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Infrastructure Investment

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 2 June 2022

Tags: Infrastructure, Roads, Housing

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the matter of public importance today on infrastructure. I listened very carefully to what the minister said when he was taking a broad sweep of the infrastructure projects that he wanted to highlight and he is clearly most proud of. Every single one he talked about, towards the end there, was a road project.

We have a state Budget that gives 54 per cent of the total infrastructure spend to roads and bridges. In this year, it is $712.5 million. In contrast, hospitals and health are nine per cent of the infrastructure budget . Schools, education, and skills are seven per cent. Human services and housing are just 15 per cent.

There is some very interesting research about how the priorities that are within a Budget can be gendered, and we have here an infrastructure budget which has a very masculine lens applied to it. The research tells us that if you have more women around the Cabinet table, discussing infrastructure priorities, you will have a stronger focus on social infrastructure. You will have investments in homes for people, in better hospitals and schools/

While I agree, Ms White, in part, that the redevelopment of the LGH should be a priority, in our view the most important infrastructure this Government can make right now is into the social infrastructure of housing, and that is where we have seen such manifest failure. The Budget papers do not lie. The numbers we laid out in this House this week are based on the Budget papers and data from the Report on Government Services through the Productivity Commission, which shows eight years of over-promising, underdelivering, of broken promises, and dashed hopes for Tasmanians living in housing distress.

On page 109 of Budget paper number one, the only new money going into housing is the new housing package, and it does not have funding allocated for next year. For the following three years of the forward Estimates, it allocates $35 million of a promised $1.1 billion spend to deliver 10 000 new homes - as we must - within the next 10 years. $35 million is about three per cent of $1.1 billion. We stand by the numbers that we laid in this place earlier this week.

I absolutely acknowledge that under this minister, there has been an improvement in our road infrastructure. Some of it is overdesigned and overconstructed, but we can acknowledge that, at least on roads, this minister is delivering. However, that is not enough. We have a shortage - right now - of 11 000 affordable homes, according to the stakeholders who presented to the Housing Affordability Inquiry that was established by this parliament, with the former member for Franklin, Ms Standen as the chair. That should be the Government's number one infrastructure priority.

If people do not have a home, they do not have a foundation of security. It is very difficult to access education, training, employment, and good things in life. On behalf of Tasmanians living in housing stress, people who are facing soaring rents, and young people who no longer dream of owning a home, I condemn this Government's inaction on housing. We are seeing the human face of that as recently as yesterday in question time, with the tenants who are currently in National Rental Affordability Scheme homes, whose tenure in those homes is coming to an end. Right across the island, there are individuals and families who do not know how they are going to keep paying rent, as well as put food on their table.

There are young people who have saved up what two years ago would have been enough to put a deposit on a home, whose dreams have been dashed. In one example I know, this young woman is going to spend her deposit travelling the world, because she has given up hope of owning her own home. This is core business of government. It is not good enough that more than half the infrastructure budget is allocated to roads and bridges while we have people sleeping underneath those bridges, and that is what is happening. The word 'crisis' is often overused, and particularly in politics, but it is no understatement to say that Tasmania is in the grip of a housing and homelessness crisis and it should be something that as a parliament we can acknowledge and help to drive delivery on the part of government.

I encourage this minister to understand how important social infrastructure is to the fabric of our community but also to our economy. It is critical. I have always thought that Mr Barnett was a terrible Resources minister and I am so glad he has had Primary Industries and Water removed from him, but I really hope that the zeal he invested and continues to invest in environmentally damaging endeavours he can invest in making sure this Government prioritises investment in social and affordable homes.

Yes, we need to support the community housing sector to build more homes, but we also need to make sure government is doing that too, because within 30 years, those community housing sector homes may not be available, so again it will fall back on government to provide the homes that people need.