Minister Collins interview on ABC Tasmania Mornings


LEON COMPTON, HOST: Leon Compton in the chair. Julie Collins is The Federal Housing Minister. Minister, good morning to you.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND MINISTER FOR HOMELESSNESS: Good morning, Leon. Good morning to your listeners.

COMPTON: It's not why we asked you on the radio, but you've been sitting on hold, hopefully listening to Sarah from Holyoake. How do you feel hearing that funding is about to end from a life changing program funded by your government at Risdon Prison?

COLLINS: Yeah, that's obviously a program that's getting great success, Leon. I wasn't aware of it until I was listening, as you were now. And I've already got my staff trying to seek some information from the Federal Health Minister on that and about what's happening with that program. So, I'm happy to get back to you once I've got that information.

COMPTON: So, could we ask, can we just keep following up with you and get whatever correspondence you hear about that, given what we've heard about its capacity to potentially change lives?

COLLINS: Absolutely no problem at all.

COMPTON: Julie Collins, Federal Housing Minister, our guest this morning and member for Franklin. So, what happened to the $10 billion future housing or Australian future fund? Is it dead Julie Collins?

COLLINS: Well, we're obviously looking at what options we have available to us, Leon, and about what measures we might do now. What you've seen from our Federal Government is one where we want to get on with delivering homes for Tasmanians and Australians that need the most. You've saw that from us initially with our $575 million. We have houses under construction today, including in Tasmania, from that money and the decisions that we took immediately. We, of course, you saw last weekend with our Social Housing Accelerator providing money directly to states and territories to get more homes on the ground, particularly public and community housing and Tasmania's share of that will be $50 million. And that's on top of the other funding that we provide through the Housing and Homelessness Agreement to the state government. So, $34 million this year, and I think it's around $38 million next year. And the $50 million, so significant funds flowing to Tasmanian state government from the federal government.

COMPTON: But that wasn't, but this was your big set piece, this was the big policy. You invest $10 billion, you take what it sheds as dividends, and you invest it in housing nationally. Is it dead?

COLLINS: Well, as I said, we're looking at all of our options. Our focus is on how we deliver more homes as quickly as we can. I mean, this is about people. What we've heard is the Greens decision and the Liberal and National Senators decision to block it will cause delays and in fact, might see some homes not built. We heard that from housing providers yesterday and the day before. We heard it from state governments saying that they're putting some projects on hold. The truth is that as soon as that legislation had been passed, homes would be on the ground. Those homes are now delayed. I'll leave the Greens and the Liberal and National Senators to explain their actions. What we're doing as a government is we're looking at all of our options and how we continue to get homes on the ground.

COMPTON: What was it that was so unpalatable about the Greens request that you agree to a national rent freeze for two years in return for their support for your policy? What was it so unpalatable about a rent freeze that you couldn't do it?

COLLINS: There's two things there. Number one, constitutionally, we don't actually have the power. We actually can't do what's being asked of us. Number two is that all of the data and evidence that we have, whether it be Graeme Samuel, whether it be the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, whether it be the Reserve Bank. Everybody says that what that will actually do is make the situation worse. It will drive rents up and will reduce supply of stock available. Everybody says we're not building enough houses. And the answer to our rental crisis at the moment is to build more houses. And that's exactly what the bill would have done. Those 30,000 homes in the first five years were all rental homes Leon. It's staggering.

COMPTON: And so you've got a situation where you need to either stick with this $10 billion, let's invest it, and then spend the dividends plan, or come up with something else. When will you make a decision about which way you'll go?

COLLINS: Well, let me be really clear. We do want to look at all of our options. We are concerned about the cost of delays when you have community housing providers and state governments saying to us that this is actually delaying thousands of homes. We heard figures yesterday around 8000, another 3000, thousands of homes literally not being built because of this decision, we do have to be considerate of what will get homes on the ground more quickly other than what we've already done. What is the capacity in the sector, what is the capacity of state governments. And that assessment will take a little while to do. We want to make sure that we get more homes on the ground and that's what it's all about. It's about people who are languishing on public housing waiting lists. It's about people who can't afford a safe, affordable place to call home. Our focus is on how we deliver for the Tasmanian and the Australian people.

COMPTON: And just a final question to you. We've had a situation before where money got sort of allocated from the Federal Government to the state and then got put into either general revenue or to help fund existing programmes. How are you going to make sure that your contribution to the state is extra homes, not just sort of helping cover the costs of homes that were already planned?

COLLINS: Obviously, there will be reporting around this funding. We want to make sure that we add to supply and to be fair to all the states and territories when I spoke to them last week about this new national partnership, the Social Housing Accelerator, they are also very keen to add to supply and I'll be asking them exactly how many houses this funding builds. I mean, we're talking about the Federal Government investing $9.5 billion in just this current financial year into housing and homelessness across the country. On top of what the states and territories are doing, we should be getting more homes on the ground and that's what we all want to see.

COMPTON: Julie Collins, good to talk to you this morning.