Press conference – Melbourne | Prime Minister of Australia
DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: We’re here to talk about the future, the future is for housing supply for those who need it. And that’s essentially everybody. Some time ago, a few months ago, the Prime Minister announced as part of the National Cabinet process a $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator Fund and the sense of excitement around the National Cabinet was palpable. At last, a partnership on more housing for people who need it most. At last, a Prime Minister who, from my point of view, who knows where Victoria is and knows how important housing is for every single Victorian family. More housing supply means lower prices. It also means that you’ve got that stable, that stable opportunity, that absolute essential, a roof over your head to then build a life yourself, to reach your full potential, to play your part, to be a part of our state’s successful future. We were denied that partnership for a very, very long time under the previous government. They had no agenda for housing. This federal government, under this Prime Minister’s leadership, is very, very different. And that’s why we’re delighted that Victoria has been able to get away, the first project under that Social Housing Accelerator, anywhere in our country. The two red brick towers you see behind you, will be demolished and will be replaced with something so much better. Just to give you a sense of the scale of this investment, we receive around $500 million under the Accelerator. We will deliver 769 new homes. That is a big boost for social housing for those in our community who need that option. That’s the best option for them. Of course, we have to do more beyond that from a supply point of view. And we’ll have a lot more to say about that quite soon. But there’s currently 196 dwellings across the way here. They are old, they are out of date, they are no longer fit for purpose. They are derelict. There’s no one living there. The last tenants moved out earlier this year. It’s fenced off and boarded up. We need to do more and do better. And under the partnership with the Commonwealth Government, the Albanese Commonwealth Government, we will demolish those towers and build something infinitely better for at least 231 units. So, that’s at least a 10 per cent increase in social housing and I think we may be able to do even better than that. The demolition work will begin quite soon. Construction will begin next year, middle of next year and this new redevelopment, the reimagining of this building that dates back to the late sixty’s and simply is not fit to house anybody, it’s not habitable, will be completed in 2028. This is one of a number of exciting projects that are only possible because of the partnership that the Victorian Government has with the Federal Government, a Federal Labor Government who knows where Victoria is and knows is just how important more housing supply is for prices, for equity, for potential and possibility, for success for the future. That partnership is long overdue and warmly welcomed by us. I’m now more than happy to hand over to the Prime Minister to add to my comments, and we’ll take it from there.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Premier, and it’s great to be back here in the great state of Victoria. And for what is such an exciting announcement, the first of our Social Housing Accelerator projects. One that will result in 231 new dwellings being built, of high quality, dwellings that are efficient, dwellings that enable people to have a good quality of life and most importantly, the first step is the security of a roof over your head. I understand, that’s what it did for me growing up in social housing, that security of a roof over my head enabled me to aspire to go to university, to do what I’ve been able to achieve up to this point in my life. And too many people are missing out. The difference here is just extraordinary. A Victorian Government that’s interested in making sure that social housing remains on the site in Carlton as opposed to what we saw in recent years. And I campaigned against it in places like Millers Point in Sydney where dilapidated places got sold off, flogged off to the private sector. Buildings like the Sirius building, famous building next to the Harbour Bridge that was purpose built for people with disabilities, sold off. What this is about is giving people housing close to health facilities where they can walk to the city, close to education facilities, giving them that security. And it’s just the first of a range of projects that we’ll be doing in partnership here with the Victorian Government. The $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator funds enables projects like this to happen, fully federally funded. But we’re partnering with Victoria on the $1.7 billion we extended for just the current financial year, extending the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. There’s the $2 billion we’ve allocated for community housing. And last week, an additional $1 billion dollars as well, being made available through our housing infrastructure facility, so that community housing organisations can get loans and get support to make sure that additional housing is built. And last week, of course, we had our Housing Australia Future Fund finally pass the Parliament. Still with the opposition of the Liberals, and the Nationals, and One Nation still saying no to public and affordable housing. The truth is that what we need to do, if we’re going to address housing issues, is increased supply. And that’s why part of this Social Housing Accelerators as well is support from state and territory governments to upgrade planning laws to make sure that we get that increase in supply. This is a win, win for Victoria, but for the whole country as well, and it’s a very exciting project. It’s not surprising that the first project is here in Victoria, given the commitment of the Andrews Labor Government to doing more on social housing investment than other governments. But they’re all stepping up now, stepping up to the plate as a result of having a partner in the Commonwealth. When I announced the Housing Australia Future Fund as the centrepiece of my second Budget reply, some of the media commentary at that time was, ‘oh, why is the Commonwealth being involved in housing?’ Well, we’re involved because we need to be. Because it has an impact on everything else, on education, on health, on people’s prospects in life. And we want to make sure that no one’s left behind and part of that is this commitment that we’re making today. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it’s a lot of time and money for 35 extra houses, which is what this project delivers. Are you going to be able to reach your ambitious targets at that kind of rate?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s not 35 extra houses. It’s 231 extra houses. They’re uninhabitable, in too many places where, these facilities were built in 1968, there are problems with sewage, it’s impossible to upgrade them. Now, an option of a less visionary government than this bloke’s would be, flog it off, knock it over, private developers would benefit. Instead of that, we had this approach, which will result in 231 additional dwellings. We have a target of 1.2 million. I have no doubt that that can be achieved. That can be achieved by working with the other partners in the Housing Accord, state and territory governments, local government, the Master Builders Association, the Housing Industry Association, social housing groups, have all joined together for this target. We have, of course, the incentive, which is there as well for state and territory governments to meet their targets.
