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Appropriation (Supplementary Appropriation for 2022-23) Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 10 November 2022

Tags: Legislation, State Budget, Housing

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, we will be comfortable supporting the supplementary appropriation for 2022-23 bill of 2022 because it is the mechanism for making sure the newly established Homes Tasmania has sufficient capital funding, current funding, at least for the next year or so.

The Greens did not support the establishment of Homes Tasmania as a separate statutory body, somewhat outside government. As we said at the time, we regard it as a neo-liberal solution to a problem created by neo-liberal policy, that is an underinvestment in increasing the supply of social housing, public housing, that started in the early days of the Hodgeman Liberal Government and took too long to correct. That said, the entity exists now and I think we join everyone in this House in wanting it to do well. It has to do well.

In response to what Dr Broad said, during the second reading on the Homes Tasmania bill, we asked a similar question: what happens at Estimates, who is accountable and how do we scrutinise this entity? From memory, and the minister, the Treasurer, might be able to confirm this, Mr Barnett said it would be very similar to the way it is now. That he, as minister, would answer questions; Homes Tasmania will be at the table -

Ms Haddad - We need to be able to see their finance. Rather than only seeing the allocation from DPaC to Homes Tasmania, we need to scrutinise Homes Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, but I gather to some extent it will be like other statutory authorities where we have to glean a fair bit of it out of annual reports, which is part of the reason it was not supported by so many people in this House.

I want to reinforce the question asked by Dr Broad about the scrutiny process of Homes Tasmania's expenditure and borrowings and outcomes. Will that happen at the Estimates in the same way that we have been able to scrutinise Housing Tasmania to date?

We did not have the time to organise a briefing on this bill so I would like the House to be informed about the source of the $163 408 000 that is in the public account that is being transferred through this appropriation bill to Homes Tasmania. Is the source of that a combination of state and Commonwealth funding? Does it include the $17 million to $20 million that the state should now be able to invest in social and affordable housing as a result of the dissolving of the Commonwealth state housing debt.

To reinforce Dr Broad's question, what is the commitment to making sure that money we are not sending back to Canberra to meet a debt burden that was like an albatross around the neck of the state is spent increasing the supply of social housing, public housing and not tipped entirely into the community housing sector, or worse used by Government to facilitate private developers who are building houses for profit that will potentially fall outside the category of public or social housing, although they may be affordable to some?

We would like to understand what the ongoing financial arrangement would be for Homes Tasmania? Presumably, Treasurer, this is a one-off process. Or is this the way the state will fund Homes Tasmania from here on in, through either supplementary appropriations or each year as a budget line item? I am very curious to know what the ongoing financial arrangements will be for Homes Tasmania and to acknowledge that for the first time under this new structure, a housing entity will be able to borrow money. They were never able to do that before. In some ways that may be a good thing if it leads to an increase in the supply of affordable housing. It is also something you would want to watch quite closely if you were the Treasurer of Tasmania.

Can the Treasurer explain what the ongoing financial arrangements will be for this entity? Where is the Commonwealth-state housing debt money in this wash of money we are talking about today? Finance General is providing a grant to Homes Tasmania of $126 924 000 for capital works. What is the source of that money? It is part of the $163 408 000 but will Homes Tasmania need to have a special bill brought into the House every year so it can operate.

In response to the promises of a $1.5 billion spend on housing to deliver 10 000 homes by 2032, we sure hope you can. Mr Deputy Speaker, you were on the housing inquiry in the last term of parliament. We were informed by Anglicare that the shortage of affordable housing at the moment sits at about 11 000 homes across the state. There are nudging 5000 people on the Housing Tasmania waiting list. If the state does manage to deliver those 10 000 homes in 10 years, the shortfall in affordable housing will be even higher.

It needs to be placed on the record that that $1.5 billion at the moment is Monopoly money. That, from memory, the amount of money in the last budget that was allocated to housing over the next for years, so, when the Forward Estimates was a bit over $120 million, from memory. I hope that big promise of $1.5 billion is achievable. I hope it is not all debt-leveraged, because we have a Government here that wants to go into debt for Marinus Link. It wants to go into debt for the stadium. Debt for housing. If you are going to go into debt, would you not prioritise making sure people have a roof over their head? Well, you would if you had Greens in government anyway.

At the moment, we regard that $1.5 billion promise as talk of Monopoly money. We hope it comes to fruition. Because right now in the community, and everyone in here knows this, it does not matter what side or corner of the House you sit in, there is acute housing stress in our community. It is statewide and while there are particular pressures in the major centres, there are real housing challenges in regional centres like St Helens too. This is an issue that the parliament and the Government has to address with some real urgency. If people do not have a secure place to call home, the rest of their daily life becomes almost impossible. If you do not have that bedrock of security, you are facing poverty, lack of education, unemployment, opportunity, potentially significant mental health challenges, addiction, family breakdown.

As a state, when we commit to building homes for people that they can afford, that are good quality homes in communities, liveable design, energy- and thermally-efficient, what we are doing is investing in our people and the social and economic wellbeing of this state. When you invest in housing, you are investing in social infrastructure that turns lives around and gives kids real opportunity. So, we really want this Government to deliver on its promises. It is so important that they do. Mr Barnett, as minister, has a good amount of energy to invest in this portfolio. As I have said before, if he can put half the zeal into building homes as he did into mowing down native forest, we might actually get somewhere on housing in this state.

With those questions, we are quite comfortable supporting the bill.