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Transcript of doorstop interview: Canberra: 11 August 2010: [Housing affordability; Murray-Darling Basin; homelessness].

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Transcript: Tanya Plibersek Doorstop, Canberra

Andrew Leigh,Tanya Plibersek posted Wednesday, 11 August 2010

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thanks very much for that. It's a terrific pleasure to be here today with my colleague, the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, with our candidate for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, with my good friend, Senator Kate Lundy, making what is really a very important announcement for this local community.

I want to congratulate the ACT Land Development Agency and the ACT Government, especially the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, for getting these two very important projects off the ground. These two projects will share in almost $10 million of Commonwealth funding and will cut the price of nearly 1700 homes in Crace and Gungaderra West by between $15,000 and almost $24,000 per home.

The first project that we're announcing is $7.6 million to fund the early construction of a collector road and bus route, providing public transport services to the residents of this development in Crace. And those of you who are driving out here will understand how very important that public transport link will be in the future.

By funding this new infrastructure the Federal Government's helping to bring forward the supply of 1591 homes, including 248 affordable homes, by up to 14 months. And having that - those homes hit the ground earlier is important for local residents who are looking for a place to live. It's also important in terms of affordability outcomes.

We've also added a benefit - the cost of new homes for buyers here at Crace will have about a $15,000 savings on what they would otherwise have paid if they needed to pay for this infrastructure themselves.

The second project I'm announcing today is $2.16 million for roads and services at Gungaderra West, including pedestrian paving, drainage, gas reticulation, communications and soft landscaping. And that will save buyers of a hundred lots an average of $23,760 per lot.

The infrastructure funding will also facilitate the development of a further 75 homes that will be retained by Community Housing Canberra, as community housing stock. And it's great to see Community Housing Canberra here today as well.

Those two projects are very welcome news for Canberra home buyers. It means that more residential lots will be brought to the market more quickly and that those residential lots will include savings for home buyers. So we're not only speeding up the development of this housing, we're reducing the cost.

There's a third Housing Affordability Fund project here in the ACT as well. Just to remind people of that; under the first round of the program, the Federal Labor Government invested three and a half million dollars in infrastructure at Bonner, including a water main. That funding helped to fast track the release of 330 affordable house and land packages.

So with these three projects from the Housing Affordability Fund we've helped a significant number of Canberra home buyers save on their new homes. Also, in June this year, I announced that the ANU have been approved to deliver over a thousand new affordable rental homes in Canberra under the National Rental Affordability Scheme. The first of these thousand homes will be made available to tenants within the next few months, and other stages are expected to deliver units in January 2011 and January 2012 and June 2012.

About 80 per cent of those units will be studio apartments, with the remainder being a variety of different sized units. And that will be a big help for both students, but also other renters in Canberra, as pressure is taken off the rental market in Canberra with the inclusion of those new properties.

When it comes to the construction of stimulus properties, we are also funding the construction of nearly 380 new social housing dwellings in Canberra. And in mid-July nearly 350 of those had commenced construction and 55 had already been completed. And it's been terrific to be able to be with the Chief Minister and with my colleague, Kate Lundy and with Andrew Leigh, moving people into those new homes and meeting the tenants of those new properties. It's a wonderful thing to see those new homes being tenanted.

I also want to congratulate the ACT Government on all of the efforts they've made in the area of affordable housing and housing affordability. It really is such a critical thing to the ordinary residents of Canberra and the ACT to be able to rent or buy a house that they can afford to live in. And by working together through this scheme, the Housing Affordability Fund will deliver savings to new home buyers through the National Rental Affordability Scheme and our social housing stimulus; we deliver more affordable rental properties.

Both those homes to buy and rent are critical to the secure future of Canberra residents. So it's been terrific to work with you on these projects, Chief Minister, and congratulations on the two that we're announcing today. I think they'll make a great contribution to the lives of many Canberra residents. Thanks.

FACILITATOR: Thank you, Minister Plibersek. I note this is not Ms Plibersek's first visit to Crace either. October last year we had the pleasure of her opening the Crace project for us, and the display village and I think she was commenting earlier just how much progress has

been made in the last 10 months, with a lot of houses and people living here. So thank you for your involvement with us today.

Now it's my pleasure to introduce the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope. Please welcome him.

