Doorstop Interview – Sydney – Saturday 8 May 2021


SUBJECTS: Federal Government’s minimum help, maximum hype housing announcement; Scrap the cap on the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme; need for Government to invest in housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: This Government’s has had eight years to fix housing affordability and it’s just got worse. It’s now harder to buy a house than ever before. What the Government has announced today is not enough to fix this. There’s more than 100,000 Aussies who buy a home for the first time every year. What the government has set up with the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme helps 20,000 of them. I’ve been calling now for more than 12 months for the Government to scrap the cap on this scheme for first homebuyers who want to build their first home.
Unfortunately, today, the Government has continued to ignore that request. If they did that, if they scrapped the cap on this scheme for the first home buyers wanting to build their first home, it’d help a lot more first homebuyers, and it would help to increase housing supply, and help tradies who would build those homes.
There’s also been an announcement today about single parent families. This will help a little bit but not enough. There are about a million single parent families around Australia. This will help about 10,000 a year*. In other words, one in 100. This isn’t the Mother’s Day present that the Government makes it out to them. There are a million single parent families in Australia. This will help one in 100. Minimum help, maximum hype.
There’s a lot of mums that this won’t help at all. Think about older mums, where the kids have left the home, they might be divorced, and in the settlement, they don’t have enough money to buy a house. I know this story from what’s happened in my own extended family. The fastest growing group of homeless Aussies at the moment, are older women, aged 65 to 74. They’re people like our mums, our aunties, our grandmas. This announcement today does nothing for those mums.
Perhaps most disappointingly of all, this does absolutely nothing to help the mums and kids who most desperately need our help. That’s mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. The Government has said this is going to be a women’s Budget, that it’s all about women’s physical security and economic security. The key to that is having a roof over your head. The biggest group of homeless Australians are mums and kids, many of them fleeing domestic violence. Last year 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence, often in the middle of the night, were turned away from refugees because there wasn’t a bed. Ten thousand mums and kids turned away from refugees because there wasn’t a bed.
If we want to fix that, you need to build more refuges, but you also need to build more transitional accommodation, and more permanent accommodation, more permanent social housing. There hasn’t been anything said about that today. The Government has failed again to invest in the housing that is most desperately needed by the mums and kids in our community who need our help. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has talked about and 124 million towards community and social housing.
CLARE: All that is, is replacing a cut the government planned to make to the ERO. There’s nothing there in additional funding to build the housing we need. Last year taught us that if we really want to, we can do something serious about homelessness. We did it. Thousands of people that sleep rough on our streets and in our parks were scooped up putting the empty hotel and motel rooms. Many of them are now back on our streets. Many of the people who are homeless are mums and kids. On this Mother’s Day will be as rough as you can imagine, and there’s nothing here to build the homes that they desperately need.
JOURNALIST: Can I come back to the original Budget proposal, which is for the single parent’s subsidy, given house prices are rising so rapidly. Do you think it’s enough? What impact will it have?
CLARE: It helps a bit, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. It’s harder to buy a house now than ever before. It’s also harder to rent than ever before. Rents are going up right across the country, in particular in regional parts of the country, we’re seeing rents doubled, and there are more homeless Australians than ever before. So, there’s a lot more that needs to be done to make it easier to buy, easier to rent, and put a roof over the heads of Aussies who desperately need it. We’ve got to do a lot more to help working mums and dads put a roof over their heads.
JOURNALIST: Do these housing measures risk over-stimulating the market? We’ve already seen a very hot market.
CLARE: That’s a matter for the Government to answer. They’re other ones with access to the Treasury and would be in this position to tell you what the impact is.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about that if that did happen?
CLARE: Again, I don’t have access to that information. What we want to do is make it easier for people to buy a home. Over the eight years of this Government, it’s just got harder and harder to buy a home. We need to make it easier.
JOURNALIST: Can I go back to when you talked about domestic violence and other issues for women, single parents making up the bulk of women. Do you think this is the Government trying to counter it so called “women problem”?
CLARE: The Government has said that this would be a women’s Budget. Now if they’re serious about that, then they have failed to do enough to help the mums and the kids in our community who need their help. As I said, this doesn’t do anything for all the mums whose kids have left home, they might be divorced and having a real problem getting into the housing market. It doesn’t do anything for mums and kids in the worst situation of all, where you’re forced to run from the house fleeing domestic violence. You’ve got to do more than just build refuges. You’ve got to build long term accommodation. That’s why I’ve said, that’s why Albo has said, you’ve got to build more social housing. You’ve got to provide a permanent home for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence, and the Government has let them down again today.
JOURNALIST: What about those people in between? They’re not social housing candidates, but they don’t have enough. What does this really do for them?
