Doorstop Interview – Sydney – Friday 7 May 2021

FRIDAY, 7 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Scrap the cap on the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme; need for Government to invest in housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence; COVID-19 situation in India; hotel quarantine.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It’s harder to buy a house than ever before. If you open a newspaper or turn on the TV news or go to an auction, you know that. It’s also harder to rent than ever before. In some parts of the country, it’s almost impossible to find a place to rent. I heard a story in Coffs Harbour last week about somebody who had to take out a personal loan just to pay the rent for 12 months in advance. I’ve never heard anything like that before. Tragically, there are more homeless Aussies today than ever before, with the risk of it getting even worse. The challenge for the government in the Budget on Tuesday night is to tackle all three of these issues to make it easier to buy, but also to make it easier to rent and to reduce homelessness; to take action to put a roof over the head of Aussies who don’t even have a roof at all. 

On the first challenge: making it easier to buy. There are a lot of things that this Government needs to do to make it easier to buy, but one of those things is to scrap the cap on the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for first home buyers who want to build a new home. I’ve been calling on the Government to do this now for almost 12 months. Last year, we shamed the Government into taking some action here in the Budget. In October, they agreed to create 10,000 new places for first home buyers building a new home. But that was only temporary. Only for 12 months. The Government should make that permanent, and they should go further than that. They should scrap the cap entirely and provide access to this scheme for all first home buyers who want to build a new home and meet the other requirements of the scheme. It’ll mean that we can help more first-time buyers and it also means we can boost the supply of housing in this country. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are too many Aussies who don’t even have a roof over their head at all. This week, we got the extraordinary revelation that the Minister for Homelessness won’t even meet with homelessness organisations. The organisation’s whose job it is to try and reduce homelessness, to help Aussies who are doing it tough on the street, or sleeping in a car, or sleeping on a mate’s couch. Not only that, one of these organisations has had to write to the Prime Minister directly to make an official complaint that his Minister for Homelessness won’t even meet with them. This at a time where we’ve got a housing crisis. Where more Aussies are homeless than ever before and the risk of it going up. This is just plain old neglect. Why is this happening? Because he doesn’t care. If he cared, he’d be working with the organisations who want to meet with him to reduce homelessness. But worse than that, he thinks you don’t care.

The fact is the biggest group of homeless Aussies out there are women and kids. Women and kids. Many of them fleeing domestic violence. Last year 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence got turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed. Ten thousand women and kids turned away from refuges, often in the middle of the night, because there wasn’t a bed. I visited some of these in the last few weeks. They tell me they’re maxed out. One of them told me it’s the worst it’s been in 30 years. If you want to fix this, you’ve got to put more money, not just into building more refuges, but more transitional accommodation and more long-term accommodation for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. 

Here’s the challenge for the Government who says that this Budget is going to be about women’s security. If you’re fair dinkum about this, you’ll put money in the Budget for more social housing, for long-term security, long-term housing for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. We need more money for crisis accommodation, but we also need more money for transitional additional accommodation and more money for long-term social housing to protect mums and kids fleeing domestic violence.

Can I just make some remarks about news that’s just come out that flights from India will start again on May 15. What this shows is the Government has buckled to the backlash from the Australian people who are angry that this Government wanted to make it a crime just to come home. The big mistake that the Government made was threatening Aussies with five years in jail for wanting to come home. 

Two hundred years ago, you had to commit a crime to get here. Now, if you want to come home, the Government wanted to make it a crime. I think most Aussies heard that and they said fair dinkum. Hang on, that’s just over the top. It’s good that they’ve backed away from that, and they’ve realized that they’ve made a terrible mistake. But there’s more that the Government can do. They can actually use the Budget to put money in to building more quarantine facilities that are fit for purpose. They can use the Budget to do their job. It’s the Government’s job to run quarantine. Check out section 51 of the Constitution. It’s there in black and white, and for the last 12 months, the Government’s done a pretty good job of just handing that responsibility off to the States and saying, quarantine people in hotels in the middle of CBDs. It’s the Government’s job to run quarantine, and they should be using the Budget to put money into building quarantine facilities that can do this job. 

There’s talk today about funding the idea the Victorian Government’s got for a state-of-the-art fit for purpose quarantine service there. The Prime Minister said that he’s going to look into it. This is the Prime Minister for Mirrors. He’ going to look into it. Don’t look into it, put money into it and put money in the Budget to build these quarantine facilities. You should have done this 12 months ago. There’s at least another 12 months of quarantine and the Government should be building these facilities now to keep Aussies safe here in Australia, and bring Aussies home. 

Until we’ve got quarantine facilities that are bulletproof, and until we’ve got everybody vaccinated, we’re going to continue to have flights cut off, and you’re going to continue to have cities shut down. This government has to start doing its job. Build the quarantine facilities that we need and vaccinate Australia. Thanks very much.