Interview with Mike O’Loughlin – Tasmania Talks – Friday 4 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Family Home Guarantee; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; Local Government awards; Milkshake consent video.

MIKE O’LOUGHLIN, HOST: Last month, the Morrison Government announced in this year’s Budget the Family Home Guaranteed. This aims to help single parents buy or build a home of their own with a deposit of just two per cent. We have spoken about this before. The Family Home Guarantee has a cap of $300,000 for homes in North East Tasmania, which includes Launceston. However, as of last week, there were just two homes for sale for under $300,000 in the Launceston region suitable for a single parent with two children. Jason Clare is the federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. He’s in town today. We’ve got him on the line now. Jason, good morning. Thanks for your time.

JASON CLARE: G’day Mike, good to be here.

O’LOUGHLIN: First of all, tell us a bit about this Family Home Guarantee. It does seem like a good idea in theory.

CLARE: It’s just a small scheme. It’s intended to only help about two and a half thousand single parents right across the country every year and there’s about a million single parents in Australia. So it’s small. But it’s designed to make it a bit easier for single parents to buy a home. We support it, we voted for it in the Parliament last week, but the problem is that in Launceston it doesn’t work because if you’re a single parent, to get access to the scheme, you’ve got to buy a place under 300 grand.

O’LOUGHLIN: Correct.

CLARE: And there ain’t many of them.

O’LOUGHLIN: There’s only two. I mean, $300,000 isn’t enough if you want to live in Launy, and they probably haven’t got the ability nor want to move to another housing region that’s cheaper.

CLARE: If you move, you’re further away from family and you’re further away from a job so that’s not practical. When I raised this problem in Parliament last week, after the Examiner had it on the front page, we had the Government come back to us in the Parliament and say, “Look, just get in the car and drive further away”. The idea that the solution to all of this is just to tell single parents to get in the car and keep driving til you find a place under 300,000 is ludicrous. There’s a simple solution to this, just raise the cap. The cap for Hobart is 400 grand. If the cap was higher, then more single parents would be able to access the scheme. It’s as simple as that.

O’LOUGHLIN: Why can’t they lift the cap up here, four hundred from three, if they do it in Hobart?

CLARE: They could. They could do it with a stroke of a pen. They could do it today. I’m sure that when they put this together, they didn’t realise it. But if they had to think about it, they would have seen the house prices right across regional Tassie have gone up by 18 per cent in the last year

O’LOUGHLIN: A significant jump.

CLARE: Massive, and these caps were set two years ago for another scheme so they’re out of date and they don’t work for this scheme. It would’ve been pretty simple just go on to and have a look at what the price of a three bedroom house is. If you’re a single parent with a couple of kids, you can’t move into a one bedroom place or a studio, you need some bedrooms for the kids. The scheme’s not going to work here in Launceston and this is no replace. This is one of the most marginal seats in the country, you’d think that the Government would be desperate to try and hold on to it at the next election, but they’ve put together a policy here that doesn’t work. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this wasn’t fixed. I gave the government a week in Parliament to fix it, and when we asked them whether they would fix it in an Estimates hearing on Wednesday night, they said “no, we don’t make it a policy based on what the local newspaper says”.

O’LOUGHLIN: That’s ludicrous. I mean, I can understand them saying base on what the local newspaper says, sure. But I mean, they’re trying to push people to move to a rural area when they will really miss their family, their friends are in a city area. You can get properties under 300,000 in Tassie, we know that. But you will have to move, You’re not going to get that, as I said, there’s only a couple available that I’ve seen when I was googling in Launy at the moment.

CLARE: That’s right. Certainly not a three bedroom place, mum with two kids, then you’re going to really struggle. I was on yesterday having a look I found three places and one of them has an ad that says “renovate or detonate”. It’s a house ready for demolition that doesn’t even have any walls, not the sort of place that a mum and two kids can move into and that’s the flaw in the scheme. The caps too low but you can fix it. I’m trying to be practical here, saying to the government that cap, raise it up a bit and it’ll work here in Northern Tasmania.

O’LOUGHLIN: What response have you had then from the government knowing that the cap is not enough for this region?

CLARE: We’ve only had two responses; one from Andrew Lamming, that notorious MP from Queensland who in the debate just said get in the car, keep driving, and the other one from the Minister responsible for this who in Estimates, said look, we’re not going to take advice from the local newspaper. We said, please, can you just consider? We didn’t even ask them to raise the cap in the hearing. We just said, “Can you consider?” and they said no. I think everybody listening today would just be shaking their heads thinking why hasn’t the government responded?

