I was raised by a single mum. My dad died when I was four. We were incredibly lucky that dad had life insurance, so mum could pay off the mortgage and we could have a house to live in. She basically had no money, no savings, lived pretty much from hand to mouth with casual jobs. We were looked after, but I know what it's like to be raised by a single mum and how important having a roof over your head is. I know for a fact that she could never afford maintenance, so by the time she moved out 20 years later, the house was falling down, the clean-out was a nightmare, as many sons and daughters of single parents know.
The devil is in the detail. In reality, this is not about helping poor, deserving single mums. The only people who might benefit, the 10,000 lucky winners of the Liberal lottery from the one million single parents who may benefit, basically are going to have to be earning between about $85,000 and $125,000. Let's be really clear: behind the nice spin, this is not about helping poor single parents into housing. This is a marketing exercise which will do almost nothing for the real housing crisis in this country.
The other three measures in the budget are the first home loan guarantee, the First Home Super Saver Scheme and HomeBuilder, but that's another conversation. Apparently if you criticise HomeBuilder for renovating people's bathroom, you're against tradies—what nonsense. The Rudd government spent a few billion dollars during the last financial crisis and left a legacy of 20,000 homes. Those homes are still there today. They are an asset that people are still living in. This mob are pouring hundreds of millions, billions, into renovating people's private dwellings while doing nothing for the most deserving. But the problem with these four measures is that together they all further stimulate demand in an overheated market. They pour petrol on the fire that is the housing market in the big capital cities, particularly in this country. They help a few people, but, as is usual with this mob, they sacrifice the many.
As one stakeholder said, you don't make housing more affordable by making it more expensive. But you have to give them an award for shameless hypocrisy. They're doing well in that regard because most of the time, when they get challenged on housing, they say: 'That's a state issue, it's up to the states. We're the Commonwealth government. Housing's not our problem, it's a state issue.' Yet when it suits them politically to have a few marketing slogans, like in this budget, they're spending $3.3 billion on what they then say on another day is actually a state issue.
But all of these measures add to demand. Not one of the government's measures will actually do anything to add to supply because that would be social housing. That might actually help the most needy in society, and that's not what they're about. As National Shelter said, when they summarised the government's budget, it puts home ownership out of reach for the many while benefiting the few. All of the government's measures just bring forward demand. They do nothing to provide a pipeline of housing construction over two to five years.
Contrast that with Labor's Australian housing future fund, which the Leader of the Opposition, the Labor leader, announced in the budget reply, to invest in new housing. This $10 billion commitment would create jobs, not pour petrol on housing prices. It would create lasting legacy assets because what Labor governments do is build things for the future and leave a legacy. It would build new homes for people to live in, targeted at the people who will never get a crack the housing market. That's what governments should be doing.
National Shelter's executive officer said—and I couldn't summarise it better: “They are conducting lotteries for deposit programs ensuring the great Ponzi scheme of housing continues where the benefits accrue to existing owners not hopeful ones.”
He also said: “We have called on the Commonwealth to show the leadership and establish the incentives, provide their part, instead they spruik the market while interfering in it and refuse to lift their share of investment in social and affordable housing so desperately needed.”
Governments have a responsibility to play a role where markets fail, and housing markets have failed to produce housing for those in greatest need; another opportunity has now been ignored.
On Labor's policy, a $10 billion future fund which is forecast to deliver 20,000 new social dwellings and 10,000 more affordable dwellings over five years under a Labor government, he said:
Such a fund will create a pipeline of investment that can be built on to secure a steady growth in social and affordable housing.
It adds to supply in a predictable way. It is creating jobs for tradies but is targeted at the most needy, who actually need this. National Shelter said:
Instead of pumping up demand and pushing house prices out of reach, the reply speech builds supply, creates jobs, and makes homes to ease pressures on households and markets.
The forecast spending on veterans housing, crisis and transitional housing and the repair of social housing was welcomed. The executive officer said:
At least one major party recognises that social and affordable housing is critical economic infrastructure which enables tenants to participate, learn and address health and other issues, it's also critical for women's economic security.
Those points are fundamentally important. The government, who call themselves economic managers—those geniuses over there—are in their eighth year of government, heading to the next election and thinking people should give them 11 years, when they've built nothing. There's no legacy. There is $1 trillion of debt and $100 billion of new spending, with nothing to show for it—just more petrol on the fire of the housing market, putting it further out of reach and, funnily enough, advantaging people who already own houses.
But it could be worse, I suppose. I am looking at the second reading amendment. We're lucky that the government hasn't listened to its own nuttier backbenchers and their self-promoting idea to let people spend their superannuation on pushing up the cost of housing further—super for housing, putting more petrol on the fire of demand. You don't make housing more affordable by making it more expensive. The only thing that that would do is to put the vacuum cleaner into your superannuation account and suck it into the pocket of the guy selling the house. That's what every mainstream economist said. It's what Joe Hockey said. It's why he knocked this stupid idea out years ago. But we've still got Liberal backbenchers pushing the government to add a fifth element to their policy of pushing up housing prices.
That's the practical economic impact of the government's policies. They can dress it up in whatever language they like, but that's the true impact: pushing up the cost of housing further and making it harder for people to get in the housing market.
Not deterred, the member for Goldstein was out this morning bagging his own government for not picking up his silly idea. But it's pretty clever of him, because at least it makes him look like he believes in something. He has a degree of consistency there. But it is incredibly hypocritical, of course, because people like him are actively opposing the ability for superannuation funds to invest in affordable housing.
If you're serious about affordable housing, we've got trillions of dollars of funds, many of them looking for stable asset classes in a world awash with cash but with not enough investment opportunities, and you've got the member for Goldstein and his weird mates on the government back bench saying, 'Well, we couldn't let these funds go into social and affordable housing and increase supply; all we want to do is use taxpayers' money—or in this case, with our $1 trillion of debt, we want to go and borrow money and run up the national debt—and put it into teeny-tiny schemes that will help a few people while pushing up the cost of housing for everyone else.'
How on earth can they claim to be good economic managers? Even before these schemes came into place and we saw the latest house price rises, the Australian housing market was the third most unaffordable in the world. I will bet my bottom dollar that by the time they finished, if they had their way, they would get to No. 1 as the most unaffordable housing market in the world.
We're not going fall into the little wedgie trap, as I think Katherine Murphy or one of the other media reporters called it, of the gas-fired power station—the giant atomic wedgie on Labor. We're not going to fall into the trap of voting against a little measure that might, by itself, if delivered, help 10,000 of the one million single parents in Australia, over four years, get into the housing market. We're not going to do that.
But we are going to call out the practical impact of your economic agenda: to cut wages for ordinary workers; raise taxes on the people at the lower to average end; cut taxes, permanently, for the highest income earners in Australia; and push up the cost of housing to better advantage people who already own a house.