I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which we meet and acknowledge elders past, present and emerging.
We thank Australia’s indigenous peoples for their stewardship of the land over forty thousand years and I commit myself to the task of eradicating the scourge of indigenous disadvantage in our country.
I was keen to accept your invitation to be here today.
Partly because Q Shelter deserves recognition for the great work it does standing up for vulnerable Queenslanders and giving them a voice.
Giving a voice to the voiceless is a noble task. Its something you do.
It something I strive to do in politics, something all of us on my side of the political aisle do.
But I wanted to be here to thank you for your important work in getting the vital issues of homelessness and housing affordability in Queensland on the agenda.
I also wanted to accept your invitation because it’s a chance to address two issues very important to me and to all of us; homelessness and housing affordability.
These ae related but separate issues.
Let me deal with housing affordability first and then homelessness.
Policies to tackle our housing affordability crisis have been at the forefront of our policy development.
This is a social and economic imperative.
Home ownership is now at a 60 year low.
Even the people who have managed to get into the market are now more than ever struggling to pay it off.
Just 15 years ago almost three out of five home owners owned their home outright.
Fast forward to today and home owners with a mortgage are now in the majority.
Today the Australian property market is increasingly dominated by those who on the back of record low interest rates and the most generous tax concessions in the world continue to bid up prices and squeeze out first home buyers.
For young people the problem is acute.
First home buyers are at record lows.
Home ownership rates for those aged 25-34 have fallen by around 14 percentage points since the mid-1990s to now be less than 40%.
We are on our way to becoming a nation of property oligarchs and renters.
As the recent Tax Statistics shows, over the last three years the cohort of people with 5 investment properties has grown at nearly 4 times the rate of people with just one investment property.
And there is little evidence of an imminent change in this trend, given people are struggling to get the hours they want, underemployment remains at around record highs and with real wages in decline.
We are on our way to robbing our children of the opportunities that many of us have enjoyed.
Young people with parents who have the wherewithal to help children pull together will be ok.
The majority of young people will not.
But owning a property isn’t just a roof over a head.
It gives families financial security and an important asset that generations have typically relied on to increase their wealth.
As the Grattan Institute has pointed out “Older households made big capital gains. With lower and falling rates of home ownership, younger households shared less of this windfall”.
This is why we are bitterly disappointed with the most recent budget.
Housing affordability was meant to be the centrepiece of the budget. Instead, we got a damp squib. A grab-bag of largely ill-thought out measures.
The gains from the Government’s housing package will be miniscule, if they even exist.
The Government’s housing package is more about politics than policy.
As John Daley from the Grattan Institute said “what the Government's chosen to do is a number of things that are politically easy but are not going to make any discernible difference to affordability”.
The Government introduced 14 new so called housing affordability measures that won’t make a discernible difference to the prospects of people trying to get into the housing market.
The Turnbull Government’s National Housing Infrastructure Facility (NHIF) – a $1 billion finance facility available to local governments – looks more like a Coalition slush fund with zero governance arrangements that won’t do anything about housing supply and housing affordably.
There is one big lever in the commonwealth Government’s hands – curbing negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions – and the Government has failed to pull it.
We have the most generous property investment tax concessions in the world, and we wonder why property purchases are more and more dominated by property investors.
Any housing affordability package which doesn’t reform these tax concessions is a sham.
And just today, former Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has backed the need for negative gearing reform in his report to the NSW Government.
He joins a long list of organisations and experts calling for reform, including:
- The IMF
- The OECD
- The Government’s own Financial System Inquiry
- Grattan Institute
- The Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA)
- Australian Institute of Company Directors
- Saul Eslake
- And a run of Liberals such as Jeff Kennett and former Premier Mike Baird
While negative gearing reform is an essential part of a proper housing affordability plan, we completely recognise it is not, by itself, enough.
Accordingly, we announced a second tranche of policies a few weeks before the budget.
- prohibiting direct borrowing by self‐managed superannuation funds
- Facilitating a COAG process to introduce a uniform vacant property tax across all major cities
- Increasing foreign investor fees and penalties
- Establishing a bond aggregator to increase investment in affordable housing
- Boosting homelessness support for vulnerable Australians
- Getting better results from the National Affordable Housing Agreement
- Re‐establishing the National Housing Supply Council and re‐instate a Minister for Housing
One of the first acts of the Liberal government was to abolish the Housing Supply Council back in 2013.
