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Monday, 24 November 2008
Page: 8

Senator XENOPHON (12:48 PM) —The incorporated speech read as follows—

I will be supporting both the National Rental Affordability Scheme Bill 2008 and National Rental Affordability Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008.

These bills aim to stimulate private investment in the low to medium income rental market. They are intended to help people on lower incomes, or in the early stages of their professional careers, to afford rental accommodation and possibly make the transition to future home ownership.

More specifically, these bills will enable entities participating in the Scheme to claim a refundable tax offset in their annual tax return, or through lodgement of an application by not-for-profit entities. Importantly, the bill has the support of the states and ensures state and territory contributions, either through cash or in-kind.

I am conscious that these bills have been the subject of a Community Affairs Committee report and do not wish to replicate in detail the contributions contained therein. However, I do wish to put on record a number of matters that I believe must be addressed for the viability and affordability of housing development in the future.

Whilst I welcome what is proposed in these measures, the magnitude of the problem must not be underestimated. According to Demographia, a demographic research organisation, Australian urban markets have one of the worst levels of housing affordability compared with nations such as the UK, the US, Canada and Ireland.

A January 2008 survey found that Australian’s pay on average 6.3 times household annual earnings. In contrast, the UK’s average is 5.5 times, Ireland is 4.7 times, the US is 3.6 times and Canada just 3.1.

Acting Deputy President, I believe one of the keys to creating more affordable housing in this country will have to be a wholesale revamping of planning laws.

It is getting too hard, too complex and too costly to build affordable housing in Australia.

A key to affordable housing is to tackle the myriad of red tape and myopic restrictions dealing with planning laws. These restrictions delay much needed projects, creating a shortage of housing which is driving prices up. The Commonwealth can play a key role in dragging local and state governments into the 21st Century on this issue.

And we’re not just facing a shortage of dwellings.

I believe there is also a shortage of vision.

In Paris, in New York, in many of the world’s great cities, families live in the city.

City buildings aren’t just workplaces, they’re also living spaces and planning laws accommodate this.

In my home town of Adelaide at the end of World War II, about 46,000 people lived in the city area that was known as the ‘square mile’.

Life was good.

These families made great use of the parklands all around the CBD, and none of them contributed to urban sprawl.

Fast forward six decades and the number of people living in the City of Adelaide has more than halved to around 22,000 people.

Earlier this year I spoke to the Mayor of Adelaide, Michael Harbison, about Adelaide City Council’s plans to increase the population in town back to WWII levels.

And whilst I endorse this initiative I also ask, why can’t we go further? Why not aim for 100,000 people living in the CBD?

Why does Adelaide have height restrictions on construction that keep buildings low and the cost of buildings high?

More has to be done, because right now we are failing homeowners and potential homeowners and the Great Australian Dream must not be allowed to become an unattainable pipe dream.

With these things in mind, I indicate my support for these two bills.

We are failing homeowners and potential homeowners and tragically the Great Australian Dream is becoming little more than an unattainable pipe dream.