February 15, 2023
Dr HAINES (Indi) (17:54): by leave—I move amendments (1) to (8), as circulated in my name, together:
(1) Clause 2A, page 2 (after line 17), at the end of paragraph (a), add:
(v) people in regional, rural and remote Australia; and
(2) Clause 2A, page 2 (line 19), at the end of paragraph (b), add “(including critical enabling infrastructure for new social and affordable housing in regional, rural and remote Australia)”.
(3) Clause 4, page 5 (after line 12), after the definition of constitutional corporation, insert:
critical enabling infrastructure, for new social or affordable housing, means:
(a) infrastructure critical to support the new housing, including new or upgraded infrastructure for services such as water, sewerage, electricity, telecommunications or transportation; or
(b) site remediation works relating to the new housing, including the removal of hazardous waste or contaminated material.
(4) Clause 4, page 7 (after line 28), after the definition of realise, insert:
regional, rural and remote Australia means an area that is classified as inner regional Australia, outer regional Australia, remote Australia or very remote Australia under the Remoteness Structure described in:
(a) the document titled “Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5—Remoteness Structure, July 2016”, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as amended from time to time; or
(b) the most recent replacement of the document referred to in paragraph (a) that is published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as amended from time to time.
Note: The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5—Remoteness Structure, July 2016 could in 2023 be viewed on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website (https://www.abs.gov.au).
(5) Page 8 (after line 20), after clause 4, insert:
4A References to affordable housing
To avoid doubt, a reference in this Act to affordable housing includes a reference to:
(a) affordable rental housing; and
(b) critical enabling infrastructure for new affordable housing in regional, rural and remote Australia.
4B References to social housing
To avoid doubt, a reference in this Act to social housing includes a reference to critical enabling infrastructure for new social housing in regional, rural and remote Australia.
(6) Clause 18, page 18 (line 7), after “Note”, insert “1”.
(7) Clause 18, page 18 (line 7), at the end of subclause (1), add:
Note 2: The reference in this subsection to a person includes a reference to a body politic (see subsection 2C(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901) which means that a grant may be made to a local government body.
(8) Clause 65, page 47 (after line 31), after subparagraph (2)(b)(iii), insert:
and (iv) housing needs in regional, rural and remote Australia;
This bill is important to the people of Australia and is important to the people of Indi. In my electorate we are experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. Since the pandemic, house prices and rental prices are the highest I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years of living in the district. Low-income people are trying to find places to live in a market they can no longer afford. The waitlists for priority housing have blown out, and we do not have the social and affordable housing supply to meet the demand.
Today I seek simple changes across three areas to make a good bill a better one. First, my amendments will make sure that regional, rural and remote Australia are explicitly considered by the Housing Australia Future Fund. The previous government promised to spend $1 billion to help us unlock housing supply. They spent less than 25 per cent of that money, and none of it came to my electorate of Indi—and very little came to regional Australia. There was no dedicated consideration of the dire housing needs in regional Australia. That’s unacceptable.
I don’t want to see rural, regional and remote Australia forgotten. My amendments will ensure they are not, by adding that an object of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill includes providing a funding mechanism for the acute housing needs of Australians living in regional, rural and remote areas. Any reviews of the act must also consider the extent to which the fund is meeting housing needs in regional Australia so we know if the funds are actually going there or not.
The second area my amendments address is critical enabling infrastructure. This area must be explicitly considered if we’re going to fix housing supply. This government has the ambitious goal of building tens of thousands of new homes but I struggle to see how it’s going to fulfil this election promise if it doesn’t specifically invest in critical enabling infrastructure, like a functioning sewerage system or drainage system—infrastructure that communities like Wangaratta and Benalla desperately need to fix but don’t have the money to do so on their own. My amendments will add that as an object of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill—an object to fund critical enabling infrastructure for social and affordable housing in regional Australia. It will clarify that any references to increasing social and affordable housing include funding the critical enabling infrastructure necessary for fully realising this goal.
My amendments will also clarify that local governments can receive grants under the Housing Australia Future Fund. Local governments, often partnering with community housing providers, are the key enablers of the critical infrastructure communities need, from parks and sportsgrounds to lighting and drainage. I thank the minister for the meeting I had with her today about this. While I was there, I also discussed with her my proposal for a regional housing infrastructure fund. This is a creative, dedicated $2 billion fund to directly address the need for all types of housing in regional areas, including medium-density housing and social housing. I look forward to many more discussions with the minister on this policy, and I’ll be talking about it so much that I’ll probably wear out the carpet on the way to her office!
The third area my amendments address is rental housing. My amendments clarify that affordable housing means affordable rental housing. For a long time we’ve prioritised giving Australians the opportunity of homeownership. Homeownership isn’t within everybody’s reach. We need to create safe, comfortable, affordable, long-term rental houses. To date, we haven’t done so. A rental report released by Domain this year found that, in the last 12 months, three of the top five local government areas with the highest rent increases in Victoria are in my electorate of Indi—Strathbogie, Indigo and Alpine. I want to make sure that affordable rental housing is front and centre.
These are simple amendments and they should not be controversial. When the government proudly talks about building 30,000 social and affordable homes within five years, the housing needs of regional, rural and remote areas must not be forgotten. I urge my fellow members of parliament to support me in passing these amendments.