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Friday, 12 June 2020
Page: 4149


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (15:42): What an opportunity this afternoon is to strip away a lot of the politics and go to the heart of one of the most important sectors in Australia's economy, the construction and building sector! Many of us agreed that, when it came to shedding jobs in the second half of the year, probably the most important sector we had to look at that wasn't easily addressed with some of the other nationwide payments was building and construction. So today I just want to unpick a little exactly what this scheme is all about and, secondly, try and decipher precisely why Labor are animating themselves at the end of a working week to try and pull apart this job-making scheme, which focuses on a sector that most critically needs it—the valley of death, as the Master Builders have referred to.

First of all, let's just remember this is fundamentally a new-home-buying scheme, not overly dissimilar to schemes that the Labor Party have not only proposed and supported but actually initiated. Overwhelmingly—in about 75 per cent of the cases—it will be new homes being built. I will explain to the Labor Party—whose speeches, straight from the opposition leader's office, have been eloquently read in this chamber but are not responding to the particular question—that this is about additional housing stock. Think about this: additional housing stock.

When you've only done five minutes of economics, you often don't understand that where a subsidy is paid is not always where it lands. There is something we call subsidy incidence, the opposite of tax incidence. What it means is: if the government pays a certain amount of money, where does it end up? It doesn't end up with wealthy people, because they are deliberately excluded from the scheme, and it doesn't necessarily end up with the person one pays the subsidy to, because they immediately pay that subsidy to a building company who employ people. But the problem here is that those people are probably not union members, and that's the fundamental heart of the Labor objection to this scheme, because they are obsessed with large commercial construction, where they have union membership at stake. They have almost no union membership in small housing construction, and this is a very bad thing for the Labor Party.

This is what is at the heart of this. What are we trying to fix here? We saw gouged out of Australia's economy the construction of housing and the confidence to move into housing projects. I speak as someone who's been involved in a property subdivision and understands just how complicated these schemes are. While they were on ice—

Mr Dick interjecting

Mr LAMING: It's not an illegal activity, I might remind the member for Oxley. These people deliver housing for the people who need it most.

I want to say this: let's remember that, for every bit of housing delivered in this nation, you add to the housing stock. Whether you pay it to a first-home builder, a person who builds a new rebuild or someone who engages in a major renovation, you free up another dwelling to be rented back into the market, bringing down rental prices and improving the prospects of those who need social housing—those who receive the $4.5 billion in rent assistance. You simply need more stock, and that's why you don't support renovations of kitchens and bathrooms with the scheme. It's not, as Labor will put to you, because you don't like the people that build bathrooms and kitchens; it's because it doesn't add to the housing stock one iota. It doesn't improve the situation for renters. It doesn't help social housing. And the overwhelming majority of those who need government assistance to secure housing receive rent assistance. For every new home we build, there's one more home, left behind by the person who applied for the scheme and moved into the new house, that's available for renters—something that's completely beyond the Labor Party. I appreciate that, when there's no union membership involved, suddenly the scheme isn't legitimate, but it's almost identical to the scheme the Labor Party brought out during the GFC. We've simply broadened the scheme from a new-build scheme to a new-build/rebuild scheme. There will be about 7,000 examples—let's say 40 per electorate. If there's a major rebuild that adds to the housing stock, as defined by the ATO, so be it.

As for the last argument from Labor about the lazy $150,000 lying around, that's not how you buy a house. You talk to a lender when you buy a house. This is not designed for people with money lying around that's 'lazy', as they so disappointingly describe it. One goes to a lender and asks if one can build a home or substantially rebuild a home. That is now a definition that's understood. Every tradie who sided with Labor now understands that and has sided with the government. Every job created is important in this sector. We value this sector. We understand them. We're not about eking out union memberships from them. And for every house that's built under this scheme—and we anticipate up to 20,000, possibly more—that's new rental stock left behind by those who move into the newly constructed homes.