House of Representatives on 25/11/2019
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS – Housing
Burns, Josh, MP
Mr BURNS (Macnamara) (10:16): I move:
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) access to adequate housing is a fundamental right under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which Australia has ratified;
(b) adequate housing requires safe, secure and affordable accommodation be accessible to all;
(c) 116,427 Australians were homeless on the last census night;
(d) homelessness affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders disproportionately;
(e) homelessness includes those in crisis accommodation, improvised dwellings, temporary accommodation, boarding houses and other insecure forms of housing;
(f) inadequate provision of public housing is a major cause of homelessness;
(g) public housing is a central tenant of an equitable Australia where a fair go requires access to secure accommodation;
(h) public housing is a determinative factor in education, employment, and health outcomes; and
(i) public housing is a means of social mobility and opportunity; and
(2) calls on the Government to help build more affordable homes and ensure every Australian has their own safe place to live.
This is a very important motion—one that I am pleased to speak on and one that I am pleased to bring to this House. We have a housing crisis in this country. We have a situation where more and more Australians can’t afford to live in their own home. We have a situation where the dream of more and more Australians of owning their own home is fading away. The ability to get through their lives and the financial stress of being able to pay the bills is becoming harder and harder for too many Australians. Yet the government does not have a plan to tackle housing affordability and the government does not have a plan to tackle homelessness in this country.
I want to start by acknowledging the newly established Labor for Housing group in Victoria. I want to especially recognise Julijana Todorovic and John Webber for their work in leading Labor for Housing. We moved a motion at the Victorian state Labor conference last weekend—one I was pleased to support and one where we are bringing grassroots policy ideas to this important debate.
Let’s have a look at some of the numbers. The numbers in this debate are crucial. They are crucial to showing whether or not the government has a plan. Right now, the government’s doing a little bit. There’s a little bit of piecemeal here, a little bit of policy over there, a little bit of financial raising over here, but it is not a plan to deal with the housing crisis in this country. According to a 2017 report that was presented to the government, Supporting the implementation of an affordable housing bond aggregator—a 2017 report by the Affordable Housing Working Group to the Heads of Treasuries—it is estimated that we need to create at least 6,000 new social housing homes in this country to stay afloat; to stay at the current levels. That is combined with the fact that CEDA, as well as a number of other community groups, has made a report that says the actual amount of affordable homes that we need to create in this country is closer to 20,000. How many has the government actually created right now? Well, I can tell you. The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation has helped build around 1,000 new homes since it was established, which is a great thing; in fact, we’re seeing complementary statements by Cbus and a number of other organisations. But that is not a housing plan. Doing a little bit is not a plan for housing. Doing a little bit over here, supporting a few homes and supporting some community housing development is a good thing, and the government should be congratulated for doing a good thing, but that doesn’t excuse the government from actually bringing a housing plan to this country. It doesn’t excuse them from actually bringing a plan to tackle homelessness in this country. What is government for—to do a little bit of policy over here or to actually tackle an issue? Is it to deal with the things that face Australians today? Having a small policy on the side doesn’t excuse this government from not actually dealing with the crux of this problem.
We on this side of the chamber are not perfect, and I am the first to admit that. We lost a very difficult election, but at least we had a national housing plan. At least we had a plan that dealt with the fact that we have a housing crisis in this country. The plan involved building 250,000 new affordable homes, $88 million for a safe housing fund, reinstating a minister for housing and homelessness, re-establishing the National Housing Supply Council and a number of other reforms. It was a plan. It was something that said, ‘We acknowledge the scale of the problem, and here is our policy to deal with it.’ Investing in a little bit of renewable energy isn’t a national energy plan. Creating a couple of homes on the side isn’t a housing and homelessness plan. Actually having the courage, the intellectual rigour, the commitment to the policy—that’s what this government needs to do instead of fobbing off their responsibilities.
I can’t speak on this issue without addressing one of the most fundamental parts of this debate: the staggeringly low rate of Newstart. So many people who are in the social and community housing sector, when they need to be able to live in an affordable home, simply cannot get into the market because of the low rate of Newstart. We have a housing and homelessness crisis in this country. Doing a little bit on the side is not a housing plan, and this government needs to get up and do something about it.
The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?
Ms Stanley: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.