Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Social housing package, Tax bonus, First Home Owners Boost


JENNY MACKLIN: This is part of the Australian Government’s stimulus plan, part of our plan to do everything we possibly can to support jobs and to really encourage growth in the economy. $6.4 billion is being put into social housing across Australia and what we’re announcing today is $11 million that will build 56 homes here in the ACT, so $11 million to build 56 much needed homes here in the ACT. That will support jobs here in the ACT and of course it will also make sure that people who are needing a home will be able to find one. This is a very important part of our stimulus package, all aimed at supporting jobs and making sure that Australia does everything we possibly can to deal with the global recession.

JOURNALIST: 56, is that 56 new homes or does that include homes to be upgraded?

JENNY MACKLIN: These, this is new dwellings, this is on top of what we’ve seen today. This is an outstanding development here today, but what we’ve said here today is part of a program that we’ve already announced which is seeing the upgrade of many dwellings here in the ACT and in other parts of Australia. So we’re very glad to see that homes that previously weren’t up to scratch are now being renovated and made liveable for people but today’s announcement is all about building new homes.

JOHN HARGREAVES: I would just like to thank Minister Macklin and the Rudd Government for this stimulus. We have seen a much needed insurance policy if you level it to residential construction sector in the ACT that keep us, keep the jobs going over this particular crisis period. But how good is it to have this particular approach into attacking homelessness in the ACT. We are seeing these 56 homes that Minister Macklin has just announced as the first part of 300 dwellings which will be delivered over the period of the construction phase. We are seeing actually on site at the moment one of our refurbishment facilities where we’ve been able to use the $6.5 million from the Federal Government to renovate and rejuvenate some homes. We’ll be able to make significant inroads in homelessness in the ACT.

JOURNALIST: Is the ACT getting its fair share, sorry to ask the parochial question, but is it?

JOHN HARGREAVES: Well I believe that the Federal Government has as its two significant priorities, the global financial crisis as it applies to jobs, and the way in which the construction industry is badly affected by the global financial crisis, but also and most significantly the issue of homelessness. Now homelessness doesn’t recognise borders and we the Housing Ministers and the Housing Minister’s Council under the leadership of Minister Macklin are all together as one on this and we believe it will go a long way to nationally reducing homelessness by about 50% in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us a run down of what is happening here?

JOHN HARGREAVES: What we’re seeing is a group of homes, about 12 properties here that are being totally renovated. These properties would have been in such a state as it would mean that we would have disposed of them and of course whenever you dispose of properties in a very extensive degree of decrepitude we get less than our value, so that when we come to buy more stock we can’t do that so quite as effectively. This stimulus package, the $6.5 million will enable us to fully renovate 243 properties across the ACT and we will be able to actually renovate these properties so that the people who were living in here before can now return to them and that will release of course other properties out there for us to apply to homelessness people.

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JOURNALIST: John, the (inaudible) of this morning that they were expecting lots of thousands of construction jobs to go over the next 12 months, will this help the ACT to buck the trend, is that one thing you’re thinking this will do?

JOHN HARGREAVES: Well absolutely. In the ACT there are two sectors which really need assistance. One is the commercial building sector, and we’ve got a forest of cranes across the ACT’s landscape, but the big one, and the really big one for us of course is the residential building sector. This is where a lot of the small jobs of carpenters,(inaudible) electricians, and thanks very much to the stimulus package from the Rudd Government, we’re able now to keep these people in a job while the Federal Government gets on and addresses in partnership with the States this global financial crisis as it applies to us.

JOURNALIST: Do you actually think the Government has committed to enough growth (inaudible) 10% of social housing stocks in the ACT Are we on target to meet that?

JOHN HARGREAVES: Well 10% of target of stock across the ACT is an aspirational one. We have to make sure that we don’t go too fast in this so as to adversely affect the price of stock out there in the sector. If in fact our affordable housing strategy is particularly successful and we are able to get people into homes at a much greater affordable cost than is otherwise the case at the moment, it may mean that the 10% in fact is a little high. We know that across the country it’s only about half that. But of course you’ve got to look at the fact that we have the greatest number of public housing stock in Australia at the moment. But some of our suburbs are around about the 4,5 6 % mark, some of them are up among the 30%, so we need actually to have a balance, and that juggling act is something that will take some time to deliver.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) well, the language used by the Government about that 10%, the rhetoric is stronger than that. Why the shift away at this point in time? What’s convinced you that that may not be an appropriate aspiration?

JOHN HARGREAVES: Well I don’t believe that we’ve shifted away from it at all, it’s just a case of being honest about the practicalities of it all. At the moment we know that our accent is being able to give people homes that they can buy, that they can pass on to their children, that’s our accent. And once we’ve got that worked out we’ll then start talking about the acquisition of stock. We must also remember that 10% of dwellings in the ACT is an awful lot of dwellings. At the moment we have actually about 8.6% of all dwellings in the ACT anyway. We have 30% of the rental market in properties across the ACT anyway, and so that next piece of leaping has to be done in the context of how we’ve been successful in our affordable housing strategy. This package, this stimulus package, let me say will go an awful long way towards assisting that process

JOURNALIST: Sorry, just very quickly a general grab on what you’re announcing today.

JENNY MACKLIN: I am very pleased to be here with my colleagues from the ACT today to announce the second stage of the Federal Government’s new stimulus package for social housing. $11 million that will build 56 new homes here in the ACT.

JOURNALIST: And just briefly Minister, the cheques are in the mail we’re told now. If you were going to get your money what would you spend it on and what should people spend it on?

JENNY MACKLIN: I won’t be receiving that bonus so if we could just clear that up. But for those Australians who will be receiving the tax bonus from today, it is a bonus that is all about supporting jobs, supporting the Australian economy, and the more that people go out and spend the money on things that they need the better it will be for jobs.

JOURNALIST: What sort of things?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s up to individuals and families to make decisions about what they need. Most people I know will do the right thing and spend it responsibly but I know from people who speak to me about it have certainly got plans about how they are going to spend the money. More importantly they understand that spending the money is going to help the Australian economy and help jobs.

JOURNALIST: And so just quickly, (inaudible) First Home Owner’s Grant there’s been a lot of calls to extend that past where it’s going to end, are you guys, what are your thoughts on that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve certainly seen that the extension to the First Home Owner’s Grant that we announced last October has had a very positive effect helping more young people into the housing market, helping them buy their first home, but any future decisions on that issue will have to wait till after the Budget.

JOHN HARGREAVES: Well we need just to remember of course that the extension of the First Home Owner’s Grant was another injection by the Federal Government into the housing process. But it needs to be seen in the light of an overarching affordable housing strategy that the Federal Government and States and Territories are committed to, enabling people, young people, first home owners to actually achieve buying their own home and bringing the price down is not a bad place to start.

JOURNALIST: So you think further extensions might be a good idea, another extension?

JOHN HARGREAVES: I believe that what we need to do is look at it in a total strategy as we have been with our affordable housing strategy. We need to be able to start looking at accommodation options. Once upon a time everybody’s mindset was on a 900 square metre block and had three bedrooms in it and a backyard. And then we found that people really wanted smaller blocks going up across the road from parks, and those were able to be delivered in West Belconnen development for under $300,000, so enabling young people to get into their homes earlier at an affordable rate. And so we need to have more of that sort of concentration rather than I think that States and Territories kept putting their hand out for the Federal Government to say give us money. I think we should do it ourselves.