Television Interview with Greg Jennett – ABC Afternoon Briefing – Monday 28 March 2022

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; Budget 2022; Will Smith.
GREG JENNETT, HOST: In promises to ease the pressure of rising prices enter the political domain. The solutions usually don’t come cheap. And that’s especially true in the housing market that posted record increases in the last two years, but the Coalition and the ALP are pretty much inseparable right now with their respective promises to help first home buyers enter the market. Labor’s campaign spokesman and Shadow Housing Minister, Jason Clare, joined me to discuss that and other matters a short time ago.
Jason Clare, welcome back to Afternoon Briefing. This time in person. We have almost matching offers now from the Coalition and Labor on giving new home buyers a leg up. Does this completely cancel out the offering, the equation here, for this election? 
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: There’s no easy fix to fixing housing affordability, it’s just got worse under this government. It’s fair to say that it’s harder to buy a house today than ever before. That’s particularly the case, Greg, in regional Australia. We’ve seen prices jump by 25 per cent right across the country but even more than that in the regions. That’s why we announced a plan last week to help Aussies who live in regional Australia to buy their first home in regional Australia. These sorts of schemes are helpful, because if you’re a young person saving a deposit, you’ve struggled to save five or 10 per cent, then by going guarantor over the next 10 or 15 per cent, it avoids you paying mortgage insurance, which is something you get slugged with when you sign a mortgage, of $30,000 sometimes or $20,000. 
JENNETT: But can we be sure after about two, I think it was two and a half years of operation, that these are themselves inflationary, that the market hasn’t seen this coming and factors that in? 
CLARE: That’s not the evidence. There was a review of these schemes done last year and it showed that that is not what’s happening. There’s about 600,000 homes that are bought or sold every year. Keep that in context, the scheme we announced last week would help 10,000 people in regional Australia. So, it’s very targeted. If anything, it also helps to level the playing field. So, if you’re a first home buyer, and you’re seeking to buy that home that you want to be the dream home that you raise a family and you don’t have to pay mortgage insurance, it puts you on the same playing field as somebody else who’s not paying that either. 
JENNETT: You’re on the same page as the government. Sure, you’re targeting 10,000 to regional, but the 50,000 that they’re up for today?
CLARE: We support that as well. We’ve supported this scheme since its inception. My main criticism of it is it’s not big enough. As prices have gone up, people right across the country need more help to buy home. This is a practical way to help people. But it’s not the only thing, Greg, that we need to do. There’s a bunch of other things. 
JENNETT: Because there’s people who will, let’s face it, never be up for the sort of full-scale pricing the free-standing home on a generous block of land. So, what do they get out of this election campaign? 
CLARE: We’ve seen rents go through the roof as well. We’ve seen homelessness at higher levels today than ever before. So, any government that looks seriously at the housing crisis needs to come up with ideas to make it easier to buy a house, but also ideas that are going to make it easy for people to rent and put a roof over homeless Australians. Last year 10,000 women and kids were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed. Our refuges today are fuller than they’ve ever been, and people are staying in refuges for weeks, if not months, rather than days. The reason for that is because there isn’t enough permanent housing for women fleeing domestic violence to go into. So, we’ve said, in addition to helping people buy home, we’ll also set up a Housing Australia Future Fund that will build 30,000 homes, affordable homes and social housing homes, over the first five years, including 4000 of them permanent homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence.
JENNETT: Alright, well, that’s one in the event of a Labor Government. Why don’t we talk about what’s coming down the pipe in this year’s Budget, the cash splash, as many are calling it? It could be about $250. That’s going to make an important difference, isn’t it, for those people who are really struggling on the line at the moment? 
CLARE: We won’t stand in the way of any responsible effort to try to help people pay the bills. Things are getting harder and harder. It’s not just since Russia invaded Ukraine. This has been coming at us for a long time. We’ve seen petrol go up. The average family with the average car, petrol is now about 1000 bucks more this year than last year. Childcare is about $800 more this year than last year. And rent, I touched on that a moment ago, but there’s two million Australians who rent, Greg, it’s the biggest bill they pay every week. On average, they’re paying $2,000 more this year than last year. So, any effort to help them is welcome, but I got to say this Government’s been in power now for almost 10 years, and 10 minutes before people start to vote, they’re starting to talk about cost-of-living pressures.
JENNETT: So, you’re sceptical about it but in all likelihood, based on the remarks you just made, you’re going to support it?
CLARE: I reckon all Australians are pretty cynical about it, aren’t they? We’ve got 30, 40 days before people start to vote and suddenly, Scott Morrison wakes up and realises people are struggling to pay the bills. I reckon people watching the Budget tomorrow night will say, ‘he’s not worried about me. He’s worried about himself and whether he’s going to get kicked out at the election’. 
JENNET: So why back it then if that’s the overall interpretation? 
CLARE: What we need are measures to help people with the cost of living in the short term, and in the longer term. That’s why our policies aren’t just about helping people now, they’re setting us up for the next decade, for the next generation. We’ve got long term plans to help people with the cost of living, whether it’s cutting the cost of childcare, or whether it’s cutting the cost of electricity. And I think when people see the Budget tomorrow night, this short-term effort to give people money before they vote, people will look at that quite cynically.
JENNETT: In order to get any of that, all of these Budget measures have to be passed in double quick time in the Parliament this week, is that going to happen if the government throws at you a big omnibus bill, one with a lot. Is Labor up for passing any and all of it in one hit just because the clock is running? 
CLARE: We’ve got a history since 1975 of not standing in the way of appropriations, Greg, and this parliament (interrupted)
JENNETT: And the measures beyond appropriations?
CLARE: I think we’ve shown over the course of the pandemic, that this Parliament can act quickly, and that this Opposition certainly acts responsibly to make sure that the supports are given to the people who need it. But for most Australians out there, I think after a decade of lies and scandals and incompetence, Scott Morrison is going to need more than this Budget to convince people to vote for him. He’s going to need one of those neuralizers from Men in Black to try and wipe people’s memories. 
JENNETT: Speaking of which, there is some controversy around a particular actor there. 
CLARE: But we won’t go there.
JENNETT: We won’t go into that. Jason Clare, let’s leave it there. Talk to you soon.