Page 3344 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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The ACT was not even mentioned in the big government infrastructure announcement on the weekend. We are just going to be an afterthought. We had the big announcement on the weekend involving Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth; then, a week later, we will have the afterthought announcements that may include Port Augusta, Geraldton, Condobolin and Canberra. There was all of this talk during the election campaign that the Liberals were holding us back with the long-term housing debt and a lack of infrastructure spend. The government changes, we install an independent senator and what is the result?

I know that we will hear amazingly optimistic words from Ms Berry because she is an optimist. She has chooks. I do not know what that has to do with it, but she is an optimist. I know, based on her words in this chamber yesterday, that she will talk about how the federal Labor government is such a godsend in the housing area. I have seen some of the words in the amendment. They have made all of these promises about what they are going to do. We are sick of promises. We are looking for outcomes. Senator Gallagher and others from the left gave a very clear indication that the housing debt would be waived. It is not being waived, and that must be called out.

Given the level of rhetoric when we last debated this issue, there should be no problem whatsoever with all party leaders in this place expressing a view about some of that rhetoric to the finance minister, for leading us up the garden path and severely letting us down. We should be writing to Senator Gallagher, condemning in the strongest terms her backflip on her pre-election promise, calling out the finance minister and calling for her to waive the historic debt. If it was so desperately important when Morrison was the Prime Minister, it should be as important now. I look forward to some weasel words from the other side.

MR BARR (Kurrajong) (4.22): I thank Mr Parton for bringing this matter forward. Yes, I accept that it was inevitable that he would do so. As I have reiterated both inside and outside this place, we are advocating for a waiver of the ACT’s housing debt. As my amendment to Mr Parton’s motion indicates, the understanding from the territory government, very clearly—and, I think, expressed by all parties in this place—is that any savings from principal and interest repayments from a debt waiver would be reinvested in new social and community housing. Implicit in any outcome here is that, following the forgiveness or discharging of that debt, the proceeds, such as they are, the principal and interest payments over the remaining balance of the loan, would be invested in social and community housing. That has been very clear.

Mr Davis raised this issue in the Assembly about four months ago. At that time—and I will repeat it again—I felt it was worth clarifying what is effectively a two-way flow of funds in relation to this debt. Under the national partnership agreement, the commonwealth provide the states and territories with funding to support housing and homelessness activities. They provide an annual allocation to us through their budget. The point we have been making is that we then give about half of that back to them in interest and capital repayments on this historic outstanding loan. That is not a particularly efficient way to manage the flow of funds between the commonwealth and the territory.

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