JON STANHOPE: Thank you very much, John. I'd like and I very much welcome this opportunity to respond to this particular initiative of the Commonwealth Government, as announced by the Minister, Tanya Plibersek, today.

I do acknowledge my friend and colleagues, Senator Kate Lundy and Andrew Leigh, ALP candidate for Fraser in the upcoming election, and other guests and, indeed, most particularly partners in this particular development that this project and proposal, CHC Community Housing. It's Chairman, Ross Barrett, who are here today, and our joint venture partner through the LDA in the Crace development, its colleagues and the Chief Executive of CIC, our joint venture partners here at Crace.

And I think first and foremost, Minister, I wish simply to say thank you and to thank the government, the Commonwealth Government, your government, for its understanding and commitment to affordable housing and the needs of Australian families, and to thank you for the willingness of your government to work in partnership with states and territories and with local governments in delivering housing and affordable housing to the people that we represent.

I'd like, before going to the details of today's announcement in relation to the Housing Affordability Fund, to again, to repeat and to reiterate what I believe has been underscored in community commentary in recent times in relation to the absolutely fundamental importance of an issue such as the Commonwealth Government's support for social housing through the stimulus package that was announced two years ago; not just in terms of the number of houses delivered, the raw statistics, the funding by the Commonwealth through the social housing stimulus part of its response to the GFC. In other words, the provision of 20,000 houses, social housing or public housing, for Australians over a period of two to three years.

Not just the raw statistics, around 20,000 additional Australian families being provided with affordable and appropriate housing, but the enormous effect and impact and importance of that funding in combating and dealing with the GFC, of the most significant economic or financial crisis that the world faced in over 70 years and the fact that we, in Australia, through all our communities, were able to survive the global financial crisis in a way that no other of the western or advanced economies were able to do.

I'm, at times, surprised at how quickly we appear to forget the crisis that we were facing two years ago. I'm surprised and perhaps at times, regretful of the fact that the enormous effort that our federal colleagues within the Federal Labor Government stood up, faced the issue, responded strongly, dealt with the global financial crisis, allowed communities such as ours

to maintain the level of economic activity that we require in order to support and sustain the jobs that are important to all of us.

And through the jobs and economic growth, the families that depend on governments to ensure that major crises, such as we faced through the global financial crisis here in Australia, were dealt with and overcome to the extent they were.

One aspect of that, and the aspect we're talking about today, was housing. Our Federal Government, our Federal Labor Government, in that simple decision, a large, big picture, visionary decision to deal with the global financial crisis while supporting the housing needs of Australians in one fell swoop has delivered 20,000 additional units of public housing. Here in the ACT as the Minister just said, 380, but we took the opportunity to leverage off the Commonwealth's funding in excess of $100 million for this community to provide an additional 120 houses. We are in the process of delivering an additional 500 units of public housing here in the ACT as a result of the Commonwealth stimulus support for social housing, a four per cent increase in a fell swoop to our public housing stock.

Never achieved here in the ACT at any stage in our development and the sort of increase in public housing stock never achieved anywhere in Australia, that I'm aware of probably in the lifetimes of any of us. That's the significance, the nation building, the significance to the community of what the Commonwealth did through the investment in social housing through the decisions it made to provide a stimulus. We should never forget that in the context of what this government has done, not just for housing, but in protecting our communities.

So thank you for the enormous contribution to social housing and to affordability here in the ACT through the social housing initiatives that we've been pursuing vigorously over the last couple of years. We're very pleased and proud of our record of delivering of achievement. We're currently constructing in excess of 350 of what ultimately will be 380 houses funded by the Commonwealth with the additional 120, which we have taken the opportunity through the leveraging capacity that the Commonwealth provided to provide an additional 500 in the community.

Similarly, the Minister, and I won't go to any great detail in relation to it, has also announced the joint announcement which she and I attended just recently at the Australian National University, to support or fund jointly an additional 1000, these are for a community such as ours here in the ACT, these are stunning numbers. A 1000 additional supported rental accommodation units here in the ACT, through accommodation to be delivered by the Australian National University.

And again, these are stunning investments by the Commonwealth in partnership with the ACT and community providers, institutional providers here in the territory. But to today's announcement, and the Minister has gone to the basis of funding, and the rationale is that the Commonwealth through the announcement today is supporting industry housing here in the ACT to the tune of $10 million in fast tracking or assisting in the fast tracking of the supply of service land. It's a supply side initiative. It's the area where governments

throughout Australia, of local, state and territory, have had stress in supporting the supply side aspects of housing shortage or affordability.

