Radio Interview with Kylie Baxter – ABC Tasmania – Thursday 13 January 2022


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis in Tasmania; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund.

KYLIE BAXTER, HOST: We’re moving on to housing affordability. Are you struggling like many, many people to find a home to rent or buy in Tasmania? It just seems to be getting worse. It’s obviously a federal election year. So, what are the major parties going to do to address housing affordability in the state, if anything? Jason Clare is the federal Shadow Housing and Homelessness Minister. He’s visiting Tasmania at the moment and he joins us now. Welcome to the program, Jason.


BAXTER: Yeah, really well, thanks. So, what have you learned during your visit here?

CLARE: I’ve just been sitting down with people here in Burnie in North-West Tasmania who are helping Aussies who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, because the cost of buying a home and the cost of rent is through the roof. This is a big issue right across the country, but it’s pretty obvious it is more severe and more acute here in Tasmania than many other parts of Australia. 

In Burnie, for example, the cost to buy a house has gone up by 30 per cent just in the last 12 months and the cost of rent has jumped by about double the national average: the average place costs about two and a half grand more to rent here in Burnie this year than it did just twelve months ago. The impact of that is that, if you’re on 30, 40, 50 grand a year and you’ve got to shell out an extra two and a half grand a year for rent, that means money that you can’t spend on petrol, on food or school shoes for the kids. And there’s lots of people suffering.

BAXTER: Will Labor commit then to getting rid of negative gearing and other incentives like capital gains exemptions as a way of potentially improving the rental market?

CLARE: We’re not taking the same policy we took to the last election. We lost that election, we lost the one before that, too. You’ve got to learn from the mistakes that you made at those elections. What we’re doing is taking a different policy. There’s no easy fix to this problem of housing affordability but one thing that’s pretty obvious is we need to build more housing, we need to build more affordable housing and more social housing. You can’t just leave it to the state governments to do that. That’s why we’ve said, if we win the election, we’ll set up a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that’ll build 30,000 social and affordable housing homes over the course of the next five years. 

BAXTER: Economists are telling us that you can’t build your way out of this. What would you say to that?

CLARE: There is not one simple thing that you can do here. Anyone who tells you that is lying to you, but one thing that you have got to do is build more homes. The people I was talking to this morning made the point that population growth in Tasmania, particularly here in the North-West, has been flat for a very long time, then Covid came along and we’ve seen more and more people move from the north island to the south island , if you describe the mainland as the north island, and they’re expecting population to continue to grow. That means that we’re going to need to build more housing. If you expect that the state government can do it on it’s own, then you’re kidding yourself. The federal government says that it’s not their job to help here. I just think that’s wrong and naive.

BAXTER: What do you think about the idea of interstate investors being charged more, as in taxed?

CLARE: It’s not something that we’re looking at here. That’s a matter for the state government to think about. I do think that there is a role for the federal government to play though in making sure that there’s more coordinated action nationwide. It might surprise people listening today that the housing ministers at a state and federal level don’t meet to talk to each other.

BAXTER: And why is that? That probably does surprise many people. So, why don’t you convene a round table? Everybody else can Zoom away and do all the different meeting techniques. Why can’t you guys?

CLARE: We should and if we win the next election we will. We’ve got a National Cabinet that’s been set up to deal with national crises. The preeminent one is the Covid crisis at the moment, but this should be on the agenda too. We seriously have a national housing crisis. It’s harder to buy a house today than ever before, harder to rent than ever before, and there are more people who are homeless today than ever before. 

If you put a roof over someone’s head, it can change their life. ln Launceston last year I heard the story of a young bloke sleeping on the streets of Launceston. Anglicare picked him up, put a roof over his head, provided him with help, got him back into education. He’s at Duntroon now. He’s going to become an officer in the army. It just shows you that if governments are prepared to invest in the services that can make a difference, if they’re prepared to help build housing for people who need it, then you can change people’s lives. And this is not going to happen without getting federal government, state government and local governments as well as community organisations together.

BAXTER: And if you had the magic wand, which you know, I guess you don’t, but if you get into power, what other measures could be taken that you would be proactive in pushing to fix this problem? Obviously, we can build more houses and you can advocate for that. But what else can we do? Can we take over other buildings? Can we look at solutions?

CLARE: Let’s be frank and honest, there is no magic wand. There is no click your fingers or tap your heels and everything changes in an instant. Anybody that tells you that is lying to you. I’m not going to do what Scott Morrison does and just not tell you the truth. This is hard, and it takes time to build houses. But one thing that we can and that we should do is develop a national plan. A national plan that makes it easier for people to buy, a national plan that makes it easier for people to rent and a national plan that puts a roof over the head of more homeless Aussies.

BAXTER: Just one final question we might squeeze in is obviously if we do build more houses to address the problem, do we actually have the construction workforce to build these homes? Because I know in Tasmania, it’s extremely difficult to get any form of tradesmen: builder, carpenter, anybody.

CLARE: That’s a problem as well and this is a problem not just in Tasmania but nationwide. It’s why we’ve committed to providing free TAFE courses in areas of skill shortages. Over the course of the last few years, people haven’t been coming to Australia to work in jobs where we don’t have the workforce to do those jobs and we should have been training people up in those areas over the course of the last two years. We haven’t done it. I think it’s another example of neglect and incompetence by this federal government. I was talking to Chris Lynch, our candidate here in Braddon, about it today. He made the point that we need to train up locals to do these jobs. One way to do it is to provide free TAFE courses in areas where we’ve got severe skill shortages to train up the workforce to build these homes.

BAXTER: Jason Clare, if you get in at the next election, we’re expecting big things from you. Thanks for coming on the mornings program.

CLARE: Thanks, Kylie.