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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2900


Mr BROAD (Mallee) (12:07): I rise to talk to the Australian parliament about what I think is a very important issue for everyday Australians—that is, the dream of owning your own home. We live very busy lives as members of parliament, but sometimes we have a little down time. Recently, I had a nice weekend to myself—at least I thought I had a weekend to myself—and my wife said, 'I've got a list of jobs for you, Sunshine.' So I spent the weekend working away doing improvements to our family home. Some of those improvements were painting and there is something about painting that gives you time to reflect and I thought about the dream on home ownership. I thought that if I was renting this would I look after this property as much as if I owned it. I had to be honest with myself and say there is something about a property that you own and you look after it better.

The great Australian dream, the dream of having a place that is yours, a place that you have worked hard for, a place where you can raise a family, should be a dream that is attainable. That dream is becoming increasingly unattainable for young Australians. Our government is exploring lots of ways to make that dream more attainable. Some of those ways are in the public domain for discussion at the moment, including around whether superannuation should be realised as a deposit. Those options are there for discussion. I am not saying that they should be accepted, but at least we are putting forward ideas. But I do not think it is fair that if a young person or a couple want to acquire their first home, they should not have to compete on the global market with institutional investors from all over the world. That only makes the property more expensive and sometimes out of reach. For that reason, I was very pleased that the Standing Committee on Economics has handed down a report into foreign investment in residential real estate. This is something that I think has been asked for by the Australian population and it is something that I think has been welcomed. I am very pleased to hear that our government is now going to release a discussion paper looking into how we can address this problem.

The Foreign Investment Review Board has some rather stringent rules around homeownership. If you are a noncitizen and you want to purchase a house in a town, you are not allowed to—you need to seek approval, and there is quite a rigorous process to go through. Whilst stringent, I do not believe those laws have been policed or monitored very closely. In the past seven years there have been no prosecutions; there have been no forced sales or realisation of a property where someone has broken those laws. That is a contrast to the situation with agricultural land. Whilst you could not buy a house in a town, you could purchase $244 million worth of agricultural land and not need any approval. That was a gaping hole that our government needed to address, and I am pleased to note that our government has addressed that and that the threshold for agricultural land has been lowered to $15 million.

The government wants to resource the Foreign Investment Review Board thoroughly so that it can ensure that the law is upheld. The law is that, if a business is producing a set of new units, they have to advertise new units to Australian consumers, as potential purchasers, not just offer them off the plan to offshore institutional investors. This matter was raised with me the other day when I was in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. We were driving along and somebody said, 'See that block of units—they were built and sold before any locals even had a chance to put in an offer.' That is in a suburb in Melbourne where housing prices are perhaps the biggest issue. The Foreign Investment Review Board will now have to be well resourced. A purchaser will have to contribute a fairly sizeable amount of money—some would say it should be more, and some would say it should be less—to resource the Foreign Investment Review Board to ensure that our laws are upheld.

Young Australians should have the right to have a dream, to own a home. I have recently been reading a book about Sir Henry Bolte, who was Premier of Victoria for 17 years. He said that, as a member of parliament, he always looked through the paradigm of two key policies: try to make sure people can attain and keep a job; and try to maintain a policy where people can buy a house. And everything else falls behind that. It is rather interesting that someone who was Premier of Victoria for 17 years narrowed it down to a rather simple narrative.

Sometimes I think we complicate things. We get caught up in the great philosophical arguments of the parliament. But, at the end of the day, people want to be able to provide for their family and put a roof over their heads. What we are trying to do is create a good working environment, where people can have a job—that is what our government is committed to—and to create a framework where, when a young couple or a young man or a young woman want to buy house, they can see that house ownership is affordable and attainable. That is what we are on about and that is what we are here to do. That is what a responsible government does. Ultimately, a government that maintains the key principle of making sure that people can provide for their family through a job and put a roof over their head is a government that people will vote for again, because those are the two key fundamentals of a strong and robust society.

This is a good report. It is addressing some of the issues. We are making the tough decisions. We want to make sure that our young Australians can buy a house and not have to compete with institutional investors from across the world. Making housing more affordable is one of the key aims of this government.