Question from Mrs O’CONNOR to the MINISTER of HOUSING, Mr FERGUSON
Mr. Speaker, the acting Prime Minister’s responses together took up about 12 minutes of the House’s time. I’m just pointing out that today’s answers have been very long so far.
Ms. Ogilvie – You didn’t even ask for indulgence.
Mrs. O’CONNOR – I ask for the proper functioning and fairness of this Assembly.
Minister, the budget documents reveal the consequences of seven years of underfunding the supply of social housing. They contain an admission of utter defeat, with the housing waiting list set to reach 5,025 desperate Tasmanians next year. Housing data is the worst since at least 2006, which is as far back as we could look.
While the budget provides significant property tax relief to the landlord class, whose investment property values are skyrocketing due to supply shortages created by your government, it delays the construction of new public housing and spending in supported housing until 2023 24. This means more housing stress, ever higher rents, more evictions and more homelessness.
Are you too busy building roads in your portfolio to put the necessary emphasis on the homes Tasmanians desperately need?
Mr President, I thank the MP for Clark, the leader of the Greens, for her question and her genuine interest in housing outcomes for Tasmanians. I know that as a former Housing Minister, Mrs O’Conner is well aware of the need that exists for people on the margins of society and we want to support them. That’s why we have the most generous, strong and significant housing infrastructure program in the history of the state, perhaps since World War II, if not ever.
The government is committed to supporting people in times of need. There is an explanation for the strong pressure on the housing market. There are two reasons. We have population growth – people returning to Tasmania and people flocking to our state because they want to be here. This state has an energy and economic vitality that it probably hasn’t seen in my lifetime. People are excited about Tasmania. It is very different –
Mrs. O’Connor – Take some responsibility.
Mr FERGUSON – I was generous a moment ago with Mrs. O’Connor. It’s very different from when Ms. O’Connor was in government. Labor and the Greens brought down the economy. They basically shut down the forestry industry. We had people fleeing our state as economic refugees across Bass Strait looking for work in mainland states.
Mrs. O’CONNOR – Point of order, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 45, relevance. The minister has been up for about 30 seconds and is nowhere near an answer. I ask you to draw him towards the question. It matters to people.
Mr SPEAKER – The minister has been up for one minute and 40 seconds. He has enough time to answer the question. He is authorized to answer them as he sees fit. The question was given a lot of leniency when it was asked. The minister has the right to answer as he wishes. I cannot put words in the minister’s mouth. I’m sure the minister was getting into the details. I will allow the minister to continue.
Mrs. O’Connor – Yes, just talk about homes and people’s lives.
Mr SPEAKER – Mrs. O’Connor, order. The minister will continue. No interjections from other members, please.
Mr FERGUSON – Under the Labor Party and the Greens, people fled the state. This has taken the pressure off the housing sector. During this period of economic success and growth and people moving to our state, there are more people living here. They need homes. We are determined to build more houses so that we can provide a safe and secure roof over people’s heads.
In its first seven years, the government has done a lot for housing. Since releasing our Affordable Housing Strategy in 2015, we deliver. Throughout the life of the government up to the current Action Plans 1 and 2 – and I must pay tribute to Mrs Petrusma and Mr Jaensch – $200 million over those eight years helped 3,600 households. It’s phenomenal. The government has also secured relief from long-standing housing debt with the Commonwealth. This resulting funding is a recurring benefit to our state. This helps 400 households. Since that affordable housing strategy, we’ve built 1,105 new long-term homes, 972 social homes and 133 supported homes, including, I’m told, 298 last year.
We were endorsed in the election by the people of Tasmania on May 1. We have new commitments that are part of the budget now before the House. We are determined to see them through. We are grateful for the support we have received, especially from those in the housing industry who want to see these homes delivered. There are 524 homes under construction right now in the states.
There is more to do. The $315 million in additional funding for housing and homelessness support programs is not just for the current election cycle, but also for the future. We are extending the social housing construction pipeline by providing $280 million to build an additional 2,000 homes after 2023; invest $20 million in new supported accommodations in the upstate and northwest; $15.3 million for new youth housing initiatives, including the Lighthouse project for under-16s, modular youth housing, and the cost-effective Youth Home model.
Ms. Blanche – What, 2035?
Mr FERGUSON – The deputy intervenes. Well, it’s after 2023. It’s until 2027 because we have forward-looking policies. For those who can’t wait that long, 1,500 homes will be built over the next two years, with 524 under construction right now. There is a competition of ideas and so it should be.
In the hotly debated election, the opposition promised to build the same sequence of homes but with nearly $100 million less. I don’t know how they imagined in this fairy tale that they would achieve such results. Micro-housing maybe?
This is not a liberal, labour, green thing. Every Tasmanian has a stake in this. This side of the House is truly committed to providing the immediate support that people need today, tonight for those who do not have a safe place to stay overnight, for tomorrow and during the next two years as we roll out these additional homes and social housing. Don’t lose sight of the pipeline, a strong, stable and guaranteed pipeline of new housing beyond the election period and budget cycle.
I assure Mrs. O’Connor that I can build roads and bridges as well as houses. This side of the House is grateful that we are building more infrastructure, not less. While the Labour-Green government in its last year in office spent just $27 million on housing, this financial year we are spending $91 million.