Speech by Brian Mitchell MP - Housing Australia Future Fund

The member opposite got one thing right in that speech, and that is that the situation the country faces today is a failure of government—most particularly a failure of nine years of failed Liberal government. I rise proudly in support of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023, which will get more Australian families in safe and secure housing. This is a keystone policy of the Australian government that will provide a comprehensive suite of measures to get more social and affordable houses built. It is by far the biggest single investment in housing in more than a decade. This bill provides an ambitious housing and reform agenda to ensure more Australians have a safe and affordable place to call home. With the passage of this bill, the Albanese government is ensuring the next stage of our broader housing reform agenda.

This Labor government has already achieved great things in such a small time in government. We have reached a landmark National Housing Accord which provides a shared ambition, with the state and territory governments of all political colours, to build one million well-located homes over five years from 2024. We've provided $350 million in additional Commonwealth funding to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over five years from 2024, matched by the states with another 10,000 homes. We've widened the remit of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan to set short-, medium- and long-term goals to improve housing outcomes across Australia. We've implemented the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee, which has already helped more than 1,600 Australians into a home, including some in my own electorate. And we've provided the Help to Buy program, which will reduce the cost of buying a home and help people get into a home sooner. This government understands that safe, secure and affordable housing is core business for government. It is central to ensuring security and dignity for Australians.

We have made a very good start as a government in tackling the housing crisis that affects so many Australians, but there is so much work to do. Currently across Australia, too many people are struggling to achieve secure and affordable housing. With growing rents and an investor-centric housing market, homelessness is something too many Australians are facing or experiencing. We all know there is a severe housing crisis affecting our country, but knowing it is not enough. You've got to do something about it, and that's what we are doing on this side of the House.

We have heard of the pressures in Sydney, where ramshackle buildings are selling for prices in the millions and our young people are unable to compete in an investor-rich market. Closer to home, in Hobart and the outer suburbs of Hobart, a deep rental crisis is causing more homelessness than has ever been experienced before in Tasmania, which was once known for its affordability. It is not unusual for Tasmanian applicants to line the street at house inspections in a vain attempt to break into the market and find somewhere to live. More broadly, even in our regions we are experiencing housing stress. Rents in rural towns of my own electorate, such as Fingal, are going through the roof, and many are struggling with the cost-of-living pressures that are imposed alongside these rents. In seaside towns such as Bicheno, the prevalence of short-stay accommodation, which the state Liberal government has shamefully failed to appropriately regulate, means locals cannot find housing and businesses are struggling to recruit workers because people coming into the town are unable to find somewhere to live. So, if those opposite aren't convinced by the social equity arguments, they should be convinced by the economic arguments. Homelessness is affecting business. Business is crying out for action, and we are providing it.

Housing is one of the issues that constituents seek my assistance with the most. It is testament to the grave failures of nine years of failed Liberal state government, because the Liberals talk a big game but they simply do not do the hard work. The Tasmanian housing minister, Mr Guy Barnett, bragged last year that the Liberals would build 1,169 homes in 2022-23. They've delivered 142. In the middle of a housing crisis, the state Liberal government spent $7 million less on housing in 2021-22 than in the previous year. That illustrates the state Liberals' commitment to housing, and it reflects the lack of commitment shown by those opposite when they occupied the government benches.

The personal stories can be tough to hear. David, from Bridgewater, has been trying to find secure, suitable and affordable housing so he can resume visitation with his children. Bree, from Herdsmans Cove, is a full-time carer for her mother. Their private rental is not only unsuitable for disability needs but increasingly unaffordable, with higher rent. Bree has been on the social-housing waiting list for a disability modified property for four years. There's a constituent in the north of my electorate, who I won't name, who is currently living with her former partner in circumstances that can only be described as volatile and who has been on the housing waiting list since October 2021. This is a person who feels she has no option but to remain in a potentially dangerous living situation or simply risk homelessness and be on the streets. That's what she has to weigh up. She has no other option available to her. What a terrible choice for any person to have to make. This situation should not be happening in Australia in 2023, and this Labor government is determined to repair the damage of nine years of failed Liberal government neglect.

