Interview with Annie Gaffney – ABC Queensland Drive – Friday 14 May 2021

FRIDAY, 14 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.

ANNIE GAFFNEY, HOST: With me now is Jason Clare, the federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Jason, good to have you with us this afternoon on ABC radio Queensland.  
GAFFNEY: How well do you understand the impacts of this housing crisis on people in regional Queensland at the moment? 
CLARE: If it’s anything like I’ve seen in New South Wales and regional Victoria, it’s horrific. Over the past 12 months, a lot of people have moved from big cities into regional Australia and that’s put more pressure on rents. Rent is going up and vacancy rates going through the floor. In regional Queensland, you’ve seen about 16,000 people move into the regional parts of the state over the last 12 months. To put that into perspective, in 2019, the year before the pandemic, it was only 5,000 extra people who moved into regional Queensland. So, you’ve had triple that amount in 12 months and the impact of that has been there’s nothing to rent and landlords are putting the rent up. 
GAFFNEY: If Labor was in Government, what would it do about this crisis? 
CLARE: The short answer to this is you can’t fix this with one single thing, but one thing you have to do is build more housing. Build more affordable housing and build more social housing. The federal government’s approach to this has been to turn a blind eye and just say that’s the job of state governments. That’s the wrong approach, that’s just false. Federal governments have been investing in this area since Curtin and Chifley, but more often than not, Liberal Government’s decide not to invest in this area and that means that some of our most needy Australians, I’m thinking here about mums and kids fleeing domestic violence and there’s no place to go and no place to live, then you miss out or you get forced to go live in a caravan or sleep in your car.  
GAFFNEY: Tuesday’s Budget, the Government announced $124.7 million over two years to support homelessness and affordable housing. Isn’t that a good start in the right direction? 
CLARE: That was the reverse of a cut. You don’t get a round of applause for doing a backflip. I’m glad they put that money back in, but that was money that, if they continued on with the cut, that would’ve meant that a lot of people who work in the homelessness sector, would’ve lost their jobs. Good that it’s there but if you really want to make a difference here, than its going to take something much more substantial than that.The sort of thing that Albo talked about last night a $10 billion dollar Housing Australia Future Fund that will enable us, over the course of five years, to build 20,000 social housing properties around the country and 10,000 affordable housing properties. 
GAFFNEY: So what kind of a difference will that make when it comes to the figures that are out there? I mean, Queensland alone has more than 47,000 people on it’s public housing register.  
CLARE: At the moment, the amount of social housing compared to housing right across the country is in a steep decline. That’ll help to turn that around. Federal governments and state governments working together here, and community housing organisations, can increase the amount of affordable housing and social housing.  
I’ll put it this way. Last year, 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence, often in the middle of the night, were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed. Part of the problem here is that people are staying in refuges for a long time because there’s no transitional housing to go to. A big part of this plan we announced last night is $1.7 billion for 4,000 social housing properties allocated to women and kids fleeing domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness. The fastest growing group of homeless Aussies at the moment are older women aged 65 to 74, the age of our mums or our aunties or in some cases grandmothers, and this policy is fairly and squarely targeted at helping them. 
GAFFNEY: So, we’ve got 20,000 social homes being built, we’ve got money going in to the provision of homes for women and children fleeing domestic violence, what else is Labor intending to do about this issue? 
CLARE: With this fund we can do other things as well. It’d horrify people listening to hear that one in ten people sleeping rough in a park in Sydney tonight will be a veteran. Someone that we trained and sent off to war and now needs our help. There’s $30 million there in the fund to build housing to provide support services for homeless veterans. This is something we’ve worked with the help of people like the Queensland RSL and Mates4Mates and Wounded Heroes, who are based in Queensland. There’s also more money for crisis accommodation and transition accommodation for women fleeing domestic violence. There’s $200 million to fix some of the worst housing, not just in Australia, but in the world; some of the housing in remote Indigenous communities across the country.That’s for repairs and maintenance and improvements to that sort of housing. And critically, housing for some of the real heroes of the last 12 months, people who don’t get to work behind a desk. They’re not politicians, they’re people who put on a uniform and often travel long distances to work; cleaners, aged care workers, child care workers, nurses, to help provide them with an affordable place to live closer to where they work. That’s the affordable housing I talked about. Ten thousand across the country. Super funds are doing that in different part of the country right now, we need more of it though to help those people that I think the last year has taught us just how important they are.  
GAFFNEY: We do, as you spoke about there, a big surge in people move to Queensland and particularly regional Queensland last year, but that migration has really been going for years now when it comes to Queensland. How has that been allowed to happen without the forward planning to deal with it? 
CLARE: Yeah, forward planning is that critical question. In Canberra, politicians have been talking about how you get people to move to regions generally for decades. It’s come in one big surge last year; 40,000 across the country, but you make a good point that Queensland’s been experiencing it for a long time. We need a long term plan here. The towns we’re talking about where people can’t afford to rent need nurses as well. They need police officers, they need more teachers, need a lot of different jobs. I was in the South Coast of New South Wales, they’re screaming out for more cooks. They can’t get them because there’s no place to live. What I’m talking about, and what Labor was talking about last night, is a long term plan. A Future Fund, $10 billion, you invest it now, the dividend it produces helps you to build social housing and affordable housing over the long term.  
GAFFNEY: For people like Polly-Anne who we spoke to earlier this house, she’s a Sunshine Coast women about to move into a caravan, essentially, with three children and a dog, what words of advice or hope can you give her, Jason Clare? 
CLARE: That story terrifies me. There was a story on the Sunshine Coast recently that was almost as bad. People being told move hundreds of kilometres away or sleep in your car. We should’ve all been working hard collectively to fix this problem years ago because you can’t just click your fingers and a house turns up, but we’ve got to start now. The best time to fix this would’ve been years ago, the second best time is now and that’s what this fund is about. It’s not going to solve everything, but building more housing, more affordable housing and more social housing for the people who desperately need it, is what the federal government desperately needs to do. After eight long years, this government had an opportunity to put some money into that on Tuesday night in the Budget when they spent a lot of money, but they still didn’t find a cent. 
GAFFNEY: Jason Clare, thanks for your thoughts. 
CLARE: Thanks very much. 
GAFFNEY: Jason Clare is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. We invited Michael Sukkar, the Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Housing, Homelessness, Social and Community Housing on to the program to talk about what the Federal Government is doing to address the housing crisis but we were told he was not available.