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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 253

Ms LIVERMORE (3:29 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women. What has been the response to new investment in social housing in yesterday’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan? What positive effects will this have on construction workers in Capricornia in keeping them employed after the recent lay-offs in the mining industry?

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I want to thank the member for Capricornia. I know that she has been very concerned about recent job losses in the mining sector and she is very concerned to keep construction strong in Capricornia. The Nation Building and Jobs Plan, released yesterday, includes a historic investment in social housing which will have benefits right across the nation: in areas like hers; in regional centres; in rural and remote areas; and in suburbs and cities. Right across this nation, we will be building 20,000 new homes and renovating another 2½ thousand run-down homes in order to make them liveable again. This is the largest single investment in social housing ever made by an Australian government. The package will help us meet our targets on homelessness and provide affordable housing for low-income Australians who are struggling in the private rental market. We have had—unremarkably, I suppose—very strong endorsements from the community and welfare sector. The Council to Homeless Persons has said, ‘This is great news for the more than 100,000 Australians who are homeless.’ The Brotherhood of St Laurence has said:

… we haven’t seen this kind of government investment in social housing for decades. Not only will it bring lasting benefit in terms of protecting construction jobs but it will also boost the stock of affordable housing for disadvantaged Australians now and into the future.

ACOSS have said, ‘We are delighted that social housing has been given a much needed boost.’

It is also the fact that this package makes great economic sense. It will support jobs in the housing and construction industry. The Housing Industry Association says:

… the spot purchase of private sector new dwellings will provide a rapid and necessary boost to economic activity. It will activate the commencement of many approved private sector dwellings that have stalled due to a lack of working capital …

The Property Council of Australia says:

Every dollar that goes into the construction sector has a multiplier effect - it is spent three times over in the economy … This makes for an ideal measure of a well thought-out stimulus package.

The Residential Development Council says:

In committing this money to the sector, the government is ensuring projects that are already in the development pipeline are built, and more importantly that new projects get off the ground, which is difficult in the current market.

This measure is right for our economy. It is right for building our nation in the long term. The opposition’s decision to block these measures will be a blow to the many low-income Australians who are struggling to put a roof over their heads, and it will be a blow to the construction sector: to all those tradies, small businesses and building supply companies that are struggling to keep their heads above water and struggling to keep their apprentices employed. The responsible and compassionate thing to do is pass these measures now.