It takes a broad, intergovernmental approach to deal with this housing crisis that is affecting so many thousands of Australians. With this bill, the Australian government is taking bold steps to uphold its end of the bargain and take serious action on social and affordable housing across the country. This bill is an ambitious but achievable housing legislation package that provides a comprehensive suite of measures to build more social and affordable homes in Australia. It enables one of the most significant investments from the Australian government in a generation, and it is a raft of legislation that we should be proud to vote in support of, and we are. It will vastly improve Australia's housing stock and the lives of everyday Australians.

This legislation implements the Australian government's commitments to establish the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, provide a stream of funding to ensure there is a pipeline of new social and affordable housing for Australians in need, transform the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation into Housing Australia as the national home for key housing programs and expand its activities, and establish the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to provide independent advice to government on ways to increase housing supply and affordability. But this bill goes further than being just about a bricks-and-mortar fund. It tackles real issues that are being faced by everyday Australians. It supports the quiet Australians who need us most, including First Nations Australians, those affected by and seeking to escape family and domestic violence, and our veterans.

Under this bill, $200 million will be provided over five years for the improvement of housing in Indigenous communities. This is a crucial act as we continue to seek to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and to improve health and social outcomes in remote Indigenous communities. We are earmarking $100 million for housing options for women and children impacted by family and domestic violence and for older women at risk of homelessness. Too many women in this country feel that they cannot escape family and domestic violence because of the uncertainty they have in finding safe, secure and affordable housing. I gave a personal anecdote on this earlier. Women should not have to decide whether to remain in a domestic violence situation with their kids or risk homelessness in escaping it. This government is working hard under the fantastic leadership of the Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness, the member for Franklin, to ensure that this is not the case. We are working hard to ensure there is safe and secure housing for women who need to escape family and domestic violence.

We know that the population group most effected by homelessness in modern Australia is older women. Far too often they are left with nothing, following a divorce or breakdown of a relationship. They are all too often pushed into homelessness as a result, often completely blindsided by the circumstances. This must change, and under the Housing Australia Future Fund it will change.

This fund will also take care of our veterans. Under this fund, $30 million will be provided by the Australian government to build housing and to fund specialist services for veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. I note the opposition person at the dispatch box, the member for Herbert, is a veteran himself, and I thank him for his service. He would know all too well, through his work with the veterans community, the pressures veterans find themselves under. I know you are part of the coalition, Member for Herbert; do what you can to get your people over the line on this. This is supporting veterans. People who served our country and fought to protect it should not be left behind. The government take veterans affairs seriously, and we are taking steps to address and prevent veterans homelessness.

As I've said before, this bill is about more than just bricks and mortar. It's about building safe and secure affordable housing for those who need it most, with services and assistance that will actively prevent homelessness and the risk of homelessness. I will be proudly voting in support of this legislation. I call on those in the coalition opposition, the Greens and the broader crossbench to vote in support of this legislation. Failure to do so would be a massive step backwards for housing security in this country. Stop the politicking. Stop the attempts to delay its implementation. We've waited nine years; we can't waste another day.

I refuse to be the person who votes against housing security in remote Indigenous communities and outback Australia. I refuse to be the person who votes against a mother escaping family violence achieving safe and secure housing. I refuse to vote against an older woman at risk of homelessness finding secure housing to restart her life in safety. I refuse to vote against a veteran who has served this country with pride finding safe and secure housing and a home and the support services that they need. I refuse to vote against this bill which provides so much opportunity and hope for the future of housing affordability and security in this country. I will be supporting this bill and I hope everyone in this place will too.

From the outset, this government pledged that we would not waste a day in delivering an agenda which would get more people into safe and secure affordable homes. With this bill we are staying true to our promise. For perhaps the first time in Australian history, we have a prime minister and a minister for housing and minister for homelessness who have personal, lived experience of social housing. The Prime Minister and the member for Franklin spent their early foundational years in affordable housing. My own parents lived in a council flat during my infancy. We understand the importance of affordable housing because we have lived experience of it.

I say to those opposite and to those on the crossbench: do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Right now, across this country, thousands of people need the support this legislation will provide. With the passage of this bill, the mother seeking to escape family violence, with her children, will be able to do so, and she won't be left to fend for herself on the streets. With the passage of this bill, the veteran who served this country with pride will be given the dignity and respect they deserve, with access to safe and affordable housing. With the passage of this bill, young people will for the first time in such a long time have access to the property market that they simply have never had before and perhaps thought was forever out of reach. They will be able to achieve the increasingly elusive Australian dream of homeownership. I commend this bill to the House and I call upon all members' support for its passage.