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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12130

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (09:58): In early September I ventured out in the early hours of a Saturday morning to Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Primary School in Gladesville. The school's Winter Sleepout had taken place the night before and the students were getting up to bacon and eggs cooked by their caring volunteer mums and dads. It was a great opportunity to talk to some bright and energetic young people, despite their little sleep, about the Winter Sleepout, which raises money for the St Vincent de Paul homelessness response service, Night Patrol, and also raises awareness about homelessness by encouraging students to reflect on the challenging situations homeless people endure. During the evening they spent time in the schoolyard on cardboard sheets to experience what it may be like to try to sleep out without blankets or a roof overhead. The empathy and kindness of students' responses to the experience was heart-warming.

During my time as Chair of the Standing Committee on Economics, I ensured the housing inquiry acknowledged homelessness as a challenge to Australian society that requires action. It was therefore uplifting to see our youngest generation also caring about such a poignant issue by demonstrating an awareness of their good fortune and those less fortunate. The students stressed the need for practical action to prevent homelessness and to take better care of those who then remain homeless—a point with which I am in full agreement. The Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into home ownership is looking at all factors impacting on the opportunity for home ownership, and has received submissions from those representing those most in need. These hearings actively support opportunities for reform, with all options on the table.

What has become abundantly clear is that record low interest rates have advantaged property developers and investors over those seeking to live in their own home. In particular, this impacts first homebuyers and those at the lower end of the market. The investor's ability to now fund their properties entirely by the rents they receive, as opposed to when interest rates were much higher than rental returns, has taken away any limit to the size of their property portfolio. This has led housing to become a highly speculative marketplace, thereby putting access to homeownership beyond the reach of most.

This highly volatile situation needs a remedy. Government policy must promote a goal of optimal levels of homeownership and a requirement for investors and property developers to provide affordable rental accommodation for those most in need, such as those assisted by the School Winter Sleep-out. I thank the parents, teachers and students of Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School for their important initiative.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Price ): If no member present objects, three-minute constituency statements may continue for a total of 60 minutes.