We see this as a direct response by the Commonwealth Government to an area of stress that the states and territories, including the ACT Government, have faced in relation to supply of service land and the provision once the land is identified and the basic roads are developed, the other critical infrastructures, such as water, sewerage, transport and open space.

The Minister has outlined the significant impact it will have on affordability here and I thank the Minister again for the Commonwealth Labor Government's commitment to housing affordability in all of its aspects. And it's only through this very broad ranging suite of initiatives across the board that the [indistinct] jurisdictions that communities will get on top of the issue of providing appropriate and affordable accommodation for all of our residents.

So thank you for being here and thank you again, Minister, for your enormous support.

ANDREW LEIGH: I just wanted to briefly say a couple of words to follow on to what the Minister and the Chief Minister have said today. I think today's announcement is the best of what government can do. What you've seen is a partnership between Federal Government, ACT Government and the private sector, working together to provide affordable homes for those who need them most.

I don't know about you but when I come into a place like this I can't help but imagine what's going to happen in a home like this. The parties that people will have, the fun they will have getting to know one and other. Affordable homes are often the first homes that people buy when they have a family. So you can imagine the children that will take their first steps on this floor.

They're the real realities of what happens when you make an affordable housing announcement work. So I'm very proud today to be part of this terrific initiative for all the many reasons that the Minister and the Chief Minister have outlined, thank you.

FACILITATOR: Thank you, Andrew, and thank you, Chief Minister, for your words. I think you only really have to look outside of the windows of this new home that we're all standing in to see what actually can be achieved when you've got the Commonwealth Government, the ACT Government, the private sector and government authorities like the Land Development Agency working together to achieve outcomes.

Community Housing Canberra is also part of our development as one of our minor partners in place but a very important component of it. But also across Canberra, Community Housing Canberra are doing a lot with the LDA and with other parts of the ACT Government.

And I think the one thing that hadn't been mentioned was the number of [indistinct] projects that CHC is also involved in. So I know they greatly appreciate the Commonwealth support on that. So we look forward to continuing to work over time with the Commonwealth Government with the private sector on joint ventures like Crace and projects like today's Housing Affordability Fund objectives.

This will not only help in terms of the individuals that move into these homes but the fact that we're actually able to bring forward in the order of 1500 dwellings across both Gungaderra West and also here at Crace that really helps address the broader demand and stops people, well stops the continued escalation in housing prices. That's a particularly pleasing element for the Land Development Agency.

So I'd like to thank everybody today and I know that Minister Plibersek is willing to take some questions and the Chief Minister also. Once the questions are over, there will be some refreshments for those who are able to stay. It's probably a warm cup of tea or coffee would be quite handy given how cold it is outside.

Thank you everyone for your participation today and for those of you who have to go to other meetings, I think the Minister and the Chief Minister will understand if you need to leave. But thank you for your participation today.

FACILITATOR: Now if any of you who actually don't need to be in here for these questions and want to sneak out now, now is a very good time to do that. Okay, making a run for it. So we'll just let them make a run for it. Are there any questions about this project to start with?

QUESTION: Minister, to clarify, is this new funding or pre-existing funding that you're announcing today?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, we're announcing funding from an existing program, it's the Housing Affordability Fund program that has been existent for the term of the government. But this is the first time we've announced this project here today.

QUESTION: So this is infrastructure that will be developed but we're not going to have to foot the bill for?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: This is infrastructure that the developer would foot the bill for but the costs would be normally passed onto home buyers. So part of the Housing Affordability Fund is the savings that would normally - we're making savings that would normally be passed onto, costs that would normally be passed onto home buyers, either by local government, by State or Territory Governments or by developers, having to pay for that infrastructure up front and then levying new home buyers. So this, at the end of the day, is a saving for new home buyers of between $17,000 and almost $24,000.

QUESTION: So how can you be sure that these costs will - that they will be discounted, that this will be taken off the overall [indistinct].

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, because we're working very closely with the ACT Government and with the land holder here and the developer to make sure that those cost savings are passed on.

