Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Thursday 20 May 2021


SUBJECT: Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Labor has been out today spruiking the centerpiece of Anthony Albanese’s response to the Budget: to promise to establish a $10 billion future fund to build 30,000 low cost houses. I was joined earlier in the day by the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare from the Reverend Bill Crews Foundation in Sydney and I asked him what Labor’s policy would do for those on the street like those who frequent that facility in Ashfield in Sydney. 
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: This is about putting a roof over people’s heads. There are thousands of people sleeping rough. One of the great tragedies of the last few months, Kieran, is that last year in the middle of the pandemic, thousands of people that have been sleeping rough, were scooped up off the street, put into empty hotel and motel rooms,  but now many of those people are back on the street. We can do better as a society. We know that if you’re sleeping rough out in a park or on the street, you’re likely to die 20 or 30 years younger than the rest of us. We also know that it costs more to do nothing about this than to actually try to fix homelessness to reduce it. Think about the costs for the health system, the hospital system for the police, for everything to do with with law and order. If you invest in building more social housing, you can change people’s lives forever, but it also saves the taxpayer money in the long term. 
GILBERT: The Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar and Scott Morrison, they both criticise the economics of your plan. They say it doesn’t stack up, that you would need returns, unrealistic returns, in order to fund the 20,000 homes you want built within five years. What’s your response to their critique? 
CLARE: I don’t think they understand it. Maybe they should talk to Gladys Berejiklian because this is based on a fund that she set up, the Social and Affordable Housing Fund. That’s $1.1 billion invested that delivers a return building 3400 homes. This is the same thing, except 10 times as large. It’s a $10 billion fund that builds 30,000 homes. You sign contracts with community housing organisations to build this housing over five years and then the return from the fund helps to fund that over 25 years. It’s called service payments and that fills the gap between the rent that the community housing organisation gets, and the money it takes to repay the loan, as well as maintain the building. I just encourage the Prime Minister and the Minister to talk to Gladys Berejiklian. There’s homes here in Sydney being built with a fund like this right now. It shows that you can build homes for the homeless without it costing a packet. You can set up a fund that makes money and changes people’s lives. 
GILBERT: The unemployment rates fallen to 5.5% today from 5.6%. We know that there are labour shortages in the construction industry, tradies are basically in short supply given the building and housing renovation boom we’re seeing off the back of HomeBuilder. The Housing Industry Association has released their analysis which suggests that, at least for the next year or so, this sector is booming. How do you fit your policy within a framework like that where things are already stretched? 
CLARE: That report shows the tradies are busy and are going to be busy for the next 12 months, but what it also shows is when the effects of HomeBuilder wear off, we’re going to see a big drop in the amount of homes built next financial year and the year after that, until the borders are open and immigration comes back. This fund, building these sorts of homes, will help to fill that gap. That’s why you’ve got the HIA today as well as the Master Builders Association, the Real Estate Institute, REA Group, everybody in the sector, saying this is a good idea. It’ll build homes for people who desperately need it, but it’ll also create jobs over the next few years when the effects of HomeBuilder wear off. 
GILBERT: This is something close to the Opposition Leader’s heart, as he has told us in the Budget Reply and previously, he grew up in public housing so he credits that for giving his mother and himself an opportunity and for him to build his life and career from that. Obviously there’s a moral dividend in this policy, do you think there’s a political dividend as well? 
CLARE: You’re right. Albo’s story tells us all what putting a roof over someone’s head can do. He grew up in public housing. Not all of us are lucky to grow up with a mum and a dad who’ve got a job who own their own home. Public Housing, social housing, helps to give you that opportunity in life and you can see from Albo’s own story, that roof took him to become Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and potentially Australia’s next Prime Minister. I think Aussies do get it, the government obviously doesn’t. The Minister for Homelessness refuses to even meet with organisations responsible for representing the homelessness sector. He’s been the Minister for Homelessness for now 149 days, and he’s only said the word homelessness on two of those days, but most Aussies get it. When you think about this Kieran, the biggest group of homeless Aussies are mums and kids. That the stereotype of the old bloke with the brown paper bag covering a bottle of grog in the park isn’t true. The biggest group of homeless Aussies are mums and kids many fleeing domestic violence. Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed, because the inn was full. People running refuges tell me they’re busier than ever before and people are staying there longer than ever before because there isn’t the long term social housing for people to be moved to. That’s why a big part of this package – 4000 of the 20,000 social housing homes – are reserved for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. This government says that it’s serious about women’s safety. Well, there’s a summit coming up in July. If they’re serious about women’s safety, they’ll do what we’re talking about here. Invest in social housing to provide long term housing for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. 
GILBERT: Now, finally, there’s a lot of discussion about the vaccine, apparent vaccine hesitancy among some within the Australian community. You represent a very multicultural part of Sydney, one of the most multicultural electorates in the country, in fact. Is there enough awareness about the need to be inoculated? And how’s it being received in the communities that you represent? 
CLARE: The GPs in the local area are doing a great job. You’re right, I represent a very multicultural community, big Vietnamese population, big Chinese Australian population, big Arabic speaking population. As I talked to GPs, they’re getting the information out to people and encouraging people to get vaccinated. That’s a good thing, but they could do with some help from the government to be frank. They could do with an advertising campaign in English as well as in the language that’s spoken on the streets in my electorate to tell people this is safe and encourage them to get vaccinated. For an advertising man, it strikes me as strange that there’s been so little information out there for the Australian people about the need to get vaccinated. There’s more ads for Hamilton the Musical at the moment here in Sydney than there is about the vaccination program. The Prime Minister says this isn’t a race. He’s wrong. We’re only another outbreak away from having to shut down parts of the city here and the sooner people get vaccinated, the sooner life can get back to normal. I just encourage the government that spent a billion dollars over the last seven or eight years on advertising themselves, to think about investing some money with really needed and helping to encourage us to go out and get vaccinated as soon as possible.