Hobart Doorstop

SUBJECTS: National Housing and Homelessness Plan; Albanese Government’s ambitious housing reform agenda; Infrastructure Investment Pipeline; Greenpoint Medical Centre; Hobart infrastructure.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: It's been a terrific morning this morning listening to young people as part of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan consultations. We've now had around 500 people have input into our National Housing and Homelessness Plan. We've had five sessions at least here in Tasmania in person as well as those online that have been running around the country. We have been consulting since late August when it comes to a National Housing and Homelessness Plan. This is the first time in a long time the country will have a proper plan for housing.

Whilst we are developing this plan, we're also busy getting on with delivering more housing across the country. We've already provided to the States and Territories the $2 billion in the Social Housing Accelerator. We of course got our Housing Australia Future Fund through the Federal Parliament and as of a few weeks ago the Housing Australia Future is up and running. A $10 billion fund there in perpetuity to provide social and affordable housing for Australians that need it. We’ve got our National Housing Accord, of course, our ambition is to build 1.2 million homes. We've got $3.5 billion on the table for States and Territories to incentivise them to change planning and zoning to get more homes on the ground more quickly, as well as another 10,000 affordable homes from the Federal Government as part of that Accord and another 10,000 from the States and Territories. We have unlocked $575 million immediately. We have houses under construction today because of decisions we have taken as a Government. We're very serious about housing and ensuring that more Australians have a safe, affordable place to call home and today's consultations and talking to our young people was just one part of that.

JOURNALIST: What's some of the feedback you've heard from young people about how they feel about the housing market now and in the future?

COLLINS: Well, clearly affordability is a really serious issue for young Tasmanians and also younger Australians. Whether it's renting, or whether its buying, clearly affordability is an issue for so many Australians at the moment which is why we are adding to supply as much as we can. As a Federal Government we are working with the States and Territories and working with the construction sector about what is achievable and how many homes can we get on the ground.

JOURNALIST: Now more rental properties, I mean, there are fewer rental properties across Australia than ever, do you think that the next generation will have secure housing in terms of rentals?

COLLINS: Well, what we're talking about with having a National Housing and Homelessness Plan, what we're talking about with the Housing Australia Future Fund are things that are there for the long-term, whilst we also were doing some short-term things with the Social Housing Accelerator. What we want to do is deal with short term and add to supply but also have a long-term plan to add to supply and I think that is really important in terms of the National Housing Accord, and the New Homes Bonus, the $3.5 billion and the 1.2 million homes target. We're talking about five years from 1 July 2024. You know, our housing sector has been heading in the wrong direction for quite a long time and turning it around we know is difficult, but we're stepping up to the plate working with the States and Territories to do just that.

JOURNALIST: You talked about there, you know, long-term vs short-term, a lot of long-term planning, but I can imagine in that room, for those young people, I think that are now in a very tight market. How do we get something in the short-term team and just get a little bit ahead going forward?

COLLINS: Well, we're obviously providing that $2 billion dollar immediately, the Social Housing Accelerator to States and Territories. Here in Tasmania, $50 million has been provided to the State Government immediately. We've also of course provided an additional one-year funding under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement and nationally that's $1.7 billion for one year. For Housing and Homelessness services here in Tasmania that is $38 million this year. So, the Federal Government has given the Tasmanian State Government $88 million of taxpayer money for just this financial year to get more homes on the ground and to make sure people are getting the services they need. We also of course, have increased the Commonwealth Rent Assistance, the maximum rate by 15%, the largest increase in more than 30 years. So that's immediate support. And we know that's had some impact already on putting downward pressure on rental inflation. We of course, are adding to supply as quickly as we can, as I said, we are doing everything that we can do in the short term, whilst also doing the long-term planning.

JOURNALIST: RBA says in its monetary policy statement today that advertised rents have increased 30% since before the pandemic and there is little sign of light rental market conditions easing. What are you doing for renters now, given your housing policies will take several years to have any effect on the market?

COLLINS: Well, everybody says the answer is supply. We're obviously adding to supply as quickly as possible. We're increasing and have increased the Commonwealth Rental Assistance. We also of course, put renters’ rights on the National Cabinet agenda. We have all the states and territories agreed to have some national consistency around renters’ rights to improve rights for renters for today. I mean it's around a third of the population now renting, we understand that it's difficult whether you're a renter, whether you've got a mortgage or are a homeowner, it is really difficult out there at the moment.

JOURNALIST: Are you determined to keep the Australian dream alive of owning our own home. I personally have given up on it.

