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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2482

Mr SUKKAR (DeakinAssistant Minister to the Treasurer) (13:17): Firstly, can I thank all the members who have taken the time to contribute to this debate. As has been said, the Treasury Laws Amendment (National Housing and Homelessness Agreement) Bill 2017 reforms housing related payments to the states and territories, setting up a framework for payments upon meeting conditions and supporting implementation of one of the measures announced in the government's 2017-18 budget housing affordability package. This is part of the government's commitment to improve access to secure and affordable housing.

We know that housing affordability is an issue affecting many Australians. Access to secure housing is a driver of social and economic participation and promotes better employment, education and health outcomes. It's clear though that more must be done to reduce and prevent homelessness, reduce the number of low-income or disadvantaged households experiencing rental stress and improve the availability of safe and affordable housing for all Australians. This is why improving housing affordability across the housing spectrum must be a key policy goal for governments at all levels. The Commonwealth and state and territory governments must therefore work together to reduce pressure on housing affordability and to assist Australians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Sadly the current approach under the National Affordable Housing Agreement is not delivering and has not delivered the outcomes desired. Current arrangements lack transparency and, most importantly, accountability. The 2016 COAG performance report indicated that three out of the four benchmarks under the NAHA have not been or are unlikely to be met. This is notwithstanding the Commonwealth government having provided the states and territories with over $9 billion in additional housing related payments since 2009. This is why the government's negotiating a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with each of the states and territories. The key difference from the status quo is that the bill provides a mechanism for the Commonwealth to require the states to meet certain conditions before payments are made. These include making public the housing and homelessness strategy of the state, matching Commonwealth funding on homelessness, and committing to improved data and transparency. This approach will secure improved outcomes, but in a way that's achievable for the states without jeopardising the funding of core social housing and homelessness services.

Currently, the only requirement for the majority of Commonwealth funding for housing and homelessness services is that it be spent on the sector and only the additional funding in the NPAH is tied to achievement of some outcomes. The new approach, in contrast, is intended to provide greater transparency and accountability in relation to Commonwealth funding provided to the states and territories for housing and homelessness. But, more importantly, it will deliver better housing outcomes for all Australians, particularly those in need.

The Commonwealth believes that all levels of government have a shared responsibility for housing and homelessness and that no one level of government is able to solve all of the issues we collectively face in the housing and homelessness space. The government is working with the states and territories to agree on objectives and outcomes that we'll jointly aspire to achieve under the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. It's important to note that, whilst these changes are about better outcomes for all Australians, the government has for the first time committed to ongoing and annually indexed homelessness funding. This will provide greater certainty to the states and frontline service providers dealing with homelessness issues.

In summary, this bill will facilitate a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with the states and territories that will include specific requirements to improve transparency and accountability and to improve housing outcomes across the housing spectrum, especially of course for those most in need. This is part of the government's broader comprehensive housing affordability plan and will improve the standards of living for all Australians. I, therefore, commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.