Interview with Leon Delaney – 2CC Canberra Drive – Friday 14 May 2021

FRIDAY, 14 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.

LEON DELANEY, HOST: As I mentioned earlier today, the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made his reply to the Budget speech last night. He said a piece of that was a big package to boost social housing in Australia. That is one of the clear areas in Josh Frydenberg Budget which was left vacant. There was no action from the Government, but the Opposition says we should do more. Joining me now Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. Good afternoon.


DELANEY: Thanks for joining us today. So, what exactly is the Labor Party proposing in the social housing space? 

CLARE: We’ve got more homeless Australians today than ever before. More people struggling to pay the rent, let alone buy a house, than ever before. There’s lots that we need to do to fix that. But one of the most obvious things that I’m sure people talk about on your program all the time, is that we need to build more affordable housing and more social housing. We don’t build enough of it and the federal government has to play a bigger role in doing that. What Albo announced last night is, if we win the next federal election, we’ll establish a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund. In other words, $10 billion, managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, they invest that money, and the returns that it makes are invested in building more social housing and more affordable housing.  

DELANEY: So social housing is a responsibility of states and territories. Will they be involved in this program? 

CLARE: It’s the responsibility of both, let’s make it pretty clear that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to help build social housing as well. Some money is provided by the Commonwealth at the moment, but not enough. That’s why the proportion of social housing in our community at the moment is dropping steadily. Ever since John Howard got elected in 1996, it’s been going down from about 14 per cent to now around about 4 per cent of housing. If we’re going to turn it around, you need a fund like this to help do it. But you’re right, in setting up a fund like this, we want to work in partnership with state governments as well as community housing providers that bid for access to this fund. I’m hoping that we’ll see state governments, community housing providers, and maybe even super funds wanting to get in on the action. 

DELANEY: Okay. Now, it’s constantly been made very, very clear that investment in social housing is more than just an investment in providing homes for people who are disadvantaged, it’s also an investment in creating jobs. That’s a big part of your thinking, is it not? 

CLARE: Absolutely. When you spend one dollar on building a home, you create three dollars in the broader economy. So, you create thousands and thousands of jobs when you build housing, both on site and off site, over the construction period.  

When you’re building housing like this, you’re changing the lives of people forever. Older women in Australia, women aged 65 to 74, are the fastest growing group of homeless Australians at the moment, and a big part of this package is targeting them. As Albo said last night, and this will shock most people, 10,000 mums and kids last year, in the middle of the pandemic, who were forced to flee their homes because of domestic violence, were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed. The big part, the big reason for that is people who are lucky enough to get into refuges are stuck there for long periods of time because there’s no permanent housing for them to go to. So a big part of this fund is investing in, not just crisis accommodation for women and kids fleeing domestic violence, but transitional and long term accommodation as well. 

DELANEY: 14 years ago, a brand spanking new Opposition Leader called Kevin Rudd managed to win an election and a raft of promises, one of which was to put an end to homelessness. What happened? 

CLARE: He made big investments that have done a lot of good things, like the Common Ground facilities that you seen built in Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland. I know that there’s investments like that being done in the ACT right now, and they are good ideas because it’s not just a roof over the head of homeless Australians, but there’s the services; the medical and psychological supports that come with it. The bottom line is we lost an election in 2013 and with it went all the funds to meet the objectives of that plan. If you’re going to implement big reforms, you need long term governments, and I’d argue long term Labor governments, and when Abbott got in in 2013 they cut off the funding to do that. 

DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us today. 

CLARE: Good on you. Thank you. 

DELANEY: Thanks, Jason Clare. Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness.