JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: I'm really pleased that we've got further support for the Housing Australia Future Fund bill today. What this means is that the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund will pass the Parliament by the end of this week. But this is important for people. This is important for the thousands of Australians who are waiting for social and affordable housing today. We have always maintained that this has been about getting more homes on the ground more quickly for Australians that need them most.
We're really pleased to have this additional support this week. What we're going to be doing is we will be adding a billion dollars to the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to make sure that we can get more homes on the ground, more quickly. This is, of course, in addition to our broad housing agenda. We've always said our housing agenda needed to be ambitious, and it needs to be broad. From homelessness services right to private homeownership, we have been moving at every opportunity to make sure that we have more Australians that have a safe, affordable place to call home. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what are the next steps once the HAFF passes in the Senate? When will it be established, and how long until you expect to see returns from that?
COLLINS: We obviously want to get the Fund up and running as quickly as we can. There have been a cost to the delays. We know from talking to community housing providers and to states and territories that the delays have cost providers. What we want to do is get it up and running as quickly as we can. Once the bill gets through the Parliament and gets Royal Assent, we'll move as quickly as we can to get the Fund up and established and get returns. But obviously this will take some time, which is why we are putting some funding straight into more social and affordable housing on top of the funding that we have already put into social and affordable housing. The $1.7 billion in the additional one year extension to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.
On top of the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator. On top of the Build-to-Rent changes that we made in the Budget. On top of the other things that we announced at National Cabinet in relation to the new homes and the 1.2 million target for homes across the country from 1 July. On top of the Housing Accord measures that will start on 1 July 2024. We have a very significant, broad, ambitious housing agenda and we’ve been adding to it at every opportunity.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the Greens say this proves that pressure works and that they are now the party of renters. What do you say to that?
COLLINS: We of course acknowledge that renters are 30 per cent of the Australian population. We understand that renters have been doing it tough, which is why we put renters’ rights on the National Cabinet agenda. Which is why we have an historic agreement with the states and territories to have national consistency around renters’ rights. Which is why we had the biggest increase in more than 30 years to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Which is why you saw changes in the last Budget in Build-to-Rent incentives. We understand that ultimately the answer for rents is more supply of houses of every type, but particularly rental homes. This Fund getting through the Parliament means an additional 30,000 social and affordable rental homes in the first five years of the Fund.
JOURNALIST: Minister, you say that, you say that you want this to be up as fast as possible. But what do you actually mean by that, in terms of a timeline?
COLLINS: We anticipate that it will take weeks, hopefully less than a couple of months, to get the Fund up and running. And then of course we need to wait for the returns, which is why we're putting some money upfront in terms of getting more social and affordable homes on the ground through what will become Housing Australia. That's currently the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the Greens have vowed to keep putting pressure on the government to take action on rents in the form of rent freezes and rent caps. And they've warned that there are other significant bills on the horizon coming up, the Greens will use their position in balance of power to continue to push the government. Are you concerned about upcoming housing bills?
COLLINS: Well, look, we've always said that we will work right across the Parliament, talking to members of parliament of every persuasion to deliver on our election commitments, but importantly to deliver for the Australian people. Australian people have said they will want a grown up government that's prepared to get on with the job. That's what we're doing by getting the Housing Australia Future Fund through the parliament, and I look forward to working with people right across the parliament on any future legislation as we always do.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what's your read on why the Greens who decided to put aside their calls for rent caps and freezes in these talks?
COLLINS: We have a very broad ambitious housing agenda. We’ve added to it at every opportunity. Ultimately, the answer for Australians - whether they're trying to buy a home or rent a home, or whether they have a mortgage - is more supply of homes. And we need to do it in a way where we're not adding to inflation. That's what we're doing with all of the policies that we have announced in terms of housing.
JOURNALIST: This bill was delayed several times for months because the Greens said that you didn't make any material concessions to them in negotiations. Why did it take this long to offer the billion dollars up front?
COLLINS: This has never been about the people in this place. As I have continually said, this has been about people on the ground. This is about people like I've met who have been on social housing waiting lists for a long time. People like Lauree, who've been homeless for more than a year on the North-West Coast of Tasmania, who said getting a home means that she can now go back to school. That's what this has always been about. That's why we've worked so hard to get this bill through the parliament. And that's why we've been talking to people right across the Parliament of every persuasion to get the bill through.
JOURNALIST: But couldn't you have done it sooner? That's the question.
COLLINS: We have added to our housing agenda at every opportunity. We have responded to the situation as we have been confronted with it, and as we are getting advice about how things are changing. One of the things that we have been concerned about is, of course, the construction sector and the ability to add to supply, given some of the constraints in the building and construction sector.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, this is a lot of money going towards social and affordable housing. You mentioned there the constraints on building supply and the industry. Are you concerned that this is going to have any kind of impact? Particularly that that $3 billion, that this is going to have an impact on private investment for homes?
COLLINS: What we've seen across Australia is private residential dwellings drop off in terms of approvals going forward. What we want to do as a government is to meet some of that ability in the sector to build more homes. We are, of course, investing in social and affordable housing - rental homes - working with the community housing sector and working with states and territories. What we want to do is make sure that any supply capacity in the system can be utilised as best that it can be, and that includes social and affordable housing for people that need it most.
JOURNALIST: Minister, Mr Bandt it says that the extra billion dollars is going to be spent this year - is that right?
COLLINS: The additional funding will be going into Housing Australia, what will become Housing Australia when these bills get through the Parliament, this financial year. That means that that money will be available for more social and affordable homes.
JOURNALIST: Just lastly with your small business hat on, do you have any concerns about calls to split the industrial relations bill and to deal with some of the measures this year, or should it all go as one?
COLLINS: I, of course, have been talking to small businesses of every persuasion about closing the loopholes legislation. We, of course, speak to people right across the sector, and I've been meeting with small businesses. In terms of the closing the loopholes, part of the legislation given that small businesses are not engaged a lot in enterprise agreements, they are exempt from that part of the bill. We'll continue to have those discussions, as I said we have on the Housing Australia Future Fund bill, right across the parliament to get our bills through the parliament. Thanks.