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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Press Conference – National Cabinet – Brisbane

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER:National Cabinet meet in Brisbane today to deliver a range of priorities for Australians with a focus on more secure and affordable housing. Delivering more housing supply is a vital part of National Cabinet’s plan to ensure communities thrive as they grow. All governments recognise the best way to ensure that more Australians have a safe and affordable place to call home is to boost housing supply. That’s why National Cabinet has agreed to an ambitious new national target to build 1.2 million new, well-located homes over five years from the 1 July 2024. This is an additional 200,000 new homes above the National Housing Accord target agreed by states and territories last year. The Commonwealth is committed to $3 billion for performance-based funding. The new Home Bonus for states and territories that achieve more than their share of the one million well located home target under the National Housing Accord. This will incentivise states and territories to undertake the reforms which are necessary to boost housing supply and increase housing affordability. This ambitious target will be supported by the Housing Support Program, a $500 million competitive funding program for local and state governments to kickstart housing supply in well located areas for that last mile as it’s spoken about, work that is sometimes needed. Connecting to sewerage, connecting to water, connecting to energy supplies. In short, upfront money to get housing moving quickly. National Cabinet also agreed to a National Planning Reform Blueprint that we will distribute with planning, zoning, land release and other measures to improve housing supply and affordability. The Blueprint includes updating state, regional and local strategic plans to reflect housing supply targets, promoting medium and high density housing in well located areas close to existing public transport connections, amenities and employment, and streamlining approval pathways. First Ministers also agreed on further significant measures to boost housing supply and better coordinate Australia’s migration settings, including endorsing initial state and territory implementation plans under the Social Housing Accelerator that we announced in June. Developing a principles based multi-year planning model for migration to improve collaboration with states and territories on migration settings, aimed at allowing states and territories to deal with skill shortages which are there. National Cabinet has agreed to a better deal for renters to harmonise and strengthen renters’ rights across Australia. This includes developing a nationally consistent policy to implement a requirement for genuine, reasonable grounds for eviction, moving towards limiting rent increases to once a year, phasing in minimal rental standards. These changes will make a tangible impact for the almost one third of Australians who rent. On health reform, First Ministers discussed health reform, which remains a top priority for the National Cabinet in 2023. At our next meeting which will be held in November, that will be solely focused on national health reform and states and territories will meet beforehand and work with all First Ministers and the officials from our state and territory jurisdictions along with the Commonwealth, to develop further reform. They’re committed to addressing the pressures facing the health system to deliver a patient centred and sustainable Australian healthcare system that provides the best outcomes for our community. A dedicated health meeting will be held in November. This will distribute the record of the meeting, the press conference, the press release, but also will deliver the details that have been agreed to in the National Planning Reform Blueprint, but also the renters’ rights issues.

JOURNALIST: The $3 billion, when does that start to flow? And if it’s an incentive payment, does it go to all states on a per capita basis, or is it structured so that it goes to states that get the housing built fastest?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s an incentive payment that kicks in when this is delivered. So, it’s at the end, if you like, or back ended. And the original plan, of course, was for one million new homes. So you will have worked out, with a little bit of quick maths, that an additional 200,000 homes with $3 billion allows for an incentive of $15,000 per additional home over and above the one million that had previously been agreed to and states and territories allocations. So, it will be allocated. It is a genuine incentive. This is borrowed, unashamedly, from some of the Hawke Government reforms, where you had incentive payments, such as in the national competition policy, so that there’s an incentive there that states and territories are aware of and a reward for delivering on the increased supply that Australia needs.

JOURNALIST: The Greens party warned ahead of this meeting that any agreement that didn’t agree to cap rent rises would not resolve the rental crisis. Are you confident that what you’ve agreed to today will be enough? To get the Greens party over the line to support the HAFF?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ve been negotiating and talking with First Ministers, not with minor parties. You cannot say you support increased housing supply and vote against the Housing Australia Future Fund. The Greens, as well as the Coalition of One Nation who formed a No-alition in the Senate, need to get on board. And this is an initiative that shows how serious we as state and territory governments across the political spectrum as well as the Commonwealth, understanding that supply is the key. That’s the key to putting downward pressure and assisting renters in addition to the sensible renters rights that we’ve agreed to today.

JOURNALIST: Just on the limitation of a rent increase only once per year, is that good enough? Because at the moment we’re seeing rent increases once per year, perhaps, but of hundreds of dollars, so is that good enough for renters?

PRIME MINISTER: What we agreed to was to move towards that. In Western Australia there has been a recent decision, just in recent months, of six monthly a limit in that. So, when we come together, what we want to do is to work towards greater national consistency. But we’re not in a position to flick the switch and just change eight pieces of legislation across states and territories immediately. And that’s why we have that position there, which is to move towards. There are other measures as well that you’ll see in the renters’ rights that have been agreed to today.

JOURNALIST: Just in terms of what you’re doing for immediate relief now, because the one year rent rises, it’s been NSW for a long time, all other states are moving towards that. The no grounds for reasonable evictions, that’s been talked about. So, there’s nothing new for renters’ rights, so what do you say? What has actually come out of this for immediate help?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’re wrong. Different states have different jurisdictions, with respect, have different rules. Not every state has any restrictions at all. One of the jurisdictions has none. What we’re doing is moving towards greater national consistency and making a practical difference. What we know, though, is that the idea that you just have a rent freeze, there is no jurisdiction in the country that is arguing for that, including the ACT Government, which has been spoken about. No one is arguing that that will make a positive difference. Indeed, we believe that will make it worse. The key to addressing these issues is supply and that’s why we have focused our attention on supply.

