News Parliament

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - HOUSING

The Labor Party and the opposition have absolutely no business lecturing the government on housing—or on anything else, for that matter. I think that many Australians will remember what life was like in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. It was a shambles; it was a litany of mismanagement, from the appallingly managed pink batts scheme, which remains a source of shame for those opposite, to the failed Building the Education Revolution, which was shockingly managed. And, of course, now they want to rip $60 billion from Australia's retirees. Australians don't trust those opposite to manage anything.

But, unlike those opposite, as the minister just pointed out a few minutes ago, we do have a multifaceted strategy—a multipronged strategy—to deal with housing. Obviously, firstly, there is the First Home Super Saver scheme, allowing first homebuyers to save for a deposit through superannuation. That's the first point. We're also helping older Australians to downsize by enabling them to make non-concessional superannuation contributions of up to $300,000 for singles and $600,000 for couples—again, to ease pressure on the housing market.

As the minister just pointed out a few minutes ago, we're indexing the homelessness budget, which provides certainty to providers. We've tightened up the capital gains tax laws and exemptions on foreign residents, again, to ease pressure on the housing market. We're establishing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation and also the National Housing Infrastructure Facility.

We're also delivering a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with the states and territories. We are going to make sure that we get better outcomes with respect to the National Affordable Housing Agreement. This strategy goes across all sectors and touches Australians from all walks of life, including those with disabilities. I point out an example of that in my electorate. Through the government's Specialist Disability Accommodation Initiative, last year we turned the first sod on a new $830,000 facility to house people with disabilities in Orange, which is in the Calare electorate. The total spend is $1.6 million. It's a project of four units. It will have a counselling room and carers accommodation. I congratulate Housing Plus for undertaking that work.

So it is a multifaceted and multipronged strategy. It's taking place against a backdrop of a softening housing market. National dwelling prices have softened in recent months, following several years of strong growth. National price movements have been led by developments in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. I point out that annual dwelling price growth across the eight capital cities fell by 0.3 per cent through the year to March 2018, marking the first negative through-the-year growth in capital city dwelling prices since 2012, with price declines being most pronounced in Sydney, where prices for both houses and units have declined steadily since peaking in the September quarter 2017. So prices are heading in the right direction.

Rental vacancy rates and rental price growth have remained stable at around five-year averages. Rental price growth is subdued and rental yields remained low but stable at 2.9 per cent in December 2017, just under the five-year average of 3.1 per cent. National auction clearance rates have also moderated since the beginning of 2017, falling from nearly 80 per cent in February 2017 to around 63 per cent in March 2018, just below their five-year average.

In terms of home building, we've experienced one of the largest booms in home building in recent years, with record levels of high-rise construction in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. While the pace of construction has softened in recent quarters, going forward high levels of work in the pipeline, as well as recent strength in new approvals, are expected to keep dwelling investment and approvals elevated by historical standards. So the recent budget forecast dwelling investment to fall by three per cent before rising slightly by 1½ per cent in 2018-19 and remaining flat in 2019-20.

Nobody trusts those opposite to manage anything. Contrast with that, on this side of the House we have a multifaceted plan for housing.