Minister Collins interview on ABC News Breakfast


TOPIC/S: Housing Australia Future Fund legislation, the Voice

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let's get more now on our top story. The Federal government's moved to reintroduce its $10 billion Housing Future Fund legislation today. The Housing Minister, Julie Collins, joins us now from Canberra. Minister, good morning.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Good morning to you, Michael.

ROWLAND: Will you be meeting the Greens this week to talk about this?

COLLINS: Look, we're having discussions with crossbenches as we always do. We want to get this bill through the Parliament. We're saying we're taking this incredibly seriously. We want to deliver more homes for Australians that need it most. That's what this bill is about. It's a $10 billion bill with returns every year building more homes for Australians that need them most.

ROWLAND: Okay, now, we had the Greens housing spokesman, Max Chandler-Mather, on the show early this week. He did say that the Greens had reduced some of their demands from $5 billion to $2.5 billion dollars, for instance, for new money for public, social and affordable housing. Has the Government got room to compromise, to negotiate at all?

COLLINS: Look, we have added to our broad housing agenda at every opportunity. We, of course, unlocked $575 million immediately. We have our National Housing Accord with another $350 million to build, another 10,000 affordable homes to be matched by states and territories. Our $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator that we've paid to the States in June. And we're waiting from the States about how they're going to invest that money and build more homes. We've added to it with changes to Build-to-Rent in our last Budget increases to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance, an additional $1.7 billion through the National Housing Agreement for a one year extension. We are adding to our housing agenda at every opportunity. We need to make sure that we do it in a way that makes sure the construction sector can actually build these homes. We want to work with states and territories and with the sector. Our bill has broad support from the construction sector, the community housing sector and indeed the homelessness peaks. Everybody wants this bill to pass the Parliament. We already have some support of Crossbenches and obviously in the lower House we had all the Crossbenches except the Greens and indeed one Liberal cross the floor to support this bill.

ROWLAND: Okay, so is the Government prepared to make any changes at all to this bill this time around?

COLLINS: Look, we always have constructive conversations with people across the Parliament. We want to get on with more homes. What we've seen is the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens block more homes for Australians that need them most. What I'd like to see is some of the Liberals and the Nationals and indeed the Greens talk to some of the people that I've been talking to in the last week who are actually going to benefit from these homes. Talking to people who've been in a new home for just a week or two and what it has meant and how it's changed their lives. When you meet people like Laurie that I met last week on North West Tasmania, who'd been looking for a home, had been homeless for two years. Every day, all of her energy was about where she was going to sleep that night and what she was going to eat. She now said to me, I can go back to school. That is what this is doing. That is what these homes will do. When you talk about the 30,000 homes that this fund will build in the first five years, 4000 of those are set aside for women and children fleeing family violence, and indeed for older women over 55 who are at risk of homelessness. We're talking about $200 million of the fund going towards indigenous, remote indigenous housing repairs. $100 million of it towards transitional housing for emergencies for women and children fleeing family violence. Another $30 million for defence personnel ex defence personnel who are at risk of homelessness. That is what this bill will do. It will change people's lives. So, I say to the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens, we want to build more homes. You're blocking more homes. You need to get on board and you need to support this bill.

ROWLAND: If the bill fails to pass the Senate a second time in October, that, of course, hands the government, the Prime Minister, a double dissolution election trigger. Minister, do you really believe Australians will have the appetite to go to a possible early election next year on the back of the national voice referendum sometime later this year?

COLLINS: Look, this is up to the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens whether or not they want to pass this bill, whether they want to build more homes. We're up for constructive conversations across the Parliament. We want to get on and build more homes for Australians that need them. That's what our focus is on. Our focus has been on building more homes for Australians at every single opportunity. We know too many Australians are doing it tough. We want to get on with it. And we want to build more homes. That is our focus.

ROWLAND: Okay, just before you go, Minister, we have confirmation this morning of draft changes to Labor's National Platform that would seek for the Government to implement in full all elements of the Uluru dialogue in this term of government, including a treaty. What form of treaty are you looking at here?

COLLINS: Look, our focus is on the Voice referendum. Everybody wants to talk about a whole range of other things. The two questions that will be before the Australian public later this year, between October and December, is one, recognition and two, recognition through a voice. That is what people should be focused on. That is the question that is going to be before the Australian people when they get an opportunity to vote later this year. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a process that has been going on for more than eight years. We are focused on getting the Voice referendum up and getting Australians to understand that this is about recognition for Australia's Indigenous people and it's about giving them a voice that recognition through a voice to Parliament

ROWLAND: And steps towards a treaty according to the platform in this term of government.

COLLINS: Look, you're going to see a lot of debate in terms of our platform in the lead up to our national conference. We're focused on the Voice referendum. Our energies are on that. And our energies are on delivering cost-of-living relief to Australians that need it most and delivering homes to Australians that need it most. We've got a broad agenda and we're not losing sight of the fact that we want to deliver for all Australians.

ROWLAND: Okay, Minister, I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

COLLINS: Thank you.