Page 3345 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022
I have sought to engage with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance on this matter and have taken the opportunity, at appropriate times, to advocate for a change to that money merry-go-round. My position, and that of the government, has been entirely consistent. Regardless of the persuasion of the federal government, we have argued strongly to waive the debt. We have outlined why it should be waived and what we would do explicitly with principal and interest payments that we would otherwise be making back to the commonwealth: we would commit to directing them into more social housing.
Senator Gallagher has indicated that there will not be a line item in the budget next Tuesday night that is the ACT’s social housing debt being waived, with a net cost to the commonwealth of $100 million in capital and $39 million, or whatever the number will be, in forgone interest payments. There will not be an initiative within the federal budget that is ACT-specific next Tuesday night. Just to be clear: that will not be in the budget. That is understood, and it is disappointing that it will not be as explicit as that. But we are—this is, of course, something I am privy to that the rest of you are not—involved in discussions with the commonwealth and, indeed, other states and territories, because we are not the only jurisdiction with a historic housing debt. We are seeking to engage with the commonwealth to maximise new investment in social and affordable housing, not just here in the ACT but nationwide.
My amendment commits the government to reporting back on progress in relation to this work and its implementation. We acknowledge and understand our responsibilities if we are successful in negotiating—and it will not just be the ACT, This point needs to be understood. In fact, it is entirely consistent, Mr Parton, with what I said previously. I am as much in favour of other jurisdictions being able to negotiate a better outcome in relation to a future housing and homelessness agreement as I am of the ACT. What should not happen is what did happen for Tasmania, which was just about Tasmania and not about the other states and territories. I think there is a pathway forward to resolve this issue, and that pathway is through the commonwealth government’s commitment to work with the states and territories around the Housing Australia Future Fund and the construction of at least 30,000 additional social housing dwellings across the country.
What I will point to, as a point of difference between the approach of the new government and that of the old government, the former coalition government, is that the new government does believe there is a role for the commonwealth in social housing provision. The previous federal government were very clear that they saw that as exclusively a state and territory responsibility, that they would not be involved, and their record in office demonstrated that they would not be involved in providing funding for the construction of more social housing at a commonwealth level. They never did and they were never going to.
What changed in May was that the community elected an Australian government that is prepared to use the commonwealth budget and the commonwealth balance sheet to provide funding for more social housing to be built. That is an uncontested and unchallengeable difference. Scott Morrison, the former Prime Minister, and Josh Frydenberg, the former Treasurer, were on the public record dozens of times saying that they did not believe there was a role for the commonwealth in the provision of