COLLINS: Well, certainly we have the Home Guarantee Scheme where we've made some significant changes and we've added to it with our Regional First Home buyer scheme. You know, we have had more than 50,000 people go into their first home because of that scheme. We are of course working to introduce our Help to Buy scheme and our Shared Equity scheme. We're looking right across the spectrum of housing, whether it's renting, whether it's with a mortgage, or buying your own home or social housing we want to add to supply at every level.

JOURNALIST: Senator Carol Brown was on the radio this morning and was asked quite a lot about the 90 day Infrastructure Review. When will we know the results of that review?

COLLINS: Look, I know Minister King is working as quickly as she can. She's negotiating with every State and Territory. When you're trying to negotiate with six States, two Territories and the Federal Government - these things take some time, but I know that Minister King is working as quickly as she can working with the State Governments. I know she's had conversations here with the Tasmanian Government and I look forward to getting the outcome of that review. What's important here is, you know, we have committed to the $120 billion over the 10 years of the infrastructure pipeline. As Tasmanians representatives, we, of course, are fighting hard for Tasmania. But let's be clear here, we need to make sure that the funding is right, that the plan, the funding profile is right, and that the planning is done for all of these projects. What has been caught up in the review are not projects that were already under construction or election commitments. It was just projects where the planning hadn't yet been undertaken properly, and construction wasn't underway.

JOURNALIST: How hard will you be fighting to minimise the impact on Tasmania as part of the review process?

COLLINS: Well, I can assure you that the Tasmanian Federal Labor team have been in discussions and of course, you know, we want to see Tasmania get more than our fair share, as always.

JOURNALIST: And will that happen?

COLLINS: I can assure you that we're fighting very hard for Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: Who do you think should be taking the credit for the Greenpoint Medical Centre being saved from its closure, the State Government says because the Federal Government failed to step in, they had to?

COLLINS: Look, this should surely be about the people and the patients and the residents around Bridgewater and the Greenpoint Medical Centre. This shouldn't be about tiers of Government trying to claim credit. But we had the owner on the radio this morning, saying that he's not getting funding from either tier of Government in terms of additional funding. But what has made a real difference has been the recent changes we made to Medicare. In terms of the bulk-billing incentive, that change came in on 1 November. That is a very significant investment. It's $3.5 billion dollars almost that's going into bulk- billing, it's tripled the bulk-billing incentive. We know that has had an impact because the people running the centre, the new owners have said that it did, and I think this is a terrific outcome for the local community and it should be about local residents, not about tiers of government claiming credit.

JOURNALIST: Julie, would the Federal Government consider supporting a new hydrotherapy pool in the city of Hobart?

COLLINS: Look I haven't seen any proposal for a hydrotherapy pool. Some of my colleagues may have, we have of course supported one in the past. This is about I guess, making sure that Tasmania gets access to services, particularly Tasmanians with disability. I haven't seen a proposal for that. But, you know, as a Federal Government, what we want to do, of course, is support the Tasmanian Community.

JOURNALIST: The Council says it needs a doubling of funding to make it achievable?

COLLINS: Well, I haven't seen that proposal so it's a bit hard to make comment on that. What I would say is under the Federal Labor team, we're determined to make sure that Tassie gets our fair share and more than our fair share where that's applicable and appropriate, because we know that too many Tasmanians are doing it tough.

JOURNALIST: Back to housing, obviously you spoke to young people, they probably look at the prices these days of a house, even just a generic family house, and its eye watering. Is that something that they just look at the price and their hearts just sink?

COLLINS: They're resilient young people that I spoke too today, and these young people are participating in a process in the National Housing and Homelessness plan because they want to make change. I want to work with them and with the community generally to ensure that we get more Australians to a safe, affordable place to call home, whether that be buying or renting.

JOURNALIST: You say their resilient, their resilience is only going to go so far if they can’t get into a house?

COLLINS: That's why we're doing things like adding to supply, that's why we're increasing Commonwealth Rental Assistance. That's why we're trying to improve renters’ rights because we want to make sure that young people, particularly if they want to rent or if they want to purchase a home, get the support that they need to do that. And that's why we also are working towards our Shared Equity Scheme.

JOURNALIST: Just back onto Greenpoint, is it somewhat regrettable that the community had to do so much advocating for themselves if the Federal Government, in your view do all it could to advocate for that community?

COLLINS: Well, I know that the local member Brian Mitchell has been advocating for some time to save the services in Bridgewater and the Greenpoint Medical Center community. I know that Brian has been working behind the scenes chatting to potential providers, chatting to the organisation that does recruiting for general practice in Tasmania and nationally. I know that he's also had discussions with the Federal Minister and his office. I think, as I said, I don't think any tier of Government should be claiming credit for this. I think this is about the community who have stood up and said, we demand a service and I'm really pleased they're going to get one.