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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3485

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women. Will the minister inform the House about the impact of the government’s investment in the construction of new social housing?

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I want to thank the member for Canberra, who is a phenomenally well-respected and well-connected local member. The government took early and decisive action to respond to the global financial crisis and to support jobs in the Australian economy. Housing and construction, of course, are major employers, accounting for almost one million jobs around the country. That is why they featured so strongly in both the first and the second stimulus packages. In the first stimulus package, we had the phenomenally successful first home owner boost, which was very opportunistically initially bagged by the opposition and then supported by the opposition. First it was not going to make a difference and then it was not big enough. In the second stimulus package, we committed to $6.4 billion of new spending in social housing. Of that, $400 million has been set aside for repairs and maintenance of public and community housing right across Australia. With that money we will repair around 47,000 homes around the country, with around 10,000 of those homes having major repairs done. Those 10,000 homes have or would have become uninhabitable without this work. At last count we had completed work on over 1,000 dwellings—that is, 1,336 dwellings have had repairs completed.

I am also very pleased to announce that in the first stage of new building, where we have set aside $692 million, work has begun on 159 homes, with many more projects due to start in May. That means—and I have seen with my own eyes—slabs laid, brickwork started, plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, builders and carpenters onsite and cement laying. This work is happening right around Australia, as we speak.

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit the first home in Canberra to have had a complete renovation, in Narrabundah, in the member’s own seat. This 52-year-old house was vacant and in very poor condition. Without the funding to refurbish this house, it would have been lost to public housing stock. The work on the house was completed in just 16 days by a local company that employed 19 tradespeople onsite to do the work. The renovation included a kitchen refurbishment, a bathroom refurbishment, a laundry refurbishment, internal and external painting, floor coverings and general repairs. The company had six full-time employees and is planning to put on four more full-time employees because of the work that they are doing through this nation-building economic stimulus package. They are also employing another new apprentice. They are putting a new apprentice on because of the extra work that they are getting through the social housing spending. That is a great jobs outcome for Canberra.

It is also a great social outcome because the man moving into this house was formerly homeless. He had been living rough on the streets. By moving into this modest home he has got a small second bedroom and he can actually have his kids come and stay with him. He has been separated from his kids for a long time because he has been living rough on the streets. Now he is able to re-establish that connection with his family. So we have got the great jobs outcome and the great social outcome. Nearly 70 per cent of the nation-building economic stimulus plan is in infrastructure and those construction projects are now underway. In the social housing area that means jobs for tradies and apprentices. It means jobs for plumbers and electricians and carpenters and bricklayers. It also means great social outcomes.