JOURNALIST: Is the incentive payment ties to have to be spent reinvested in housing or is it open to spent on anything? Are you confident that $15,000 per house is going to be the difference between reaching this target or not, given there’s clearly goodwill[inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: There is goodwill towards it because every state and territory knows that they have to deliver this for their respective not just capital cities, but in their regions as well. They know that this is a necessary reform and they know that not enough has been done in the past to address housing supply. States and territories, this isn’t an issue in which we come to the table with different starting points. We all or perhaps there are sometimes different starting points because of the history, but we all agree on housing supply being the key. So, what we’re working towards here is just that. The Commonwealth incentive payment is just that, to try to drive at the national level, where we don’t control land release. We don’t control zoning regulations. We don’t control approvals. There is limits to what the Commonwealth can do. What we can do is indicate our support for those jurisdictions who are putting their shoulder to the wheel to increase housing supply and that’s precisely what we’ve done here today.

JOURNALIST: You keep speaking about, on the rental reforms, that you’re going to work towards a consistent policy on evictions and work towards rental increases being limited to once a year. Is there a timeline on that? And if not, why not?

PRIME MINISTER: There are timelines on all of this, which is as soon as we can. Different parliaments, when you’re dealing with six states and two territories, they don’t all meet at the same time with the same timetable. What we’re doing is being practical about how we are moving forward. Bear in mind, the power of the Commonwealth to set rules with regard to rentals is zero. What we have the capacity to do, though, is for states and territories to come together to discuss what they’re doing, to look at best practice and to replicate best practise. And that’s what my objective is here.

JOURNALIST: I don’t want Mr Barr to give me the evil eye here because it’s not aimed at him but quite a lot of jurisdictions, states, have taxes on rented properties, land taxes on rental properties [inaudible]. Was there any discussion about those, whether they could be bought down to make rentals cheaper so that can be passed onto renters?

PRIME MINISTER: We are releasing today, immediately after the meeting, exactly what we found.

JOURNALIST: In terms of what the Federal Government can do, was the discussion on implementing investment barriers for super funds brought up or stimulus for the construction sector which is obviously struggling to keep up with this need to boost supply, was that discussed in the meeting today?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m very conscious that Treasurers, I know, have been discussing issues and I know that we as a Commonwealth Government have been discussing issues of financing, relating including to managed funds and how incentives could be given and how that could be encouraged. That’s the case in general for long term investment, not just in housing, but in infrastructure as well and that’s other work which is taking place. But it wasn’t the focus of today’s meeting.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Lidia Thorpe at the Press Club called on you again to cancel the referendum but also said she may be convinced to come over to the Yes campaign if you made certain concessions on the black deaths in custody report and the bring them home report. Are you willing to talk and reach compromise with her?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I have every respect for people in this debate and Lidia Thorpe and I have had a number of respectful discussions. I’m open to having discussions about issues that I care deeply about and I know she cares deeply about. The issue of deaths in custody is one that I think is, has been, continues to be an ongoing issue. It’s one that she is genuine about. I say on the referendum with Lidia Thorpe and to anyone else who cares about Indigenous issues and who might disagree with the decision of the majority, overwhelming majority of delegates to the First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017, that it is my view, very strongly, that the way to advance reconciliation in this country is for a Yes vote to succeed at the referendum that will be held in the last quarter of this year. And that it is difficult from my perspective, everyone will come to their own decision of course, from my perspective, I fail to see how other issues will be advanced if a No vote is recorded.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the rental standards, what will they focus on? And why did you choose those issues?

PRIME MINISTER: We focused on that because we want a comprehensive plan. So, you’ll see other initiatives that the Commonwealth’s taking about homeownership, you’re seeing supply, which we see as being the key. But we also think that the issue of renters rights is a real one. You’ll look at, when you look at the issues which have been outlined, the nine points that have been agreed to, for example, one of the things that we looked at was the consideration of what the impact of short term stay accommodation is having on rentals. I know in an electorate like mine, it’s having a substantial impact. And just having a look at that, considering what the implications are for that, is something that’s worthy of doing. We know that there is no simple one day, one week, one month solution to dealing with housing issues that are about a long term supply issue. But we know that we’re all prepared to look at the full suite of reforms across the housing sector. That’s why, historically, if you look at the previous ten years, there was very little engagement from the Commonwealth in any housing policy except for programs, which some have found actually led to an increase in costs rather than a decrease. My Government is determined to fulfil our responsibility because I care deeply about housing. The Housing Australia Future Fund was the centrepiece of my second Budget reply and I say this, we will continue to argue that it should be supported. And that position is supported by ACOSS, by Shelter, by community housing, social housing providers, but also by the Master Builders and by, frankly, common sense. If you support greater amount of social and affordable housing, then people should vote for it.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Matildas –

PRIME MINISTER: One thing very quickly, go Matildas tonight!

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