Minister Collins interview on ABC RN Drive with Andy Park


ANDY PARK, HOST: Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins joins me now. Welcome to you, Minister.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Good afternoon. How are you and your listeners today?

PARK: Very well, thank you so much. The Greens are adamant that renters need to get a better deal before the party supports the housing bill. Do you think this will be enough to get them over the line?

COLLINS: Look, this is about us negotiating with eight different State Premiers and Chief Ministers about getting a better deal for the third of Australians that rent. We've been working on this now for many, many months and what you've seen today I think, is a big step forward in terms of national consistency and in terms of getting eight different jurisdictions in Australia to move to have some consistency so that renters, wherever they are in Australia, understand what their rights are. And this work, obviously will be done at different stages in every state and territory. They're all at different stages of reform, but the states and territories have agreed to try and do this work as quickly as they possibly can.

PARK: Minister, the Greens say Labor has essentially locked yearly astronomical rent increases. Do they have a point? Limiting rent increases to once a year surely isn't going to make much of a difference if they're big increases.

COLLINS: What it'll do, of course, is to make sure that tenants have certainty for that twelve months in terms of their rent. What we also know is the answer to putting downward pressure on rents is adding to supply. What you saw and heard today from the National Cabinet, from the Premiers and the Chief Ministers, was a concerted effort. Some very, very significant reforms to add to supply here in Australia. We need more homes, we need homes of every type and we need them in the right places. And that's what today's National Cabinet was about. Everybody says the answer here is supply. We've listened to the experts about what will actually occur and what we need to do and we need to add to supply.

PARK: Your government's targets were already very ambitious. What you've announced today essentially is a boost of 200,000 homes on the previous target. How are you actually going to meet this target?

COLLINS: Well, what we're going to do is we're going to get states and territories to do some national planning reforms, to do planning reforms in each of their jurisdictions. Some of them have already made some announcements and are well advanced. What we're talking about here is about changing planning and zoning and land releases and other reforms in terms of medium density where it's appropriate. It's about making sure that we can add to supply and get more homes on the ground as quickly as possible. And obviously, we're talking about incentives for states that overshoot their targets of the million homes target.

PARK: I mean, in reality, higher costs, supply issues, interest rates have really damaged the timeline of new homes being built. If industry is simply unable to deliver these homes that you've announced you'll build today with the states and territories, which is something that's been flagged in the past, what's the Plan B?

COLLINS: We're obviously working with the sector and the industry. We've been talking to them and what we anticipate is that there'll be capacity in terms of the construction constraints in the latter half of this year. What we've done is we're carefully calibrating our increase in terms of social and affordable housing to meet the ability to add to supply. You saw some incentives with build to rent in the last Budget. When we're talking about the reforms today, they're incredibly significant and what they allow construction companies and organisations to do is to have some certainty going forward so that they can actually start training more Australians. We've got Fee-Free TAFE, we've got additional university places. We're talking about skilled migration and migration reforms. We want to make sure that these homes can be constructed and we're working in a good way with the construction sector and the industry to make sure that we're doing everything we can do as a federal government. Obviously, the states and territories have a lot of the levers when it comes to the planning reforms. They have a lot of levers when it comes to things like apprenticeships. So, this is about everybody heading in the same direction and working together. We've been pretty clear no tier of government is going to solve this alone. We all need to be heading in the same direction if we've got any chance of turning this around.

PARK: But, Minister, the question remains, what is your contingency plan if these homes can't be built for industry and other reasons? I mean, what other levers? Are there perhaps an adjustment to migration?

COLLINS: Look, we are working as quickly as we can to make sure that the construction sector has the capacity and that we're filling their capacity as soon as it becomes available. We've been timing our investments with the construction sector and working with them. And we're working, obviously, as I said, with the states and territories. What we're talking about here is ambitious. Absolutely it is, but it needs to be if we're going to turn this around. People said that our million homes was ambitious, but achievable. We have built this many homes before and we can build this many homes again. In terms of the additional 200,000, that is more homes than we have built before. Some of the states and territories in the past have got close to what would be their likely targets. And this is about incentivising them and making sure that we're all heading in the same direction.

PARK: It's 05:12. You're hearing from Housing Minister Julie Collins on RN Drive. The Greens have called today's announcement smoke and mirrors, Minister. Adam Bandt says Labor is handballing the solution of the housing crisis to developers who created the problem in the first place. How do you respond to that?

COLLINS: Well, what I would say to them is that, and to people generally, is this is some of the most significant reform that will be occurring in Australia. We're talking about very significant national planning reforms. We're talking about states and territories agreeing on some principles to unlock supply. We're talking about national consistency for renters for the first time in Australia's history. These are very significant reforms indeed. We're talking about trying to get eight different jurisdictions to move and to move together to achieve something in the country's best interest. This is incredibly significant. I don't think people should underestimate how significant today's announcement is. But what I would say to people is this is not about politicians, this is about people. This is about people like Angelique that I met this morning, who's told me today about what a difference having a home has made for her. She's been in her new home just six or seven weeks and she's been able to work on improving her health. And she said to me today she wants to go back and study. That is what this is about. We need homes for Australians that need them the most. Some of the most vulnerable in our community have been languishing on public housing waiting lists. We need to get homes of every type and we need to be working together.

PARK: Julie Collins, Federal Housing Minister. Thanks for your time this afternoon.

COLLINS: Thanks very much, Andy.