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Treasury Miscellaneous (Affordable Housing and Youth Employment Support) Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 10 March 2022

Tags: Legislation, Housing

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, the Greens will be supporting the Treasury Miscellaneous (Affordable Housing and Youth Employment Support) Bill of 2022 but I can indicate to the House that we wish to go into Committee because we have a number of amendments that acknowledge that the housing and homelessness crisis, and the enormous difficulty Tasmanians have buying a home will not be over by the middle of next year, and we are likely to be back in here to enact further extensions of changes to the Duties Act, the First Home Owner Grant Act and the Home Builder Grants Act next year.

It is interesting when you look at the proposed changes to the stamp duty concessions in the Duties Act, they extend the duty concessions for first time buyers and pensioners downsizing until 30 June 2023. We will be still in the grip of the housing and homelessness crisis so we are proposing that that be changed to 2025, but also to increase the maximum dutiable value of property for both of these duty concessions from $500 000 to $600 000.

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to update the House on median house prices in Tasmania. You will struggle now to find a home for under $500 000. Six months ago, I was looking at a real estate website and there was a weatherboard box on the Brooker Highway in an obvious state of disrepair for $550 000. Median house prices as of today are as follows: in Moonah, $642 000; Howrah, $780 000; Geilston Bay, $727 000; Lindisfarne, $770 000; Rosetta, which used to be a suburb for young families and first-home buyers, $715 000; Kingston, again a very popular suburb for first-time buyers and young families, $710 000; and Margate, $715 000. In Launceston: Trevallyn, $613 000; Launceston itself, $700 000; West Launceston, $620 000. Closer to home, if you want to buy a place in Lauderdale, you will struggle to find anywhere under $800 000, and this for a suburb, let us be frank, which is at sea level and will have significant problems in the future. In Montagu Bay, median house price $634 000; Lenah Valley, a couple of suburbs over, $835 000. If you want to buy a place in Bellerive, you will need in the vicinity of $1 million because the median house price in Bellerive is $940 000; in Taroona, $978 000; Prospect Vale, $640 000; Riverside, $610 000; Newstead, $638 000; and in Dodges Ferry, $640 000 is the median house price.

It tells us that Tasmanians are being priced out of their own paradise. It tells us that young people have very little hope of being able to buy a home for themselves in Tasmania today. It tells us that housing as a portfolio, as critical social infrastructure, was neglected for too long by this Liberal Government, which for the first three years after 2014 refused to allocate any extra funding to increase the supply of social and affordable housing.

When the Greens raised this back then we were flicked off, as we so often are. The Government has underinvested in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. It favours property investors at every turn. It is refusing to regulate short-stay accommodation to free up more homes. It is refusing to look at the positive benefits of a vacant residence tax. There is somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 vacant homes in Tasmania. We have a public housing wait list of almost 4500.

We have a Government that at every step has failed to deliver on housing. Now we are tinkering with some of the settings around stamp duty, first home owners and first home builders grants. For so many young people this will have no effect on their capacity to buy a home.

Because of the shortage of supply and soaring rents, we have people who are experiencing homelessness. I know of people who have gone to the mainland to find an affordable home. It is not so obvious anymore, because we do not have tents at the showground. Talk to housing and homelessness providers and they will tell you that homelessness is on the rise. This is happening on this Government's watch, while every question time we get this delusional and insulting propaganda about how great life is for Tasmanian people. Tasmanians cannot afford to live here anymore.

We had Mr Tucker yesterday saying to the bright Tasmanians and young people interstate, 'Come here, come back home'. They will take one look at what is happening in the housing market and decide not to. There is a new form of brain and capacity brain on this island. It is people who are leaving because they have been priced out of their own paradise.

I do not know if the Government's refusing to extend these grants and concessions for more than a year because it wants to be able to come in next year and pump itself again.

Dr Broad - More than likely.

Ms O'Connor - Indeed. This is band aiding over what is a serious social and economic malaise that has settled over this island. It goes back to 2014. You can see it in the data. You can see it in the way house prices have soared. You can see it in what is happening with rents. Hobart is the least affordable capital city in the country. I have a brother on a disability support pension told by the landlord a few months ago his rent is going up an extra $50 a week.

This is happening all over the island. When you have a Commonwealth Government that will not increase commonwealth rent assistance to the proportion that it needs to be increased and you have rents going up, what does that mean for people who are reliant on commonwealth support? What does it mean for single parent families? Rents are going up for a very ordinary two-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Hobart to $600 a week.

It is one thing to provide a stamp duty concession. It is one thing to provide first home buyers and builders grants. What is this Government doing to help renters? Nothing. Given opportunities to rein in rents or at least have some regulation around rents like they successfully do in the Australian Capital Territory, this Government has refused to do so and voted it down. Given opportunities in this House to regulate short-stay accommodation, this Government does not want to know about it because they do not want to offend the property class.

Everyone in here, most likely, is lucky enough to have bought a place to call home. Talk to young Tasmanians under the age of 30 and the vast majority of them have given up on that dream. It is not just the state Government's fault. We have federal settings around negative gearing and capital gains tax which means it is easier for an investor to buy their seventh, eighth or ninth property than it is for a young person or a young couple to buy their first. The whole system is geared to shaft the poor and geared to shaft young people.

