Minister Collins interview on 730 with Laura Tingle

E&OE Transcript

LAURA TINGLE, HOST: Julie Collins. Welcome to 730. If we look at the package today, it's all about housing supply. We've just seen from those figures that there's a big slump in building approvals and commencements. A huge number of building firms have collapsed, and there are also blockages in the system like school shortages. What shape is the sector in and how will this package help get it going again?

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Yeah, Laura, thanks for having me on your show and hello to your viewers tonight. What you've seen today is some of the most significant reforms from the Federal Government and State Governments working together to get more houses on the ground more quickly, in Australia. What we're talking about here is working with the construction sector. We've obviously had a lot of conversations with the sector about what is achievable, but also what's ambitious, because we need to be ambitious in terms of turning around the housing challenges in Australia. What the construction sector are telling me is that they will have more capacity in the second half of this year and early next year. We have timed our investments, things like the Social Housing Accelerator, things like the announcement today to make sure that we can fill that capacity as soon as it becomes available, to get more homes on the ground for Australians that need them most.

TINGLE: So, is there actually an opportunity here? The fact that the private sector has slowed down under the effect of interest rates, it actually provides an opportunity for the government to get in there without necessarily being too inflationary and to actually sort of keep a bit of a floor under the economy.

COLLINS: Well, we have advice that what we're talking about here is not inflationary. And what we're saying is we all need to work together to achieve this. The significant planning, zoning, density reforms, better community consultation, fast tracking for social and affordable housing are all part of the reforms that will make a difference and turn this around. We've been pretty upfront with the Australian people. This is not going to change overnight, but we're doing as much as we can to make sure that we time this well, that we get as many homes on the ground as quickly as we can for Australians.

TINGLE: Well, the housing fund is stalled in the Parliament, as we all know today's agreement with the states and territories on top of that, $2 billion of funding for social housing you announced a couple of weeks ago. It seems to be, in part, built to get around that by getting the states and territories to get the building going again.

COLLINS: What it's about is about making sure that we get all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. It's about making sure that we well time the incentives that we have and the encouragements that are in the system. And it's about all tiers of government using the levers that they have available to them to turn this around. This is about making sure that we all head in the same direction, as I repeatedly keep saying. But importantly, Laura, this is about well located homes for Australians. This is about making sure that Australians can live close to where they work, where they want to go to school. This is about making sure that the homes are close to the amenities, to the healthcare services and the other things that Australians need.

TINGLE: Well, you've mentioned they need to be well located. The Greens are saying that could end up being penthouses. How can you be sure that that's going to be that affordable and social housing that you want?

COLLINS: Well, obviously, we are also with our Social Housing Accelerator, we're talking about an additional $2 billion from the federal government. We've offered the states and territories an additional one year for the Housing and Homelessness Agreement, while we negotiate another five year arrangement from 1 July 2024. I mean, that's $1.7 billion for just one year extension of that agreement with the states and territories. Last financial year, we invested $9.5 billion in housing and homelessness services from the federal government. We're making very significant investments, and what we're doing is we're making them in social and affordable homes. But we're also, of course, with the reforms we're doing today, we're talking about housing supply and housing stock of every type. We also announced in the Budget Build-to-Rent reforms that will allow more institutional investors like pension funds and others come in and build some of those affordable rental homes for Australians, too.

TINGLE: Sure. So, you've added an extra 200,000 houses to the original target of 1 million today from 2024 over five years. What's that number based on? Does it reflect the conditions in the market or more information about what's achievable?

COLLINS: Well, it's both of those things. This is about the advice that we have about how many homes are required, and it's also advice about what is achievable in Australia. We know with our 1 million homes target that it was deemed ambitious, but achievable. We have got close to that number before. And so what we're doing is we're incentivising states to do the reforms they need to do to make that number higher. For every house over the million homes, the states will get incentives and money for those additional homes. This is about trying to drive change. This is about encouraging the states to do as much as they can, as quickly as they can to get those homes on the ground.

TINGLE: Sure. Now, you've offered an extra $3 billion in incentive style payments to undertake reforms to boost housing supply. What sort of changes are you hoping will come out of that?

COLLINS: What we're hoping for is things like planning and zoning reforms. What we're hoping for is medium density, where it's appropriate. What we're hoping for is faster approvals for things like social and affordable rental homes. What we're hoping for is for states and territories to also work with local government. And we're making $500 million available straight away from 2024 over two years to make sure that things like enabling infrastructure can be updated to work with those other tiers of government so that the constraints that are in the system can be improved. We want to make sure that we're making liveable communities for people, no matter where they live in Australia.

TINGLE: Now, there's not a lot in this for renters today in terms of what the Greens were demanding, but you're looking at an overall lift in rental standards. What's the minimum criteria that you're hoping rentals will have to satisfy if there's a uniform agreement on this from the States?

COLLINS: Well, I'd first say, Laura, that I disagree. What we're talking about here is some significant rental reforms. And we're talking about, for the first time, some national consistency across states and territories so that renters in Australia, no matter where they live, understand their rights. We're also talking about making sure that landlords right across Australia understand their obligations, as many landlords do, but making sure that people understand what is expected here in Australia. The minimum standards will be worked on. There are obviously things like hot and cold running water, things like making sure that there's a hot stove available for people, making sure that basic amenity and maintenance is done. But we're also talking things like making sure that when people evict people that there are reasonable grounds to do that. We're talking about making sure that renters, when they apply for tenancies, that it's easier for them, that their private data is better looked after, and that they can have some security about privacy of their information. We're talking about some significant changes here. And importantly, we're talking about some national consistency. Some of the states have already done some really good work. But this is about lifting everybody so that renters, wherever they live in the country, understand their basic rights and obligations, as do landlords.

TINGLE: Julie Collins, thanks so much for your time tonight.

COLLINS: Thanks very much for having me on, Laura.