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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 493


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:11): I also rise to speak on this motion to take note of answers on housing affordability and to express some incredulity at the absolute lack of preparedness in terms of any policy position from the Leader of the Government in the Senate this afternoon. When asked a question by Senator Singh about the government report that has been 20 months in the making, his response was absolutely missing any policy response at all. Senator Brandis in fact said, in his response to that question, that he was not going to embark on any policy, and that is clearly what this government has decided to do—not to do anything at all about the shame of inequitable access to housing for Australians.

The Turnbull government has indeed sat on its hands as this housing affordability crisis has gotten worse and worse. And we can see why it is getting worse—the failure of policy response that we saw in the answers given today. This government has not appointed a federal minister for housing and homelessness. There is no national housing affordability plan being implemented anywhere. The government continues to ignore the advice of independent economists, international economic agencies and think tanks who argue that Australia's housing affordability crisis needs more than blaming the states for a lack of housing supply. And that is all we heard today: the reiteration of that—it is the states' fault, it is the states' responsibility; they are the ones who should release the land; it is simple supply and demand. And we heard it reiterated in the comments by Senator Hume. It is no plan for no Australian and it has nothing to do with a future that we need to see, no vision for Australians to actually get housing.

This week the government's complete lack of leadership and lack of vision were evident when it came to housing affordability. The House of Representatives Economics Committee, after spending 20 months and being given 65 submissions and hearing 68 witnesses, handed down its housing affordability report. The government members have recommended not one change—zero recommendations—to their housing affordability inquiry. That is a waste of an entire committee, a complete waste of taxpayers' money, and it is symptomatic of this government's absolute lack of leadership, lack of policy and lack of any ideas about solving this crisis that is part of the world in which we Labor senators, at least, live.

Mr Harbourside Mansion: his policy is that your mum and dad should kick in and buy you your first home. A complete lack of leadership that is obvious from this lack of policy from the government when it comes to housing affordability mirrors their approach to economic policy. It is a failure.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator O'NEILL: I can see that this whole debate is absolutely getting under the skin of the Attorney-General—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill, could you resume your seat.

Senator Bilyk: Madam Deputy President, I think there was a very nasty reflection on the Leader of the Opposition by Senator Brandis, and I would ask that you ask him to withdraw.

Senator Brandis: I did not reflect on the Leader of the Opposition.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I remind senators that there is a standard of parliamentary debate in the Senate, and all of us should be mindful of that when we speak.

Senator Bilyk: It must be upsetting them.

Senator O'NEILL: I agree with Senator Bilyk's interjection there. I think it would be very instructive to review any comments that have been noted by Hansard, because I believe that I heard a very insulting remark. I was about to make the comment that clearly Senator Brandis is very unhappy about having to debate this important policy position. We know that the Liberal Party are vastly out of touch with what is going on for ordinary Australians who cannot get into the housing market and cannot secure a home by the way in which they simply dismiss the problem. What we have heard is the confusion: 'If we do anything, prices will go up. If we do anything, prices will go down.' They do not know how to react to the problem.

In addition to that, they say to young people who are looking to get a home or people who are trying to get into the market at any age: 'Just move. Go and find a life somewhere else. Leave your job, leave your family, leave your supports, leave your doctor, leave your health care, leave it all behind. Just go and find somewhere you can afford. Go to where you belong, away from the cities, away from the entire east coast where this problem is absolutely abundant.' A Productivity Commission report has revealed the full extent of the Turnbull government's cuts to funding for affordable housing. The Productivity Commission confirms that there is $400 million less being invested in the National Affordable Housing Agreement than in 2011-12. So in addition to ignoring the problems, spending 20 months coming up with a report with no recommendations and failing to answer a single question today, they have taken $400 million away from what needs to happen for investment in affordable housing. This is a government that is failing every Australian with regard to housing policy in every state and in every possible way. (Time expired)