It’s not often I get to talk about all my portfolio responsibilities at the one conference.
But as Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business, today I’m wearing all my hats.
Given your housing interests and small business backgrounds, I’m pleased to talk about the measures announced in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
It was a responsible budget. It struck the right balance in responding to the pressures of the here and now while creating opportunities down the track.
Importantly, the budget built on actions we’ve already taken to reform housing policy and get a better deal for small businesses.
Let me start with the housing side of things.
The reality is we don't have enough homes in Australia.
We need to build more of the right homes in the right places.
And we need to build them sooner rather than later.
The real estate industry understands the complexity of Australia’s housing challenges better than most.
Frankly, no single policy measure can solve our affordability, rental, social housing and homelessness challenges.
All tiers of government, not-for-profits, the private sector and industry have a role in improving housing outcomes.
For its part, the Albanese Government’s agenda represents the most comprehensive national housing policy in decades.
We’ve spent the first year in government developing a suite of measures.
And the Budget builds on that in a targeted way.
Social and affordable housing
We’ve announced there will be an additional $2 billion in financing available to support more social and affordable rental housing.
We’re increasing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s liability cap from $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion from 1 July 2023.
This will enable NHFIC to support more social and affordable rental homes by providing lower cost and longer-term finance to community housing providers.
Home Guarantee Scheme eligibility
I was also pleased to announce plans to expand eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme.
The First Home Guarantee and the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee are currently available to singles and married or de facto couples.
Applicants must also be first home buyers.
That changes from 1 July 2023.
The guarantees will be open to any two eligible borrowers who haven’t owned a property in Australia in the past ten years.
It means more people – siblings, parents and their adult children, or friends – will have the opportunity to own a home sooner.
We’ve also made a small but important change to the Family Home Guarantee.
Currently applicants have to be single natural or adoptive parents with dependents to apply for the guarantee.
We’ve extended eligibility to include single legal guardians of children as well, such as an aunt, uncle or a grandparent, bringing the dream of homeownership closer for more Australians.
Our final change extends eligibility of all three guarantees to Australian Permanent Residents, in addition to Australian citizens.
These changes build on last year’s increase in the number of places available under the Scheme, including the establishment of the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.
Support for renters
The Government recognises the significant pressures many renters face.
We will increase the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent.
This measure will help relieve cost-of-living pressures, especially for those experiencing rental stress.
Around 1.1 million households receiving the maximum CRA rate will be better off.
National Cabinet recently agreed to a range of reforms to support a national approach to the growth of our cities, towns and suburbs.
As part of the agreement, planning ministers, working with the Australian Local Government Association, will report back to National Cabinet in six months with a proposed reforms to increase housing supply and affordability.
To review and streamline planning approvals to ensure we have more housing.
Housing ministers have also been asked to report back on reforms to strengthen renters’ rights across the country.
The Budget also confirmed a $67.5 million funding boost to assist the sector in tackling homelessness challenges.
Too many Australians experienced homelessness on Census night – and frankly, every other night.
It’s something we need to address as a nation.
We delivered a funding boost while we develop a National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
The Plan will set out a 10-year strategy to inform housing and homelessness policy in Australia.
I look forward to working with the states and territories, industry bodies and not-for-profits to deliver lasting change in this area.
The budget builds on actions we’ve already taken to reform housing policy.
We’ve established the National Housing Accord.
We increased the number of places available under the Home Guarantee Scheme in 2022 – as mentioned earlier.
We’ve expanded access to downsizer superannuation contributions for people aged 55 to 59 freeing up family homes.
We’ve introduced legislation to establish a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund – the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing in more than a decade.
It is deeply disappointing that some in Parliament House decided to put politics ahead of people this week.
In blocking the HAFF, the Greens and the Liberals are delaying tens of thousands of affordable rental homes for people right across Australia.
They’re blocking this legislation against the advice of housing experts and community housing providers.
They’re blocking this legislation against the wishes of homelessness advocates, and all state and territory housing ministers.
And they’ll have to explain why they’re blocking 30,000 social and affordable homes to people in housing stress in their own electorates.
We’ll continue to make the case for this critical legislation and the 30,000 social and affordable rental homes it will deliver.
The Fund is critical but it is not the only thing the Albanese Government is doing to address Australia’s housing challenges.
We will continue working to address our country’s challenges, to support more Australians into safe and affordable homes.
Better deal for small businesses
Like housing, it’s been a busy first year for the Government in delivering on our promise to get a better deal for small businesses.
The Budget supports and recognises the role of small businesses – who make up a large part of the real estate community.
Responsible and targeted cost-of-living relief was the number one priority in our Budget.
As part of our Energy Price Relief Plan, we’ve partnered with state and territory governments to deliver $3 billion package in direct electricity bill relief.
It means small businesses will be eligible to have up to $650 deducted from their power bills in the next financial year.
Small Business Energy Incentive
We also announced a Small Business Energy Incentive.
It’s a new tax incentive to help small and medium businesses save energy and save on their energy bills.
Eligible businesses will have access to a bonus 20 per cent tax deduction on investments that support electrification and the more efficient use of energy.
Instant asset write-off
We also announced a $20,000 instant asset write-off to improve cash flow and reduce compliance costs for small businesses, from 1 July 2023 until 30 June 2024.
Businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million will be able to take advantage of the instant asset write-off.
Less time doing taxes
Reducing the time spent doing taxes is another way we’re making life easier for small businesses.
For instance, we’re allowing employers to provide their tax agents with authority to act on their behalf for extended periods for Single Touch Payroll lodgements.
We will also allow small and medium businesses up to four years to make self amendments to their income tax assessments.
And we’re reducing the ATO’s use of cheques.
These and other improvements save time – time better spent managing and growing a business.
Cyber threats are another concern for small businesses.
In the Budget, we announced funding for the Cyber Wardens program.
Similar to fire wardens, cyber wardens will be trained to improve safety and protect their businesses from online threats.
Small businesses actions
This builds on the actions we’ve already taken in our first year of government.
We’ve strengthened unfair contract terms protections.
We’ve funded a new round of the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Services Program to unlock online opportunities.
We’ve implemented the first round of an energy efficiency grant program so small and medium-sized businesses can upgrade to energy efficient technologies.
We’ve made good on our commitment to update government procurement rules to open the door to more opportunities for SMEs.
We’ve announced an independent review of the Payment Times Reporting Act 2020.
In the October Budget, we extended funding for tailored programs to support small business owners’ mental health and financial wellbeing.
Thank you to First National for the opportunity today.
I’m pleased to talk about the housing, homelessness and small business measures announced in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
The Budget measures add to our ambitious housing agenda.
We are lacking enough homes to rent.
We don’t have enough houses for people to buy.
And over the past decade, we have not invested enough in the social and affordable houses that we need.
Our housing reforms continue to address these shortfalls.
The Budget also delivers on our promise to get a better deal for small businesses.
There’s an incentive to improve energy efficiency.
There’s the instant asset write-off to improve cash flow.
There’s less time doing tax.
There’s the cyber security training.
We will continue to support small businesses in a practical way.
Thank you and all the best for your conference.