This was a retrograde step at a time when housing and rental stress were becoming more acute.
At a time when we need to shine more light on these issues, we are increasingly working in the dark.
The COAG working group report to the heads of Treasury’s earlier this year highlighted that there is woeful inadequacy of data around these housing trends.
The report explicitly states “The Working Group has found that a significant issue with reporting on the state of the affordable housing sector is the lack of data on the sector and inconsistencies in how affordable housing is defined across the sector, academia and governments”.
If we don’t have good and reliable data on these important issues, we are simply letting people down – the homeless, the socially disadvantaged and young people trying to buy their first home.
The need for improved national data collection is exactly why Labor has re-announced the National Housing Supply Council.
A re-energised Housing Supply Council with an expanded remit will ensure an ongoing independent advisory body focused on collecting the best nationally consistent data which will help give the government more information to drive policy decisions.
It will also underpin another one of our reforms of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA).
The former NAHA, now renamed by the Government as the National Housing and Homeless Agreement (NHHA) has not achieved the objectives it set out to achieve.
In assessing the current agreement the Productivity Commission anticipates that many of the targets it set out to achieve are not on track, whether it be reducing rental stress by 10%, a 7% reduction in the number of homelessness or increased indigenous home ownership.
We have to do better.
This why a revitalised Housing Supply Council housing with better information and data is so important to ensure we can track and assess progress.
We do welcome the approach being taken under the new NHHA from 2018-19, which takes up our approach of making the money more accountable and targeting jurisdiction specific priorities including supply targets and planning and zoning reforms.
I want to turn specifically now to the issue of homelessness.
The issue that drives many of you, and rightly so.
We have enjoyed twenty-six years of uninterrupted economic growth, and yet more than 105,000 people are classified as being homeless.
Many of these people living in dangerous situations, whether on the street or in squats or cars.
2 out of 3 homeless people who seek crisis accommodation are turned away.
Is this the best we can do?
Of course it is not.
No-one, not you, not me, pretends this issue is easy.
But this shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction.
Of course, there are complex issues of mental health and other interactions to be dealt with when it comes to homelessness.
But it some cases it is more simply about housing stress and unemployment and of course in far too many cases, domestic violence.
We welcome the budget announcement that combines funding under the National Affordable Housing Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness into a single agreement.
This means that dedicated Commonwealth funding for homelessness services will be both ongoing and indexed.
I know that funding certainty for homelessness services is something you have campaigned for over a number of years and Labor has supported you along the way.
This announcement is testament to the effectiveness of campaigning by you and your colleagues around the country.
But more needs to be done.
Particularly since the damaging 2014 Budget which saw $44 million cut from critical capital funding for homelessness services.
This made a bad situation even worse.
The year after the 2014 Budget cuts, the number of homelessness service clients who couldn’t have their emergency and short-term accommodation needs met grew by 25%.
So there’s a lot of ground to make up.
This is why as part of our announcement in recent weeks we committed to our Safe Housing Fund, an $88 million commitment to increase transitional housing options for women and children escaping domestic and family violence and other people at risk of homelessness.
Last year 106,000 women and their children accessing specialist homelessness services were experiencing family and domestic violence, a third were already homeless and two thirds were at risk of homelessness by the time they sought help.
Domestic and family violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Australia.
For far too many women, the answer is living in their car or with relatives in overcrowded conditions.
This has to change.
In conclusion, I’ve very much appreciated the chance to share some thoughts on the important national challenges of homelessness and housing affordability today.
And thanks for all of your hard work standing up for Australians who can at times be forgotten and who rightly feel on a day to day level that the economy is not delivering for them.
Someone having a roof over their head is an Australian value; and a Labor value.
We’ve had housing affordability front and centre of our policy development for the past two years.
And this will not stop.
We’ve announced two tranches on housing affordability policy and we’ll have more to say and announce.
I look forward to engaging everyone over the coming months and years on these vitally important issues that are important to all of us.