JOURNALIST: Is the project going to stay wholly public housing or is it or is there going to be private developments?
PRIME MINISTER: This is part of the deal, is that it has to be additional public housing, is what we’re about with the Social Housing Accelerator. It’s an important part of the mix. The planning changes that are being made around the country will support private development. And indeed, the changes that we put in the Budget this year to provide incentives for the private sector to build to rent, the Property Council estimates that that will result in between 150,000 and 250,000 additional private rental dwellings being built. So, there’s not one solution, there’s a range of solutions. We’re up for all of it.
JOURNALIST: How much is this project going to cost?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, all 769 dwellings will be delivered within that just under $500 million that the Commonwealth Government has provided to us. That’s our share of the $2 billion fund. In terms of the individual cost of the two towers behind us being replaced, that’ll be subject to tenders, and we won’t necessarily name the price until we’ve had that competitive process. But we’re very confident that we can deliver all 769 of those dwellings. The reason we can say that is that we’re currently delivering more than 12,000 units of social, public and affordable housing under the Victorian Big Housing Build. So, we’ve got about 7,600, 7,800 of those either done or underway now. So, we’ve got a good sense of the market. We’re very confident we can deliver that and perhaps more. That’s at least 231, it may be, with innovative design outcomes and the tender process, we may even do better than that. There’s 16 stories at the moment and no one’s living there because no one can.
JOURNALIST: INAUDIBLE planning controls?
PREMIER ANDREWS: That will be a matter for the Minister for Planning, as is the case with public housing developments. Well, there’ll be no issue with the planning. The planning will be done, because you’re replacing something that’s already there.
JOURNALIST: And what about these other towers?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, as you know, there’s a Cabinet meeting this afternoon and there’ll be further announcements about housing supply made later on this week. And we’ll be back before you, quite a bit over the next few days and weeks, making lots of announcements.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, I think there’s a range of issues, we have been through a one in 100 year global pandemic event that’s obviously had some impacts. There’s some supply chain issues across the world. There are different monetary policy environment. There’s all sorts of different factors. But what I would say is this, and I’ve learned this over a long period, if time if you wait around for 100% agreement on almost any policy, you will get precisely nothing done. So, you have to search for a balance. You have to search for a fair and reasonable outcome. Look at all the angles, listen to all the different points of view. But ultimately, no one should be getting any points for admiring the housing problem. We should get on and build more houses. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. And we’re not going to pretend that we’ve got all the answers right out to 2051, because there’ll be many things in 2051 that couldn’t reasonably be anticipated in 2023, but we’ll have a very big down payment on what we want our housing market to look like by the middle of this century. And we’ll make some announcements quite soon about that. And they will be bold, but they will be common sense, and they will mean more houses get built, because nothing’s more important than that. More houses means lower prices, more power and choice for consumers and better outcomes for all of us.
PREMIER ANDREWS: I think that we need to respond to what people want. You need to build the stock that people want. And for some people, that’ll be a quarter acre block, or perhaps not that big, or maybe a bigger even, but the outer suburban block. For other people, it’ll be apartment living. For some people, it’ll be owning a home outright. For others, that will be renting and having the security of a long term lease and all the rental protections over and above what we’ve already delivered. And again, we’ll have more to say about that too. The key point here is that we can’t keep just going out. We have to go up and out. But I hasten to add, high quality, high quality from a public realm point of view, natural light, access to services, all of those things. Design can’t be compromised. And I think you can make good decisions and you can make them a good deal faster than we have been. And we need to, we need to get more houses built and that’s exactly what our announcements in coming days will be all about.
JOURNALIST: Do you think part of the problem is Australians are obsessed with their backyard and a lot of people don’t want to sacrifice it?
