Albo hits out as major bill stalls

Generic Cityscapes
A new report by the Business Council of Australia has recommended national housing targets be tied to population. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Gass

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has told opponents of his government’s $10bn housing future fund to “get out of the way”, as the opposition claims migration is fuelling the crisis.

The Greens and the Coalition last week blocked a vote in the Senate on the Housing Australian Future Fund to build 30,000 new social and affordable homes in the next five years.

The Greens say it doesn’t do enough to solve the crisis. They want a national rent freeze and the annual spending cap of $500m to be increased significantly.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has slammed the government as having “no plan” to fix the crisis and claims it will only worsen with rising migration numbers.

Mr Dutton has warned forecasted net overseas migration of around 1.5 million over the next five years would not be good for the country, especially if the government has “no plan in the budget to bring more housing stock online”.

“You can’t announce a Big Australia policy, with 1.5 million people coming to Australia over five years, competing with Australians who can‘t rent a unit or a house now, who can’t afford to buy a house now,” Mr Dutton said on Monday.

“You’re going to put upward pressure on prices, both rent and home prices, at the same time that you’re choking supply”.

But the Prime Minister hit back, warning Mr Dutton that a debate on migration “needs to be based on fact”.

Mr Albanese said Mr Dutton knew the short-term jump in net migration was because no one was leaving or coming into the country during the pandemic.

He said Mr Dutton was “looking for buttons to press” after last week’s federal budget.

“I think that Peter is looking around for a sense of purpose,” he told ABC Radio in Melbourne on Monday afternoon.

“I think it was a very good budget so he’s out there, I guess, trying to create some issues where there shouldn’t be.”

Mr Albanese again called for the Senate to pass the bill when it resumes sitting next week.

“It would help if the Senate got out of the way and passed our Housing Australia Future Fund.”

He said the government had made “announcement after announcement” on housing since being elected.

“One thing that could happen and should have happened last week was the passing of the Housing Australia Future Fund.”

The Business Council of Australia has also called for the bill to pass and rejected Mr Dutton’s argument, saying in a new report notes that a lack of supply in the housing market – and not migration – had fuelled the growing issues in the sector.

Generic Cityscapes
The Business Council of Australia has recommended the national housing target be tied to population growth projections. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Gass

Chief executive Jennifer Westacott said housing supply had been falling over the last five years, and Australia needed a “clear plan” for building new homes and infrastructure aligned with population growth.

“There is simply not enough new homes being built to meet demand at a time when housing affordability is declining. In fact, new housing supply has been falling over the last half-decade,” she said.

“There needs to be a clear plan for building new homes and infrastructure that is aligned with the growth in Australia’s population.”

The council has urged the parliament to pass the government's housing policy, which was blocked from a vote last week by the Greens and the Coalition.

Housing Minister Julie Collins said the government was trying to take the action needed to soften the crisis.

“I would say to Liberal senators and to Greens senators in the Senate, we took this to the last election. We’re trying to legislate it, and they should get out of the way,” she told ABC.

“There are too many people in Australia that are relying on those homes, there are too many Australians that are doing it tough that need us to get on with the job.”

Housing Minister Julie Collins has called on senators to back the housing fund. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The Business Council’s report also recommended offering states and territories financial incentives to meet housing targets, while those who don’t meet the target would be penalised.

“Business welcomes the government’s commitment to the Housing Accord, which aims to build one million new homes over the next five years from 2024; however, better co-ordination with state governments is crucial,” Ms Westacott said.

Ms Collins said that was something already being done, and talks were continuing with state and territories about funding arrangements.

“They’re doing them through the National Housing Accord already. I welcome support for measures we have implemented, things like changes to build to rent, things like changes to depreciation and working with planning ministers at the state level and state governments about improving the time it takes to get more homes on the ground right across the country,” she said.

“We already started that important work.”