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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 254


Mr MORRISON (3:33 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women. Given that the government has already brought forward more than $1.8 billion in projects for homelessness and affordable housing—I might add, supported by the opposition—can the minister explain why committing the taxpayer—

Government members interjecting—


Mr MORRISON —I am talking about your existing programs, remember? Keep up.

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Cook has the call, and the interjections will cease.


Mr MORRISON —I will start again, Mr Speaker. Given that the government has already brought forward more than $1.8 billion in projects for homelessness and affordable housing, which the opposition has already supported, can the minister explain why committing the taxpayer to an additional $6 billion in debt for public housing is a more effective use of taxpayers’ funds than providing support to boost construction for private housing—which represents 97 per cent of residential construction?


Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I guess there are a few things that you can take from that question. The first thing you can take is that the $3 billion cut by the previous Howard government from social housing is their continuing policy. The fact is that, if funding had continued on the trajectory that it had been on under the previous Labor government, we would have 90,000 extra public housing homes in this country today. We have got 100,000 homeless Australians on any given night. If we had continued on the previous trajectory, there would have been 90,000 extra public housing dwellings. We will put that to one side! That does not matter!

The honourable member has asked why we would not spend extra money on building private housing. He may have missed the fact that we have set aside $623 million for a National Rental Affordability Scheme. He may have missed the fact that we have set aside $1½ billion for a first home owner boost—increasing the first home owners grant to $14,000 for existing properties and $21,000 for newly built properties. And what do people in the development and construction sectors tell me? They tell me that they are relying on these first home buyers—who are walking in off the street with the confidence to buy, for the first time in many years, because interest rates are low and the first home owner boost is giving them confidence—to keep themselves working.


Mr Morrison —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point of order is on relevance. My question was: why is it better to spend it on public rather than on private housing? Why is it better spent there?


Ms PLIBERSEK —I will conclude by saying it is ironic in the extreme that a party that ignored housing policy for over a decade, and that presided over a growth in our homeless population at a time of economic prosperity, should raise this issue in this way.