build a fairer society. They’re saying this because it’s going to keep their members working. That’s why the government should listen to them, if not me, and put more money into social housing in the budget.
GILBERT: Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Thanks, talk to you soon.
CLARE: Thanks.