PREMIER ANDREWS: I wouldn’t say that. I live in the suburbs, have done for a very, very long time on a 700 square metre block and our backyard is important to us. For other people, that’s less important. They’d be more than happy to live in a very different way. You’ve got to provide choices and options. At the moment, too few people have power in this market. They simply can’t afford what they want or they can’t find what they want. So, whether it’s properties built for market for sale, or properties built to rent or social and public housing, we need to do more in all of these areas, so that there’s more supply to put downward pressure on prices and provide more choice to people. And that’s exactly what we will do. But admiring problems is not leadership. It’s just makes things worse. So, to the earlier question, I just say respectfully to people who, ‘not here, not here, not here.’ Well, where are we going to build these homes? Like, if everyone says no, well, then we’re going to be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of homes short. And I don’t think any of us want to live in a city and state like that. So, they’ve got to go somewhere and I do think, I do think, that you can find that balance point between high quality product and a price that people can afford. The other thing we haven’t mentioned, the jobs. There’s thousands of jobs at stake here. And if we give to this industry a predictable, long term order book, that will drive down prices as well. Adds to skills attainment, means more people in work, more businesses, small businesses, many of them subbies and people across this industry, they are fine people who work very, very hard, despite some recent commentary sledging them. They work incredibly hard and we want to give them more work to do.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on another matter, do you condemn the nasty abuse of people as they walked into a No event in Adelaide last night?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I condemn nasty behaviour wherever it occurs, wherever it occurs. We need to have a respectful debate. And here in the Royal Exhibition building with such history, when I walk through down below there, if you look up on the roof, there’s a Latin sayings, including carpe diem, seize the day. On October 14, it will be an opportunity for people to seize the day. Seize the day and to finally recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution, but also to give them an advisory group so that we can listen to them, to get better results. That’s what’s at stake on October 14.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the tone, though, of the debate as it stands now, with almost three weeks ago? Are you concerned with the tone of the debate?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, some of the tone of the debate has been unfortunate. That’s the truth. What I would say to people is be respectful, I respect every Australian regardless of whether they’re going to vote Yes or whether they’re going to vote No. What I would say about the debate is that people should actually debate the question that is before the Australian people. That is really clear, really clear. So, it’s about, ‘In recognition of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia’. That’s the recognition bit. And then it just says, ‘There shall be a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.’ It then says what it’ll do, ‘It may give advice on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’ And the third is supremacy of the Parliament, that the legislation which will cover the procedures and the composition and the other issues, just as legislation and the primacy of Parliament remains. So, there has been a significant fear campaign going on. Raising a whole lot of issues that won’t be impacted by October 14, including issues in which people in the No camp, Warren Mundine has a very different view from Jacinta Price, who has a different view from Peter Dutton. Peter Dutton appears to want for this referendum to be defeated, for him to win the next election, then have another referendum. That, to me, makes no sense to reject what Indigenous people are asking for, which is a very modest and simple request.
JOURNALIST: The Foreign Ministry says it’s raised concerns with the Indian Government about its alleged role in the death of a British Sikh activists in Canada. Have you raised those concerns personally with Mr Modi at the G20? And do you regret calling him a ‘boss’ when he visited in Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Seriously, you should chill out a bit. You know, we’re at a venue where Bruce Springsteen played the last time I was there and I made the point that the reception he got from the community, which was a very broad based community, were there from the Indian diaspora, welcomed him very strongly. It’s as simple as that. So, I welcomed Prime Minister Modi to Australia, as I welcome other guests to Australia as well. I have had the privilege of being at the G20 and at the G20 hosted by India. That was a major event which signalled, in part, the rise of countries in our region as very important. Whether it be India, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, these are all important relationships.
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t talk about Five Eyes intelligence at a press conference, funnily enough, that’s why it’s called intelligence, because we don’t speculate on what the intelligence is. So, I don’t intend to talk about Five Eyes intelligence here or anywhere else.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s concern today from some religious groups about the Misinformation Bill, they’re saying that they want to make sure they can express their religious beliefs without being caught up in that. What safeguards implement to ensure INAUDIBLE?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we don’t even have a bill. What we have is a consultation process which is out there, which arose from the former government. Let’s be very clear about this. This arose from the former coalition government and organisations such as yours, such as every mainstream news organisation, whether it’s News Corp or Nine News or other media organisations, have expressed concern for some period of time about some of the misinformation which is out there on the internet and the role of some social media organisations in that. We saw that during COVID, probably wasn’t a good idea to have stuff out there about bleach being injected and about a whole range of things that were out there. So, this is quite strange that the coalition, which initiated this process, now once again, our country cannot advance based upon fear. No country can. By definition, if you are about change and change for the better, countries have only been changed for the better with hope and optimism. That is what brings about the changes that have occurred in this great state and this great country since 1901.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, the first point to make is that no state government has provided more energy relief than our government. The last round of the Power Saver Bonus only just finished. Sorry?
