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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 36

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (4:37 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and the Minister for the Status of Women. How will the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan help the housing market support jobs in the housing sector and provide affordable housing for low-income Australians?

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I want to thank the member for Dobell. I know that the construction industry is a very significant employer in his part of the Central Coast. Not only are the tradies up there servicing the Central Coast area but many of them travel to Sydney and further afield to work in the building and construction area. The Nation Building and Jobs Plan includes $6.4 billion for social housing. This is a very significant investment that will help many Australians—homeless Australians, age pensioners, disability support pensioners and women and children escaping domestic violence. This plan builds on our previous housing measures—the first home owner boost, the National Rental Affordability Scheme and others—and will see more than 20,000 new homes built between now and 2012, the majority of them built before the end of 2010. Those homes will be built with $6 billion from this package, and a further $400 million will be spent on urgent repairs and maintenance, bringing forward 2½ thousand homes and making them habitable again.

We are also aware that this extra spending will be very important for small businesses right around the country—those small businesses in the building and construction sector that will be doing these repairs, maintenance and building. It will make a huge difference to the lives of many Australians, like the 28,000 pensioners who are in the private rental market paying more than 50 per cent of their pensions on their rent each week, like the 16,000 Australians who are sleeping rough every night and like the thousands of women and children leaving homes where there is domestic violence. This package helps us meet our targets on homelessness. It helps us assist the most poor and disadvantaged Australians. It contributes to the growth and reform of the social housing sector in this country and it supports jobs in construction and maintenance. It has been very well received by the housing industry and by people working with homeless Australians. National Shelter has said:

This is the biggest postwar public housing investment this country has seen and is one the Rudd government should be proud of. After 10 years of reduced funding from the Howard government this is an unbelievable result for the people doing it toughest in this country.

The HIA says:

By unlocking a number of residential projects in the pipeline there will be a substantial multiplier gain to housing starts and jobs.

The Government’s recovery plan appropriately spends for jobs in the short-term and invests for future prosperity.

Because the backlog of residential building projects is spread geographically, the stimulus will generate jobs in cities and towns across the country …

The Nationals might remember: this will include jobs in the country. The Master Builders Association says:

Boosting the building industry is a proven formula for reviving economies and stimulating jobs growth.

The Property Council of Australia, who are very enthusiastic, say:

The development industry has the capacity to turn this much-needed injection from the government into bricks and mortar very quickly. This will not only increase supply of public and community housing, but will also keep the industry going, maintaining employment in the sector and ensuring that apprentices are retained and skills are not lost.

Anglicare, Catholic Social Services, the Salvation Army and Uniting Care Australia have put out a joint press release welcoming this, saying it:

… will make a real difference on the ground for Australians struggling to meet their accommodation needs.

The Salvation Army; Homelessness Australia—the endorsements go on, because this package meets a number of needs. It meets the needs of homeless Australians and people struggling to put a roof over their heads, and it meets our needs to keep a strong construction sector in this country.