Minister Collins interview on Today with Sarah Abo


SARAH ABO, HOST: Let's bring in Housing Minister Julie Collins now. Minister, thanks so much for your time. A double dissolution election? Really?

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Good morning, Sarah. What we want to do, obviously, is get on with the job of delivering more homes for Australians that need them. We do know that we have really serious housing challenges right across the country. This is not about us, this is not about other parties, but this is about the people who need homes in Australia today. As a government what we're doing is getting on with the job of delivering homes. You saw that last weekend with our $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator plan. We've done it at every opportunity since we've come to government. But there's no doubt the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund was an election commitment that we want to deliver on. We're talking about 30,000 social and affordable rental homes in the first five years of the fund. That has now stalled in the Senate because you've got the Liberals and the Nationals teaming up with the Greens to block it and not to allow a vote on it.

ABO: So this has then effectively become about politics and less about the people. I mean, the housing crisis is getting worse every single day. There are people sleeping cars and sheds out there. Australia doesn't have time for this back and forth in Parliament. Why are you not willing to compromise?

COLLINS: Well, we certainly have compromised, Sarah. We've compromised all the way along. We've added to our policies all the way along. We are focused on delivering homes on the ground. There are homes under construction today because of decisions that we have made as a government. What we have not seen is the same compromise from the Liberal and National Party, who said that they supported Future Funds when they were in government, they now, apparently in opposition, no longer support them. And, of course, the Greens Party, who block more houses than they ever actually build, whether it be at local, state or federal government level, they just keep blocking. Clearly, they don't want to compromise. What we want to do is get on with the job, and you saw us doing that with our announcement just last weekend. And we'll continue to get on with the job because, as you say, those Australians that are finding it difficult to get a safe, affordable place to call home are relying on us to get the job done. And that's what we'll continue to do each and every day get more houses on the ground. We have a supply issue in Australia. We need more houses and we will get on with the job of building them.

ABO: I guess the concern is they might be losing faith in you. And if your Housing Fund does get through, it will take years to build those homes. How do you make housing more affordable right now? You mentioned that some houses are already underway. Do you know how many?

COLLINS: Yeah, we've got thousands of houses underway because of decisions that we have taken. We unlocked $575 million immediately. You saw in our first Budget, the National Housing Accord, another $350 million from 1 July next year for 10,000 more affordable rental homes. We, of course, in our last Budget, gave the biggest increase in Commonwealth Rental Assistance in more than 30 years, with a 15% increase for the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. We, of course, put in changes in terms of Build-to-Rent to get more rentals on the ground in Australia. We've got experts saying that that will increase the number of apartments in Australia from 150,000 to 250,000 extra on top of what would have been built because of decisions that we are making as a government. We, of course, added $2 billion in additional financing to the National Housing and Finance Investment Corporation to get more social and affordable homes on the ground and to partner with community housing providers. But it's not just the government saying that this Fund actually needs to get through the Parliament. What we saw yesterday was housing experts, homelessness providers, community housing providers, and indeed the construction sector all in Canberra yesterday calling on the Senate to pass this Bill because they know how important this is.

ABO: Yeah, exactly. But it doesn't seem to be happening. The Greens want you to look at rent freezing. The Coalition wants you to look at migration. Will you do either of those things?

COLLINS: Well, what we have said clearly is we're getting on with the job of delivering more homes. When it comes to rentals, as I said, we're adding to supply. We're dealing with Commonwealth Rent Assistance. What the Greens are asking, we've been very clear about. The Commonwealth Government does not have the power to do what they are asking. We've also been very clear that all of the experts and all of the evidence says what they want won't actually work and will increase rents, not decrease rents. And of course, then you've got the Liberal Party who are trying to conflate where we are, and they would have had more migrants in Australia today than our government does. And we're getting on with the job. For the first time in more than a decade you've got a Federal Government at the table when it comes to housing, working with other tiers of government, something we didn't see from the other side.

ABO: Yeah. It's a shame it's all come down to politics. Minister, thanks so much for your time today. I appreciate it.