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Bring on housing discussion.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Housing June 6, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/412

Bring On Housing Discussion

The Australian Democrats today called for the Howard Government to bring on a roundtable discussion on housing affordability for all Australians and signalled the Democrats’ willingness to sit down and talk.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said it was vital the Government addressed ways to make home ownership more affordable and ensure sustainable public housing.

“The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have only just told us under questioning in Senate Estimates that they were not planning any further discussion of housing policy this year,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Given his announcement today, we now hope John Howard issues them with a directive to substantially increase their effort so that Government can properly review the report by the Menzies Research Centre, and others produced by the Affordable Housing National Research Consortium, on this vital issue.”

But Senator Bartlett cautioned the Government against a piecemeal approach to housing.

“Housing is an issue that is too important to Australians to put in the too hard basket or resort to wacky ideas - we must get this right as a nation. We cannot chase hair brained plans at the expense of doing this properly. We need to invest the time and effort,” Senator Bartlett said.

“We cannot afford to adopt schemes if they may force the cost of housing even higher - as many expert commentators have commented about the Caplin and Joye shared equity scheme.

“And we must not return to some of the disastrous schemes promoted by the State housing departments in the 1980s. Many low- income earners were left substantially worse off as a result of poorly designed schemes that did not predict low growth environments whilst also locking them into high interest rates.

“HECS-type schemes for low income renters and purchasers are worthy of further consideration as part of a suite of options. But we need to get it right. For instance, the suggested ‘housing vouchers’ in a HECS-type scheme could have unintended legal consequences for renters and homeowners.

“In considering any housing solution, we must also look to assist those in long term poverty.

“We must look for ways to match demand for, and supply of, public and community housing and resolve the significant proble ms that exist in the private rental market and the sustainability of the property investment market.”

For interview with Senator Bartlett contact Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649