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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10375

Housing Affordability

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Housing. What is the government doing to increase the affordability of housing? In addition to striving to keep interest rates low, shouldn't there be a national housing plan under which the release of land is streamlined to meet the demand for land rather than the current system, which by its very nature restricts land releases and therefore pushes prices up? Aren't the sizes of mortgages as important as interest rates? Further, should the national housing plan incorporate a plan for the associated infrastructure needs of land releases, such as hospitals, roads, water supply and public transport?

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business) (14:29): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in housing. This is a very important area of public policy, and it is for that reason that recently, at the ministerial council that was held in Perth, I had discussions with my counterparts at the state and territory level to talk about what we need to do to ensure that we have sufficient housing stock in this country and to ensure that we have sufficient capability to allow people either to find housing for affordable rent or to make affordable purchases of homes. There is no doubt that, in the time that we have been in office, we have invested, as a federal government, more money in housing than any other government at the Commonwealth level. We created the National Affordable Housing Agreement with the states and territories to ensure that we provided opportunities for people who were looking to enter the housing market. We also invested $20 billion in housing. As I said yesterday, as a result of that investment, we have been contributing to one in every 20 homes built in this country since 2008.

But the member points to some other areas of public policy that are also very important. It is for that reason that we need to make sure that, in discussion with states and territories, we find sufficient land available to enable us to continue to invest in housing stock. My conversations with ministers at the state and territory level have involved us looking at ways we can unlock land to increase housing stock to ensure that people in Sydney, in New South Wales generally and in other states in this country are able to find the homes that they deserve. Most Australians believe that it is only reasonable that their aspiration involves finding a place they can call home. We have to do everything we possibly can to do that. I say to the honourable member, in relation to some of the reforms he is proposing, that they are on the table at the ministerial council on housing and homelessness. I am engaging with those ministers. There are also discussions that will occur in other ministerial councils in relation to planning, because there is no doubt there has been insufficient planning in relation to housing at the state level and we need to therefore consider doing more.

Further discussions will be held in November with my counterparts at the state and territory level to talk about those reforms. COAG is looking at driving some of these reforms as well. If the states and territories are fair dinkum about providing opportunities for people to purchase homes, whether it is in the honourable member's electorate or any other part of this country, they need to bring to the table reforms that are needed, whether it is looking at ways in which people can enter the market for the first time or whether it is about ensuring we have sufficient affordability. I will continue to look at that and I am happy to talk to the member about that issue. (Time expired)