O’LOUGHLIN: When you’ve got 400 just down the road, realistically, it should be 400 here. What’s the, you know, because it’s still staggering 18 per cent last year. The lift has been incredible. So realistically, you’ve pushed for this, are you seeing any positive reaction from the government at all to lift it?

CLARE: Zero so far. Bridget Archer is the local MP, she made six speeches in the Parliament in the last two weeks and didn’t even mention this. We don’t have the local member listening, we don’t have the Minister listening, that’s why I’m down here trying to raise this issue as much as I can to get the government to change their mind. Otherwise, single parents in Launceston are going to miss out while single parents in other parts of the country will be able to take advantage of this scheme.

O’LOUGHLIN: This is just one aspect of the housing crisis here in Tasmania, you’ve probably noticed that, Jason, but purchasing a property is out of the reach for many means, but so is finding a suitable rental property as well.

CLARE: That’s right. When rents here in Launceston have gone up by about 40 per cent in the last few years. If you were paying 300 bucks a week, it’s now more like 420 or 430. While we’ve been talking today about single parents looking to buy a home, there’s a lot of single mums and kids out there who are just desperate to get a roof over their head in any way, shape, or form. When Albo was on the program a while back, he made the point that we had 10,000 mums and kids who were fleeing domestic violence last year who got turned away from refugees because they were full. There wasn’t a bed. Which is why we said that not only do you need to make it easier for people to buy a house, you’ve also got to build more affordable housing and build more permanent social housing to help those mums and kids who are locked out of refuges at the moment because there’s no space.

O’LOUGHLIN: What about those that have slightly heard of the Family Home Guarantee, but they might consider themselves eligible? If you could run through the eligibility and what they’ll need. I know we’ve said two per cent but run through that. So if someone thinks ‘hang on, I might be able to come to the party here’.

CLARE: If you’re a single parent with dependent kids and you’re under a certain income level, then you qualify, but you’ve got to buy a place that’s worth less than 300,000. That’s why I’m saying, fix that and a lot more people will be able to qualify. It doesn’t have to be the first house you’ve ever purchased. But it has to be the only one you’ll own. It’s a practical scheme which we support but we said it’s pretty small, it’s not going to help the million single parents across the country. But if it’s going to be set up and operating, let’s make sure that it works here in Launceston where you’ve got 5000 single parent families, and only two or three properties at the moment that you can potentially buy.

O’LOUGHLIN: It’s a ludicrous situation to be in and you’re spot on, the cap needs to be lifted. But there are people out there saying ‘it might be my only hope. I’ve got to have a crack at this. So I can raise two per cent or you know, that sort of thing. It has to be, as you said, the existing house, townhouse or apartment. I’m just googling this, the house and land package. This is what the eligible residential properties generally include; land and separate contract to build a home and also an off the plan apartment or townhouse.

CLARE: Yeah, that’s right.

O’LOUGHLIN: They’re the eligible properties, and a single parent must have a taxable income that does not exceed $125,000 per annum. That’s a bit foolish. That’s an awful lot, isn’t it?

CLARE: It’s got to be less than that, not not more than that.

O’LOUGHLIN: I’ve got the cap right there.

CLARE: It should be a scheme to help people on low and modest incomes. I think that’s fair enough, but there’s a hell of a lot more that we can do here if we’re serious about helping single parent families. And one of the most obvious ones is just to lift that cap a bit so that all of those three bedroom homes that are out there between three hundred and four hundred thousand dollars in Launceston are eligible for people to buy under the scheme.

O’LOUGHLIN: We’ve got an opportunity next week to have a chat to Bridget Archer, I’ll actually use a portion of this that I’m having with you to play back to her, if you don’t mind, and will point that out again. But something urgently needs to happen and there needs to be a solution, and we’re suggesting it needs to have the cap lifted. But if you’re not getting anywhere with it, who else will?

CLARE: We’ll keep banging on. We’re not going to give up on this. There’s very good, practical reasons why this should happen. We’ve been able to show that there’s nothing to buy basically, with the cap of scheme, but there’s pretty good political reasons for the government to jump on this as well. An election in a couple of months, do they really want to turn their back on the people of North East Tasmania here? What they’re saying at the moment is, here’s a great scheme, but we don’t think Launceston is important enough or that the single parent families who live in Launceston are important enough to take advantage of it. If they do think they’re important enough, then lift the cap today.

