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Wednesday, 13 September 2023
Page: 83

Mr STEVENS (Sturt) (16:27): I join my colleagues in articulating the need for these Senate amendments to the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 not to be accepted. I start by congratulating the Greens—the member for Brisbane is in here. This is one of the great humiliations of the government that I've seen in this parliamentary term. Well done to the Greens for meting out such a spectacular humiliation upon the government, who now, as media reports indicate, have spent $3 billion to purchase the Greens party's support for this lemon of a policy in the Senate.

The government's whole point of having this policy was to look like they were doing something about housing, off balance sheet. They conjured up and concocted this policy position, which had absolutely no cost, for the purposes of an election campaign policy, so they could say, 'We've got a policy,' without actually putting any money behind it. The position that they now find themselves in is that this policy to cost them no money has now cost them $3 billion, through compromise to the Greens. So, in effect, they're spending $3 billion of actual money, because of the Greens, in exchange for the Greens supporting their policy that probably involves no money whatsoever.

What a spectacular success for the Greens, and I wish them all the very best in making that point in their electorates, and the ones that they're hunting from the government, when they point out that the only people that have put any actual money into housing, through this whole process that we've gone through, are the Greens. The government, who effectively had a policy to spend nothing at all, because of the Greens are now spending $3 billion worth of actual money to get support for this lemon of a policy, which, as previously speakers have pointed out, is likely to spend no money whatsoever on social housing. The $10 billion future fund, thanks to the $3 billion that the Greens have negotiated in exchange for their support, will see $3 billion spent on social housing, maybe. But it is nothing to do with the policy that is being brought before us, which was purchased for $3 billion from the Greens.

As the shadow minister points out, the principle of this policy is borrowing $10 billion at a cost of about half a billion dollars a year, hoping to make more than half a billion dollars by investing it, and whatever that gap is will be the actual amount of money that is spent in that year on social housing and on these housing initiatives. There's no real money whatsoever except the $3 billion the Greens have been able to bludgeon out of the government in exchange for supporting the bill. Potentially, in fact, the fund could lose money. If it doesn't make at least half a billion dollars a year from investing the $10 billion, the fund goes backwards. That means the government might be spending more than $3 billion when they put this whole policy process together, but it will not all be spent on social housing. There will be $3 million for housing thanks to the deal they have done with the Greens, and then whatever the loss that this fund makes. This loss could be who knows how much, hundreds of millions of dollars perhaps, and that will go to the people that successfully bet against the government in whatever investment framework or the return to the people who get the fees from managing the funds.

What a joke of a situation we have here. The government wanted to have a policy to take to the last election without it costing them anything, so we now have a situation where it has been put to this House that we accept this amended bill, which sees a separate deal for its support in the Senate putting extra money into social housing via successful negotiations with the Greens and the successful humiliation of the government by the Greens. They did the deal so that they could salvage a policy that was never going to be passed. If the policy goes through, we'll probably have a situation where the government loses money. When you net all this out, you have this money-go-round of borrowing $10 billion, paying interest, paying fund managers, hoping to make more than that on the market, and when you do not it costs you money, so this policy puts nothing into housing. It will probably lose money when they meet all the costs of borrowing and managing the fund versus how much they do make to cover the investment out there in the investment world where they deploy these funds.

Congratulations to the Greens because you have had a fantastic success. You have humiliated the government to salvage a political outcome, and it has cost the government $3 billion. It's an absolute humiliation, but this House should not be supporting this amended bill because it is the most fraudulent policy. Give the Greens their $3 billion, but don't create the fund that will cost more money still.