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Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Page: 8765

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (15:13): I rise to take note of answers given in question time today, in particular the answers to the questions that I asked Minister Cormann about the impact of the GST on the price of housing. The questions originate from the housing affordability crisis that is underway across our country. In the last two days, two different reports have been released. One, by Moody's, clearly shows that households, particularly in major capital cities, are having to spend more and more of their weekly income on mortgage repayments. The other, by National Shelter, shows the pressure that is on rental accommodation for people. It shows that more people are renting than ever before and that more of those people are experiencing housing stress.

The questions that I put to the minister were not about any particular proposal that they have but about whether the comments from the Housing Industry Association about how a GST would impact on the price of housing were correct. The minister did not answer any of the questions I asked, instead obfuscating around the debate that the Liberal Party has started—let's not pretend anything else—on this campaign around the GST and softening people up for a GST increase, which was started by the Prime Minister last month, in late October, when he agreed that a GST increase is on the table and is being considered by government. That is well-documented fact. Since then we have had other Liberals enter into the fray. We had the previous Prime Minister expressing his views, and we have also had contributions from Senator Bernardi and from others like Angus Taylor and Senator Canavan, who have all entered the debate with their own views about whether or not the GST should be increased and whether or not that is a good idea and how that should all be used. We have had people deciding that the GST could be used for funding the health and education cuts that have been imposed—the $80 billion that is still on the table for states and territories' health and education budgets.

So it is no surprise we have premiers worried about where the money is going to come from when they are facing running hospitals and schools without the level of Commonwealth funding that they were expecting, to the total of $80 billion over 10 years. We have other contributors from the Liberal Party saying that the GST will help deal with debt. We have others saying that it will pay compensation for those who cannot afford the GST. We have others saying that there cannot be any greater tax burden from this proposal. So let us not pretend there is no proposal being talked about by the government. You have a lot of people talking about the GST—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator GALLAGHER: Not in any detail, I agree, and sometimes at cross-purposes. So it is no wonder that the Labor Party is trying to get some understanding of exactly what the government is considering, and is asking sensible questions about how that will impact on everyday households. We can see in the area of housing, an area I am responsible for, that major industry groups are coming and adding their comments, ahead of firm commitments from the government, about their concerns about what a GST would do should it be added to the price of housing, and it is very clear. My question was: is the quote correct that it will it increase the price of housing by about $60,000? The data is very clear that it absolutely would. Depending on what capital city you live in, there would be significant costs from raising the GST from 10 to 15 per cent.

At a time when people are already struggling to meet the needs of their mortgages and more people are renting and more of those renting are in housing stress and more of those are in severe housing stress and pressure is on homelessness services that have had their funding cut by this government, that is not a very coherent policy position for the government to be in. We do not have a housing minister. We do not have a housing policy. As far as I can find, in the last couple of years none of the senior members of the Liberal Party has expressed a view on housing. We have an affordability crisis that seems to be growing and absolutely no interest from the government, other than a willingness to look at increasing the GST on the price of housing. I will argue that those things do not add up. If you want to address housing affordability you cannot look to the GST as being the solution to that problem. It will escalate the challenges already being faced by everyday Australians, and it should not be part of any consideration by this government. (Time expired)