O’LOUGHLIN: That that portion, we need to have the cap lifted, but as Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Local Government and Territories, the annual local government professional awards were announced yesterday. What can you tell us about that?

CLARE: We don’t acknowledge the men and women who work in local government enough. I guess we often think of them as people who just sit behind desks. That’s not always the case. I know from the bushfires that ravaged a whole lot of the country at the start of last year, it was people who work in local government who were often the ones who have their hands on the wheel organising things, rescuing people, evacuating places. The conversations I’ve had with people who work in local government, over the last 12 months, have been pretty extraordinary. People breaking down and crying in front of me, still dealing with the stress of what they endured during that fire. That’s just one example. The work that people do in local government is really important in making our place tick.

Any politician will tell you that when you stand at a street corner and invite people to talk to you, they don’t want to know about what’s going on in Canberra or what’s going on in Hobart. They want to know what’s going on around the corner and its local government that is the big deal that makes makes people’s lives better. These awards are important. I’m glad to see recognition for people who work in local government up and down Tasmania and they now go off to the the national competition in August.

O’LOUGHLIN: I’ll read a few out. Environmental Leadership and Sustainability award went to the Waratah Council. The project was Integrated Council Environmental Plan. Innovative Management Initiative award, Devonport City Council for the digital transformation. Excellence in Community and Service Awards, City of Hobart. Partnerships and collaboration award, Northern Midlands Council, shared legal services was the project. Emerging Leader Award, Maddy Brough, marketing and promotions officer from the City of Launceston. Raman West scholarship, Jackie Parker, Governance Coordinator from Meander Valley Council. Claire Campbell, Tourism Officer at City of Launy. Australasian Management Challenge Regional Winner, team was Launy go from the City of Launceston. Off to the Nationals. I congratulate them as well.

CLARE: Congratulations to all of them.

O’LOUGHLIN: Moving on to a couple of other issues making headlines at the moment. Australia’s committed an extra 50 million to the global effort to get lower income countries vaccinated against COVID-19, bringing our nation’s total to 130 million. Your thoughts there when we’re having a little bit of strife getting, Tasmania I think is leading the way in getting vaxxed, but I think the mainland is not doing terribly well.

CLARE: No, no, the rollout is as slow as a wet week, to be honest, and the Government’s got to take some responsibility for that. We were told that you’d have four million people vaccinated across the country by the end of March. It’s June and I think we’ve just got there. We’ve got to do everything we can, whether it’s in radio interviews like this, or whether it’s the efforts of the government in Canberra, to get more people vaccinated as quickly as possible. It’s on the front page of The Examiner today calling on everybody to get vaccinated, and the message is (interrupted)

O’LOUGHLIN: Good on them.

CLARE: They’re doing more than the government. I saw Channel Nine did an ad the other day as well. You’ve got to get the message out. We’re all not safe until everyone’s vaccinated and that’s true for Australia and it’s also true for the world. A bit of extra money to help vaccinate people in poor countries is important because until we get the vaccination rolled out right around the planet, we’re going to live with this horrible virus for years and years to come.

O’LOUGHLIN: Absolutely. Now, finally I just a question I thought I’d throw out you being in Tassie. The Government’s admitted they missed the mark. We spoke about this on Tasmania Talks a while back but do remember the milkshake and taco consent videos a few months back? They finally canned them. The experts will now be consulted in the future with things like this. We put it up Facebook and it was it was ridiculous, those ads were. Forking out some millions of dollars, you’d want to get it right.

CLARE: Yeah, it was at 3.8 million bucks they blew on that. When I saw that ad, I thought ‘Jeez, I’m getting old because I don’t get it’.

O’LOUGHLIN: You’re not a Lone Ranger.

CLARE: I know. 3.8 million bucks, that’s all gone against the wall. Obviously it’s important to make sure that we’re teaching kids about respect and consent, but that ad was just ridiculous. I think everybody realised that pretty quickly. The government is pretty good at wasting money, but this one takes the cake or should I say takes the shake?

O’LOUGHLIN: Well said. On that note, please keep pushing for the cap to be lifted. It’s ridiculously low. We’ve made most people aware of that. Jason Clare, the Federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Thanks for having a chat this morning.

CLARE: Good on you, Mike. Thanks for having me on.

O’LOUGHLIN: Good to talk to you.