Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Public housing rents and pension increase – 2UE Mornings

Program: 2UE Mornings

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

STEVE PRICE: The Minister who is responsible for the Public Housing and the Rental Assistance in the country is the Minister for Housing, Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin. Morning Minister.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you.

STEVE PRICE: How is this going to operate? I mean, and were you aware that it would only be a twelve month freeze?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we did recently receive a letter from Anna Bligh who’s the Chair of the Council of the Australian Federation, that’s the group that represents the State Leaders. Julia Gillard wrote back to Anna Bligh last week as the Acting Prime Minister, saying that this was unacceptable to the Commonwealth. We do want to see this pension rise flow through to pensioners. The whole purpose of this pension rise was to increase the adequacy of the pension. We know how long pensioners have waited for this rise.

STEVE PRICE: To put more money in your purse, isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Purses and wallets, to make sure that they can pay for the things that they needed and we made it very clear to the States that we did not want to see this money gobbled up by increased rents. So Julia Gillard wrote to the State Premiers last week to tell them that this twelve month limit was not acceptable to the Commonwealth. I raised it with Housing Ministers on Friday when we met in Melbourne. We have agreed to talk further about it, but I certainly expect this rent issue to be resolved in favour of pensioners. We want to see the rise going to pensioners.

STEVE PRICE: I bet you made the point also to them, that you, as I said there, through Minister Plibersek, have ploughed, what is it, $5 billion into public housing?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s that much going into public housing. We’re building, well if you count the rebuilds and refurbishments that are going on, around 30,000 new public housing units, and then add on top of that, what we’re doing for the National Rental Affordability Scheme. So in total, around 80,000 new affordable rental properties are going to come onto the market over the next four years. So we’re doing a huge amount, more than I can ever recall being done in the past, to put more affordable rental properties onto the market. This time let’s give pensioners a fair go.

STEVE PRICE: It’s a bit rich for David Borger then to say the $12 million that they gather in will go straight into rebuilding public housing. We’ve got no guarantee of that anyway?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, what we want to do is, my number one objective I have to say on this occasion is to do what we can for pensioners. This is all about making sure that this very hard fought for increase, hard fought for by pensioners, is going to go to them.

STEVE PRICE: So how would you quarantine that money?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in the first instance, we’ve indicated to them that this twelve month limit is not acceptable. We’ll keep talking with them and pressing them on this point. Of course, Commonwealth State relations are a two way street and we expect the States to do the right thing by pensioners.

STEVE PRICE: How would States then calculate rental increase on properties occupied by aged pensioners which is what we’re dealing with here?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course if they could do it for twelve months they can do it for longer.

STEVE PRICE: So you would simply like the freeze to be extended out?

JENNY MACKLIN: I would because we want this benefit to flow to pensioners, so many of them have been finding it very very tough to manage. And certainly talking to pensioners over the last week as the pension rise has started to go into their bank accounts, they’ve been very appreciative, so I don’t think they’ll be too impressed by their rents going up even if it is in twelve months time.

STEVE PRICE: Would you have a time frame in mind?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ll sit down and talk about it. But I want to make it clear that my starting point is that I want to see it extended beyond the twelve month point for as long as possible so that we can see this benefit flow through to pensioners.

STEVE PRICE: I mean we could have a situation where you’re going to an election sometime next year with the States ripping pensioners dollars out of their purses and wallets to pay the rent?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the number one issue is how long people have waited for this pension rise. They don’t want to see it gone in twelve months time in increased rents. Some of the States, South Australia, for example, were very quick to agree that it shouldn’t get gobbled up by rent. I hope the other States will do likewise.

STEVE PRICE: All right, appreciate you coming down to our Canberra studio. Thank you Minister.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.