Doorstop Interview – Launceston – Friday 4 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Family Home Guarantee; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: This place is billed on as “Renovate or Detonate”. It’s the perfect place if you want to knock down and rebuild in Launceston. But it’s also the perfect example of what’s wrong with the federal government’s new housing scheme.

This is the sort of place that Scott Morrison thinks that mums and kids in Launceston should buy. The Government announced in the Budget, a new scheme to help single parents buy a home. But in order to access the scheme, you’ve got to buy a place here in Launceston for less than 300 grand. Last time I looked, there were only three, three-bedroom homes here in Launceston under $300,000, and this is one of them.

There’s an easy way to fix this and that is to lift the price cap on the Government’s new scheme. If they did that, there’d be more homes that single parents here in Launceston could buy and take advantage of that new scheme. When I asked the government to do this in Parliament last week, they said no. Andrew Laming, the Member for Bowman in Queensland actually said if there’s nothing that you could buy in Launceston, just get in the car, and keep driving until you find a town with a house that’s cheap enough to buy. When we asked the Minister responsible for this scheme in Estimates this week to do something about it, she refused.

This isn’t that hard. If you raise the cap, there’s more homes that people can buy. There’s 5000 single parent families here in Launceston who could benefit from this scheme. If the government just used a bit of common sense and lifted the cap.

If they won’t, Labor will. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Given that, in regards to Andrew Lamming’s comments, given that Launceston isn’t a big town, it’s not a big city, it’s a regional centre with 70 to 80,000 people. If we’re telling people that those cities are too big for them and they need to move, what’s going to happen to towns like this?

CLARE: It’s just a stupid idea from somebody who doesn’t get Launceston. For a start, why should we be telling people that if they want to access the scheme, they should just keep driving until they find a place that’s cheaper? Why should they have to drive further away from where their job is? Why should they have to drive away from there family is? The cost of houses here in Launceston has gone up dramatically in the last twelve months. It’s gone up by about 18 per cent in regional Tasmania. To put that in perspective, that’s almost twice as much as property prices jumped in Sydney. If that’s happened, then you’ve got to lift the cap on these schemes so that there’s actually houses for people to buy otherwise the scheme won’t work here.

JOURNALIST: Given that the people accessing this scheme, if someone needs to guarantee to get to 20 per cent for a home worth under 300,000, it’s fair to say they’re not that financially well off or stable. By giving the cap a boost of up to 400 to 500,000, are we potentially opening people up to financial problems by getting into investing things that they can’t really afford?

CLARE: The cap is different in different parts of the country. In regional New South Wales, it’s about $450,000. In Hobart, that’s 400. In capital cities, it’s $700,000, in places like Sydney, for example, so the cap varies. You only get the money from the bank to buy a place under the scheme, if the bank is satisfied that you’re capable of repaying it. So that’s not the problem. The problem here is that the cap is too low in Launceston and we’ve got a housing crisis right across the country at the moment. It’s harder to buy a house than ever before. This is a small scheme. It’s not going to help a lot of people, but it will help some. And if it’s going to work, surely it’s got to work here in Launceston.

JOURNALIST: What do you think is the more appropriate?

CLARE: In Hobart, it’s 400. So I think you’d want to lift the cap to at least 400. Talking to real estate agents here in town, they tell me that if it was 400, there’ll be a lot of three bedroom homes that single mums and kids could move into straightaway. Part of the problem with this place, as I said, great to knock down and rebuild, but you wouldn’t want a mum and two kids moving in here today. There’s not even any walls in this place and that’s the flaw in this scheme. It’s designed to help mums and kids move into a new place that they own, that they could pay off over time. This doesn’t fit the bill. If you raise the cap on the scheme, there’d be more places here in town that single parents could buy.

JOURNALIST: We’re obviously going through a housing crisis, and as you mentioned, prices are increasing 18 per cent last year, by continually adding incentives at the bottom of the housing market, is there a chance we’re going to push the floor of that bottom rate and push prices up quicker and continually add to the crisis?

CLARE: I think the key to this is you’ve got to help add to the supply of housing by creating incentives for people to build homes. There are some schemes like that at the moment, but they’re limited. The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is an example of that. It helps people to avoid mortgage insurance if they build a new home, but it’s capped at 10,000 right across the country. I’ve said why don’t we scrap the cap on that scheme and everyone who wants to build a new home that’s under a certain price limit and under a certain income gap. That’ll help, but there’s other things you have got to do as well. There’s a role for government to play in building more social housing and building more affordable housing as well. Not all single parents here in Launceston are looking to buy a place. There are a lot who are just desperately trying to get a permanent roof over their head. Refuges are full. There’s not enough social housing here in Tasmania, that is part of the reason why we said the Budget-in-Reply we should be building more social housing, more affordable housing. That’s what we’ll do if we win the next election.

This was exposed by the Examiner. The local paper did the work and they found out that right here in Launceston, this is a massive problem. But there may be problems in other parts of the country as well. As people look at this scheme, and see whether they can buy a place under it, they’ll quickly find out whether this is a problem elsewhere or not. But the fact is, it’s a problem right here in Launceston. And this is no ordinary place. This is the marginal seat of Bass. This is one of those bellwether seats that determines who wins the election almost every time we have a federal ballot. This is a place where you would expect that the government would listen and would act. We’ve got the marginal seat of Bass where a housing scheme designed to help single mums doesn’t work. I gave the government a week to fix this. They’re still saying they won’t fix it. It shows that they don’t really care about the people who live you here.

JOURNALIST: Do know how the caps are set?

CLARE: The caps for this are based on the caps for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for the existing build part of that. That’s why it’s 300 here and 400 for Hobart. Those caps were set two years ago and as I said, Launceston’s house prices have gone through the roof since then. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to work out this scheme doesn’t working with these caps, so lift the cap, fix the scheme, and help some single mums with kids who really need help here in northeast Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible).

CLARE: The people of Tasmania are smart, they’ll pick the Party that they think is going to look after them. Now here’s a policy that doesn’t look after them. I’m here because I’m fighting to make sure that a scheme that’s been designed in Canberra works for people who live in Tasmania. If the government actually gave a stuff about the people who live here, they would have fixed this scheme last week. It strikes me as crazy that in a seat that is going to determine who the next Prime Minister is, the Prime Minister can’t, with a stroke of a pen, fix this in a day. I gave him a week, it should have taken five minutes to fix this scheme and this shows that this government is just getting a bit complacent when it comes to the votes of the people who live here in North East Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) Should we give the government a bit of credit for not trying to win (inaudible)?

CLARE: This is not about pork barrelling. It’s just about being fair. It’s about fair access to a national scheme. What do you think that people of Launceston would think if every other single parent family that wanted to access the scheme could access it on the mainland, but you can’t access it? There are 5000 single parent families here in Launceston. There’s only three places they can buy under this scheme at the moment. That’s not fair. If you can give me a better example of a government scheme that doesn’t work for Tasmania, I’d like to hear it because I can’t think of a better one.