I rise to second the National Housing and Homelessness Plan Bill 2024. I do so with great pride to back the member for North Sydney and Senator Pocock on this extremely important legislation, which establishes that housing is a human right. That is not said often enough in this place. It’s a right that all Australians, no matter their address, no matter their income, no matter their living situation, have somewhere to call home. It is absolutely fundamental to our dignity and to our physical and mental wellbeing.

As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that all Australians have a place to call home, because the housing crisis gripping Australia and indeed much of the world is undermining so many people’s right to an adequate standard of living. Across regional, rural and remote Australia people are struggling. Sky-high interest rates and declining rental availability are making it so hard for people to find a home. In my electorate of Indi, housing is more expensive and less accessible than at any other point in our lifetimes.

When I visit towns across my electorate I hear of people in townhouses being pushed into units. Those in units are being pushed into caravan parks, and those who were in the caravan parks are being pushed into tents alongside the rivers. Homelessness is at a level that I have not seen in the 35 years that I’ve lived in north-east Victoria. It’s why I introduced my unlocking regional Australia housing bill in 2023, which would have ensured that a fair share of the government’s investment in housing went to the regions. It’s why I’m calling on this government to create a regional housing infrastructure fund to ensure that we can fund the critical enabling infrastructure that opens the land to allow houses to be built.

This government must do everything it can and use every tool at its disposal to address this crisis, and it’s why I am proud to support this bill. Crucially, it will be recognised in legislation that housing is a human right and one that this parliament has an obligation to fulfil. The bill would also require the government of the day to prepare a national housing and homelessness plan to set out to the Australian people how it plans to ensure that everyone has somewhere to call home, somewhere to sleep at night, somewhere to be safe. Under this bill this plan would set out a 10-year road map to coordinate funding and program delivery across all levels of government. It would make sure that in a policy area as complex as housing it is so important for the government to set a long-term strategic vision, irrespective of who is in government—and only the Commonwealth can provide that leadership.

A similar plan in Canada, which has a federal system just like ours, is already showing results in helping to coordinate action between different levels of government. As the member for North Sydney said, it is vital that we embed this plan in legislation to ensure no government can shirk its responsibilities to plan for a housing system that works for all of us. To establish the national housing and homelessness plan in legislation would enhance its credibility. It would give us a yardstick upon which to measure the government’s performance. In addition, this bill would establish a national housing consumer council to ensure that the voices of those who live in their homes, the renters, the home buyers, the retirees—the voices we never hear—are heard. The consumer council will ensure that their needs are reflected in policymaking.

This bill is common sense. We should recognise housing as a right. We should get on and do it, and we should do it now.

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