Mr PASIN (Barker) (16:03): The temptation in this palace of democracy is to think that every issue can be solved from here back out to community, but I think it’s incumbent for us to acknowledge spheres of responsibility, and here is a classic example of where that sphere rests with state governments. Day-to-day housing and homelessness services are the purview of state governments—always have been, always will be—but that’s not to say that the Morrison government isn’t leaning in in respect of this challenge. Of course, $8.2 billion is expected to be expended by our government for housing and homelessness initiatives over the 2020-21 year alone. That includes a suite of measures, not the least of which is $5.5 billion for Commonwealth rent assistance. But I want to focus my time not on what we’re doing in that space but on talking about the issue.
The issue is effectively driven by stock. I hear those opposite say, ‘The way you solve this crisis is to constrain supply.’ That’s a very interesting way to think about this problem, but it’s completely wrong. The reality is we need to drive supply up. The issues around access to affordable homes and affordable rentals aren’t going to be addressed by constraining supply but by increasing supply. I think we need to understand that this exercise occurs across a continuum. That continuum includes those people who unfortunately are not in a position to have secure housing, people who are renting, first home owners, and investors, who add to the supply. One of the things we ought to be doing, if we want to free up the housing stock for people who don’t have access to stable accommodation, is to move people from renting to owning and to build more houses. What are we doing in that regard? The data is with us. First home owner-occupier loan commitments are 70 per cent higher than 12 months ago. There are more people transitioning from renting to owning. The HIA indicates that first home buyers now account for 43 per cent of homeownership loans. People are transitioning and leaving behind them access to other stock.
More than that, HomeBuilder, which gets a lot of attention in here—it gets a lot of love from the relevant minister, of course—is pointing at exactly this issue. Ours is a government that wants to see Australians owning and occupying their own homes. But the runaway success that HomeBuilder has been has meant that a whole additional cohort of stock is being built. I can tell the chamber I know how much timber mills in my electorate are having to rise to the challenge. It is a 24-hour-a-day exercise to cut the timber that is going into the frames of these new homes. Talk to any timber worker in my electorate and they will tell you that the residential construction sector is going gangbusters. They know because they’re all working additional shifts and production is at the highest level possible.
We’ve heard from others who have contributed to this debate about the other very significant measures that our government has embarked upon, all of which I’d respectfully suggest to you are tailored to ensuring that people can get into their first home, because there are so many more benefits to the stability of the home unit than just economic security. We have the First Home Super Saver Scheme and the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. The member for Indi raised important questions about regional Australia while she was speaking, and I share her view that not everyone can jump into a five-bedroom home in certain areas. But I did a quick search for a town in my electorate I have really come to adore, Lameroo, which is deep in the Mallee. There is a critical shortage of workers in that community right now. You can get a three-bedroom home on a 1,000-square-metre block for $127,000, and, if that doesn’t suit you—those who live in metropolitan communities won’t believe this—you can buy a three-bedroom home with an eight-car garage on a 2,000-square-metre block for—wait for it—$39,000.