PREMIER ANDREWS: I hadn’t yet said that they did. Nor was I going to Bridget. You’re a bit jumpy today, you lot.
PRIME MINISTER: This is a different press conference Premier, there questions and then you get the answer as well.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Indeed. Regardless of the maths of that, the Power Saver Bonus is not just about a $250 payment. It’s also about using a website, a trusted website, to make sure that you are on the best deal and millions of visits to that website occur every single year. Now, having done four rounds of this, I think that would be self-evident that we, of course, may well do a fifth. I don’t have any announcements to make about that today. But I just want to make one comment, we know that families are doing it tough. We know that there’s a cost of living, big challenge out there at the moment. But the biggest fixed cost for so many people when it comes to the cost of living is housing. So, you’ve got to get more houses built for rent, for sale, for families for the future. That’s what you’ve got to do. We’ll have some very exciting announcements to make about that very soon. Beyond that, having done four, I think it’s logical to assume that if and when we can, of course we stand ready to do a fifth. But in some respects, I know the payment is very important, but of equal importance, even with all those visits, millions of visits to that compare.energy.vic.gov.au website, still people who go there, 40% of them, are not on the best deal. So, it makes sense, not just for the money, as in the grant, it makes sense to make sure that you’re on the best deal. Because these companies don’t ring you up and say, ‘by the way, we’re ripping you off.’ They just don’t. So, checking regularly is a really important thing.
PRIME MINISTER: Can I make just one point on cost of living, that five and a half million Australians are about to benefit from an increase in payments. JobSeekers about to go up by $56.10 a fortnight and the Single Pension by $32.70 per fortnight. A range of payments that kicks in in the next 24 hours and this will make a real difference to people. It’s in recognition that people are doing it tough that we put in place the measures as we did in the Budget to increase JobSeeker, the changes to Single Parenting Payment, the changes to over 55s as well for job JobSeeker. The additional support that’s there in addition to that, the increased rental assistance, we provided that in part in recognition, on top of the work that we did in partnership with the states and territories, for our Energy Price Relief Plan. Our cheaper childcare that kicked in on the 1st of July. Our cheaper medicines that kicked in on the 1st of September.
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll announce after we go through with the states and territories across the board what the findings of that review are. The problem that we had and we saw this in the Aston by election here, was a coalition government that promised a couple of hundred million dollars for spending that will cost billions of dollars, where there was no consultation with the respective state governments. That occurred across the board. So many projects are, quite frankly, massively underfunded. We’ve said that we’ll maintain at least the infrastructure program, was funded in the budget of $120 billion, but you can’t you can’t fund a road that costs $1billion dollars with $100 million. And that’s why this review was needed. What had happened over a period of time, was that projects had been announced, some of these had been announced prior to the 2013 election, re-announced in 2016, re-announced in 2019, and re-announced in the lead up to the 2022 election without, I think, very clearly any tension to actually build them. And you can’t build a road on the basis of, with a media release. You need real money and you need proper costings, and that’s why the review was necessary.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you support a tax on short stay accommodation and Airbnbs, ordinary mum and dad’s trying to get ahead with their investment property, is that really going to increase supply and fix the housing crisis?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven’t seen any and the important point is that the issue of Airbnb is an issue.
In my electorate, it’s an issue because you have problems of accessing rentals for people because of a lack of accessibility. So, I’m very conscious of the pressure that is placed on communities. If you try to get rental property in Newtown or Enmore, there have been a range of, in part because of the changes in the makeup of our housing, that has caused an issue. So, it’s not surprising that governments are having a look at this. And I know that that is something that has been considered by anyone who actually looks at the housing issue with regard to housing supply.
JOURNALIST: Have you received a briefing on Victoria’s Housing Statement?
PRIME MINISTER: If I did, I’d be unlikely to announce it prior to whatever, the Victorian Government, I talk to Daniel Andrews all the time, my friend here, as I talk to other leaders. I’ll be talking with Tasmanian leaders, I’m up to Devonport after this. I talk to people there too. I find it’s a really good idea if you want to get cooperation between different levels of government, to actually have conversations and to achieve outcomes. I think what myself and the Premier have been able to achieve, as must be said with former state governments as well, be they Dominic Perrottet’s government in NSW, we had a very good relationship with. That’s how we got the energy deal done. I have a good relationship with Jeremy Rockcliffe in Tasmania. And my style is very different from my predecessor, who seemed to want to pick fights in order to therefore advance short term politics. I find that working across different levels of government in a cooperative, respectful way, is a far better way to achieve things. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to look at the issue nationally though?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s not something, we dealt with housing at the last National Cabinet meeting. The next one is going to have a big focus on health, as we announced. Thanks very much.