CLARE: The people you’re talking about people are struggling to pay the rent right now. I heard a story in Coffs Harbour last week. About 50 people bidding to rent one place and the landlord demanded that they pay the rent 12 months in advance. The person who got that place, had to get a personal loan to pay the 12 months’ rent in advance. There is a story after story that I’m hearing on the north coast, on the south coast, as far away as Albany, WA, about rent doubling. It’s not just getting harder to buy, it’s getting harder to rent as well. The government has got to take some action to make it easier for people to rent. We’ve heard nothing about that today. We will never hear anything from the Government about rent.
JOURNALIST: So, is it a case of not being able to do COVID catch up? We’ve seen an increase in tree changes, people moving out of the cities, so is this a case they’ve failed this opportunity to catch up?
CLARE: Politicians have been urging people to move from the cities to the regions for decades. In the space of 12 months, that’s just happened. It’s happened in an instant; people have moved to the regions. The problem with that now is that there’s not enough homes for the people who’ve moved to the regions. Vacancy rates fall through the floor, and prices are going through the roof. That’s the impact. Governments are struggling to keep up.
One of the things I’d like to see in the Budget on Tuesday is and plan from the Government about how to keep up with this population growth. We’re going to need police officers, more nurses, more doctors, more teachers in the regions. On the South Coast of New South Wales, they are talking to me about the desperate need they have for more cleaners and cooks and can’t get them into places like Comma and Jindabyne because there isn’t a place for them to live.
JOURNALIST: But you can really blame the government? It’s a one in 100-year pandemic. Can you really say that it’s their fault for this Budget?
CLARE: What I’m saying is it’s the job of the government to respond to the situation that’s emerging. People elect politicians, they elect governments to lead and to respond to the problems in our local community. Ask anybody in regional Australia, and they’ll say the place is full, there’s nothing to rent, rents are going up. So, governments have got to look at what can we do to help? We haven’t heard anything from the government in the announcement today.
JOURNALIST: And you would have liked to see that in the Budget? What would you like to see regarding that?
CLARE: What I would like to see is more from this Government to make it easier to buy, easy to rent, and to put a roof over the heads of more Australians who don’t have one at all. We haven’t heard enough from the Government on whether of those things.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to one of the other issues which is drawing down on super, what’s your response to that?
CLARE: I think what the Government’s doing is making some changes to an existing scheme. It had a limited number of people so far that have accessed that scheme. There are lots of things that need to be fixed in that scheme to make it work better. We’ll have a look at those changes, but there are a lot of things that need to be done to make that screen work better.
JOURNALIST: We saw last year, Paul Keating, one of the architects of our superannuation, saying that is the wrong thing to do, to draw down because it gives future poverty.
CLARE: The idea that was touted by the Liberals last year was that people should be able to raid their superannuation. What we’re talking about here is different, but raiding your superannuation is just like putting fuel on the fire of house prices that are going up at the moment. I think anybody that looks at that thinks that that is a crazy idea. For one, most people that would want to do that, don’t have any money in their superannuation. Many took that money out last year. But on top of that, if everybody raided their superannuation to buy a home, then it would push up housing prices. The superannuation industry did a study on this. It showed that if everybody took $40,000 out of their superannuation, then that would increase prices here in Sydney about $120,000.
JOURNALIST: And that wouldn’t lead to any more supply if there’s that demand?
CLARE: If it’s invested in existing housing, it doesn’t increase supply. Hence the point I made at the beginning about the importance of uncapping the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for first homeowners who want to build a home. That increases supply and that’s one of the big challenges. There’s no one thing that we need to do to make it easier for people to buy a home. There’s a lot of things we need to do and one of those things is increase supply.
JOURNALIST: How do you do that, though? It’s a state government’s domain.
CLARE: It’s both. The Federal Government’s got land. They’ve committed to release some of that land for housing and done absolutely nothing about it. It’s the state government’s role here as well, and state government and federal government need to work together on this. The Federal Minister for Housing doesn’t even sit down and meet with state ministers for housing to look at how they could do this. They don’t meet with local government either. There’s is another thing state governments can do, and that’s to get rid of stamp duty. Replace it with another way to get to that revenue. The New South Wales Government’s talking about that. The Federal Government can play a helpful role here in coordinating that sort of change right across the country. Think about this: cost of the average home here in Sydney is over a million bucks. If you get rid of stamp duty, that would save you about $50,000 when you buy your first home. That’s a big change.
JOURNALIST: So just summarise, the overall missed opportunity is what you’re saying with this Budget?
CLARE: I’d summarise it like this. It helps a bit, but not enough. As I said before, this isn’t the Mother’s Day present and the Government makes it out to be. A million single parent families around Australia and helps one in 100. Minimum help, maximum hype. There is a lot more than we need to do to make it easier for Aussies to buy a home, because under this government, for the last eight years, it’s just got harder and harder and harder.
*Since this press conference, the Government has revealed it is ten thousand places over four years rather than annually.