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Consumer and Building Sector Protections Select Committee


Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Tags: Housing

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I am disappointed to hear from the minister that the Government will not be supporting this inquiry. It is a mistake to talk about the vast majority and the small number. We do not generally write laws for the vast majority. A lot of the laws - criminal laws, a whole manner of laws - are actually to deal with the small minority. The problem is that the small minority can have a huge and very negative impact on people's lives.

I do not think any of us would dispute the personal stories and testimonies that Ms Butler, the member for Lyons, read out earlier. I have heard many such stories. As member for Franklin, I am exposed to people who have observed or been victims of slapdash shoddy building, and it has an enduring impact, not only on the people's lives but on the building stock. Houses should be built to last for at least 50 years. They are generally built to last for 10 to 20 years at the most from the quality of the workmanship that too often happens.

What we see in Tasmania is a massively overheated building market. It has been very welcome to have the investment in the building and construction industry, which has clearly been needed in COVID-19. But what we have ended up with is, many people would agree, a lack of sufficient planning from the Government. We have a hot market causing supply hold ups for all sorts of materials and also causing a funnel neck for builders and construction of subdivisions, as well as home builds. This means work gets pushed to be done more quickly than would provide an optimum quality outcome in the build, in some cases.

That small number of cases has massively expanded because of the situation we are in. No one can deny that we are in a building boom. There is no argument that we need houses. It is a question about what the Government is doing to moderate the rapidity of this growth and to spread it out over a longer time so that we do not have a problem with supplies in construction material and we do not have the rush to finish jobs and move on to the next one, which inevitably leads to problems in construction and oversight.

I will pull back for a moment. The Greens support this call for an inquiry. It is important to have more eyes on this industry. It is very important to have eyes on consumer protection.

Fundamentally, the way the Greens come at this conversation is looking at houses and building stock not as assets, but as homes first and foremost, both from the purpose of why they are being built and the people who are living in them. We want to have homes that are built for people, that provide security of tenure, that provide safe conditions, that are liveable, beautiful, healthy and affordable.

We just have to look at the situation in Tasmania. As well as an overheated building and construction market, what we have - and the CoreLogic quarterly rental review was just put out today - is 70 per cent of residences in Tasmania are owner occupied and approximately 30 per cent are rentals. What we have in Tasmania, from today's figures, is a 12.8 per cent increase in the median rent price again in the last year.

The 10 year change in rental rate in Tasmania has gone off the scale. There is nothing like Hobart. Looking at capital cities, no other states' capital city comes even half way to where Tasmania is. In the last 10 years, median rental prices have gone up by 53 per cent in Hobart for houses and by 50 per cent for units. That is a staggering and hugely damaging change for people who are living in rental properties in Tasmania.

In any conversation where we are talking about building and construction and consumers, we must talk about homes and put this in the context of where people live. We must also be looking at government instruments and policy that is maintaining there must be security, affordability, liveability and safety.

Mr Speaker, we have an obvious value in having an inquiry to look into the consumer and building sector protections. The minister has made no argument that has persuaded me that we do not have a really important opportunity to look at better protections through things like a home builder mandatory warranty insurance for people who have houses built.

There is no doubt that there is a range of building quality across the state and, as the minister has said, most of it is very good. But we do no damage to having eyes on an industry which is rapidly changing. There is no doubt that the sorts of certification and standards being required of buildings in 2021 are much different to what were required 10, 20 or 50 years ago. We have to be confident, with the climate changing, that we have houses that are purpose built for the future. We do not have endless resources to keep building new building stock. We have to make sure that the houses we build today are here in 50 years' time and are purpose built for the winds, the extreme events, the extreme rainfall and the very hot conditions that Tasmanians will be exposed to in the future.

We are supportive of this motion but we have an amendment to move. I move -

That paragraph (2) of the motion be amended by omitting 'the member for Braddon, Dr Broad MP', and substituting 'the member for Franklin, Dr Woodruff MP'.

It is bizarre in the extreme that the Labor Party would put up a motion for a committee and not have a member of the Greens on that committee. The Greens have longstanding positive contributions to law reform in this place to protect the right of all Tasmanians to homes that are secure, affordable, safe and liveable. We have had a minister for housing who has made enormous changes. As a party we have a right to be on a committee and ask these questions. We have form in doing the right things for Tasmania during COVID 19. We introduced really important reforms that the Government took up. We expect to make a contribution in that space. I commend our amendment to the House.