The Government gives a $220 million land tax gift, again to the property class and that includes all of us, then lies about the impact that could have on rents. We are gaslit by a Government that says its gift to property investors will bring down rents. In the face of expert evidence, for example Saul Eslake, that is completely untrue, the Premier and Treasurer digs in on his untruth. We had a land tax cut a year ago. What happened? Rents went up. Rents will continue to go up because this Government does not care enough about people who are on the breadline.

This Government's constituency is the property class, investors -

Mr Ellis - I wonder if you are going to vote for us?

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Speaker, Mr Ellis is persistently interjecting on my contribution. I ask you to ask him to cease in the same way that you asked us to cease when we interject on others.

Mr Ellis - Asking for a standard that you cannot make yourself.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is not what it is about. We are pulled up constantly and you people interject all the time and nothing happens. It is true. Do you think we have not spotted it? Hypocrites. Snickering away like children up the back there.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, you will not reflect on other members like that.

Ms O'CONNOR - I certainly saw Mr Ellis snickering.

I understand why members of the Government feel a bit cut when we tell the truth about people's lives out there, because it runs so counter to the daily propaganda we cop in here about the state of Tasmania. A Government that thinks that we live in an economy, not a society.

Mr Speaker, I understand why Mr Ellis would want to interject. I am just telling the truth.

Mr Speaker, our amendments would be: •

clause 4 - leave out '2023', and insert instead '2025' •

clause 5 - leave out '$600 000', and insert instead '$800 000', to reflect the reality of what is happening to our obscenely expensive property market •

clause 6 - leave out '2023', and insert instead '2025' •

clause 7 - leave out '$600 000', and insert instead '$800 000' •

clause 10 - leave out '2023', and insert instead '2025'.

Because it is a Greens amendment - which should be non contentious, because it makes sense, because we all know the housing situation is not going to be any better in a year - I expect the minister to say he will not be supporting the amendment. He needs to lay out the arguments for why you would not support our amendment, instead of just dismissing it out of hand. It is a sensible amendment. Our amendments are sensible. They are realistic about the state of the housing market.

While it might suit the Government each year to announce that they are again extending home buyers or builders' grants and duty concessions, it is not good policy, and it is not good lawmaking, to allow this parliament each year to déjà vu all over again - to extend again these programs designed to help at least some people have a roof over their head. I cannot let this opportunity go by.

The contrast between a Government that splashes a $750 million stadium on the front page of the Mercury while people are sleeping in greater numbers in tents, and on the Domain, and young people are leaving the state.

It reminds me of the dying days of the Roman Empire: bread and circuses; send the peasants to the colosseum. At least some of the time at the stadium, which will have a retractable roof, some people will have a roof over their head, but this is a stadium that will be empty for most of the year - $750 million in public funding, and a far-off promise to deliver the homes that Tasmanians desperately need. A far off promise. Ten years from now, apparently 10 000 homes. Five years from now, a stadium.

It is rubbish. It is heartless. The first duty of a government is to provide for its citizens. We have seen at a national level what happens when you have a government that does not believe in governing. We saw it during the bushfires. We know there is a $4.8 billion emergency response fund that the Morrison Government has not spent helping bushfire victims recover, and is now refusing to spend helping the people of southern Queensland and New South Wales recover from devasting climate induced floods.

I do not know if other members of this place keep an eye on the news from anywhere else except here, but we should. Those pictures coming out of northern New South Wales, and Lismore particularly, and those stories of flood victims who have been left without any help from a Commonwealth, are an indictment on the heartlessness of the Morrison Government.

I have never in my life, as an Australian, seen a government so comprehensively abandon its duty to the Australian people. There are still bodies being found in receding floodwaters in Lismore, but what you will not find is support from the Morrison Government.

What did they do three days ago? Send in a few members of the Australian Defence Force for a photo opportunity. Then, Morrison, the Prime Minister, goes up there yesterday into Lismore and would not let the cameras come with him, because he knew those people felt so thoroughly abandoned by his government

Dr Woodruff - It would be like Bega and the bushfires.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is exactly the same as the bushfires.

You have conservative governments that do not believe in governing. Indeed, they call the expectation the Australian people have - that governments will be there for them when they need it - they call it socialism.

It is my greatest hope that come the federal election, Scott Morrison and his crooked band of cronies are smashed out of office. They are the most corrupt, least deserving, least competent and capable federal government we have had in Australia's history. They abandoned us on the procurement of vaccines, on rapid antigen tests, opened this country up to COVID 19 and just let it rip - and thousands of Australians have died just this year as a consequence. One Australian dying every half an hour from COVID 19 - preventable deaths - caused by a government that does not care about people.

It seems to be a hallmark of right-wing, conservative governments, this lack of empathy, a belief that people who do not have a lot of money are leaners - does everyone remember the former treasurer Joe Hockey, the leaners? - while people who are working and have a mortgage, they are the lifters. That mindset filters through conservative governments.

Mr Speaker, this bill has some positives in it. This bill will help some people buy or build a home. This bill will help some older Tasmania downsize. It will not help most Tasmanians who do not already own property buy a home, it will not.

We also support the payroll tax rebate for apprentices, trainees and other youth employees. I have always a been a bit troubled by payroll tax as a tax - why would you tax jobs? Why are we not taxing pollution and environmental damage, for example? However, we are certainly comfortable supporting that rebate.

I commend our amendments to the House, once the House goes into Committee, because we will be dealing with the real world - not the world of propaganda and spin that we have to swallow in question time here every day. The real world. That is what our amendments are about, and we commend them to the House.