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Thursday, 14 September 2023
Page: 24

Mr STEVENS (Sturt) (11:19): In my adult life the orthodoxy of election campaigns has been for the major parties, in particular, to put forward their spending priorities and talk to the Australian people about the policies and plans that they have and that they'll implement if elected, which is why it is particularly curious that we're confronted here with a policy position that the government took to the last election that involved actually committing no money whatsoever towards it.

We can understand and reflect on the sorts of meetings and discussions that would have happened between the government and the Greens when the government first sat down with the Greens and said, 'We want to get your support to pass this legislation through the parliament to establish this Housing Australia Future Fund.' I suspect that the first question from the Greens logically would have been, 'How much money will we be spending on housing in exchange for supporting this policy?' No doubt the government then explained what this policy actually was. This policy had no money committed in the forward estimates. This policy involved the government not having to put anything in their costing document at an election. This policy, as it would have become evident to the Greens, was a way for the government to have a policy without having a policy, to have a policy to address housing that would miraculously cost them nothing whatsoever, that would require no sacrifice in their election costings document and that would not require them to increase taxes in any way or cut expenditure from anything else in the budget to make their numbers stack up.

I suspect that in some kind of campaign strategy meeting someone said, 'We don't have a policy for housing and we need one.' And someone else, I suspect, said: 'I've got a great idea of having a housing policy that won't cost us anything, and it'll sound really good because it'll be $10 billion. Imagine when we pick up the newspaper the day after we announce that and someone says, "Labor announces $10 billion commitment to housing." It's going to be fantastic because we're not actually putting any money in whatsoever, but we'll be able to trick and hoodwink some people into thinking that we've got a $10 billion housing policy.' When this was all put to the Greens, I suspect they were a bit onto the fraud of this concept and said, 'We're not voting for a policy that will achieve nothing whatsoever when it comes to housing.'

I've got a lot of issues with the Greens, but, to be fair, I think in this one they've shown a great deal of integrity in calling out the scam, the lemon of a policy that this is, and demanding that, to vote for this fraud that will deliver nothing, they want actual money spent on housing. As I've said before, I congratulate them on being a party that actually got some money spent on housing through this charade that we're going through of debating this bill. There is evidently $3 billion being spent as part of a deal to get the Greens to vote for a policy that they weren't going to vote for without this $3 billion, because they would have been voting for a policy to spend nothing on housing whatsoever, and they've exposed that through this whole thing.

This is a political fix. The government's had to spend $3 billion of actual money to get support for a policy to spend nothing on housing whatsoever. I suppose the outcome's there, but it is a very curious and unorthodox way—which I've never seen in my time in this parliament—of achieving actual expenditure in an area of public policy: the now government having an election policy to spend nothing; trying to get the policy of spending nothing on the topic through the parliament; and, in exchange for getting support to spend nothing on something, actually spending money on it as part of a negotiation with a minor party in the Senate. I wonder what this holds for other government decisions into the future—we're going to find out—because the model's very clear now: for dud government policy, it costs around three billion bucks per bill to be passed through the Senate by the Greens. This is going to get very expensive.

The Greens may well continue to get mega spend on their pet projects in exchange for supporting other government legislation. That's how our democracy works, and I wish them well with that quest. But it is a completely ridiculous situation we've got, where we're being asked to support a bill to spend nothing on housing in exchange for a deal with the Greens to spend $3 billion on it. (Time expired)