QUESTION: Will we see any new funding announcements from the government during the election campaign, with regard to housing affordability schemes?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well the first election policy of the campaign was a housing affordability policy, a $200 million Building Better Regional Cities policy announcement. That was designed to work with fast growing communities where there were job opportunities and land available, where they wanted to grow their housing stock. We've written to 46 councils around the country and asked them if they're interested in growing and they've got the land and the community support and the jobs, to write to us after the election, should we be the government and we'll work with them on choosing the most successful applications for up to $15 million to help them with that housing growth.

QUESTION: There have been criticisms from industry experts that homelessness and housing affordability hasn't been talked about in this election campaign.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think that that's right at all. In fact, I've spoken to the head of the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness, Tony Nicholson, who has told me that he's been very positive when asked publicly about our progress on homelessness. I've been right around the country talking about, not just homelessness, but housing affordability generally. The first policy of the election campaign was the $200 million housing affordability policy.

Of course we haven't heard anything from the Liberals. They don't back our homelessness targets; they've been completely unsupportive of the stimulus housing measures that have kept construction jobs strong. That have seen growth in the jobs in the construction sector when, in every other comparable economy, we're seeing construction workers laid off.

The Liberal Party certainly have no housing policies but it's not fair to say that the Government hasn't been very active and very vocal on housing affordability and homelessness.

QUESTION: Minister, how do you justify targeting the $200 million announced early in the campaign, to places like the Gold Coast? It's not exactly a regional backwater city. How can you - does that really service regional Australia? I mean, the Gold Coast has half a million people and within close proximity to Brisbane.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, we've chosen the fastest growing areas outside of capital cities and the south east corner of Queensland is one of the fastest, the fastest growing parts of the country. They've got enormous pressures on their physical and social infrastructure and it's a great lifestyle for people who can afford a home there. There are jobs there and you know, close proximity to Brisbane mean that there are jobs there.

But we have written to 46 different councils, right around the country. Some of those in areas like the south east corner of Queensland, where there's enormously fast growth. Some of them are towns like Burnie in Tasmania, that are a little bit further away from a capital city but where there's still the opportunity for people to move and have a great lifestyle if they can find an affordable place to rent or buy.

QUESTION: But it's not really a regional city, is it? I mean, it's larger than some capital cities in Australia.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: It's a very fast growing area with jobs available and land available and it's a terrific place for people to live. So I think it's a great idea to help the Gold Coast region deal with the pressures of growth that they're experiencing.

QUESTION: But you have to concede that by targeting a place like the Gold Coast under the banner of a regional program kind of undermines it as a regional policy altogether.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, it's not a capital city. It's a fast growing region, it's part of the south east corner of Queensland. There are enormous housing pressures in that area and it's a terrific opportunity to help those councils, existing residents and potential new residents, find an affordable place to live in a better community.

QUESTION: This was funded in the last budget, is that right? This year's budget?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: The Housing Affordability Fund is an ongoing program from when we first came into government. This is funded in the latest round of the Housing Affordability Fund.

QUESTION: So we've seen Bonner and Crace now, will the ACT have more access to the contributions?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: And Gungaderra West is the other place, so there's three projects now funded through the Housing Affordability Fund in the ACT.

QUESTION: And can we expect any more?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, not from the Housing Affordability Fund but certainly we're working with the ACT Government in a number of different ways. In the National Rental Affordability Scheme where we've partnered with the ACT Government to deliver substantial numbers of new affordable rental accommodation. With the Social Housing Stimulus, that's an ongoing building program.

We've worked very closely with the ACT Government on homelessness as well and I have to congratulate them on the rollout of their homelessness projects. It's been a very strong and ongoing partnership.

QUESTION: On to homelessness briefly, it was a major issue for former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, can we expect to see Prime Minister Gillard visit homeless shelters as Rudd did, in this election campaign?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: This is a strong priority for the Labor Government and it'll be a strong priority for a re-elected Labor Government. We know that Julia Gillard, as the Minister for Social Inclusion, was very supportive of our efforts in homelessness and has worked very closely with the large non-government organisations and with housing workers, homelessness workers, and people on the ground who are delivering services to the most disadvantaged Australians.

Okay, thanks everybody.

Tags: Affordability, Andrew, Housing, Leigh, Plibersek, Tanya Tags: Basin, Dam, Darling, Garrett, Murray, Peter, Water, Wivenhoe