Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Shadow Minister for Social Services
Shadow Minister for the NDIS
Shadow Minister for Housing
Shadow Minister for Homelessness
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Interview with Laura Jayes – Sky News Australia






Monday 20 May, 2024

TOPICS: Newspoll, Labor’s third Budget, Migration and Housing


Laura Jayes: Support for Labor appears to have steadied in the first Newspoll since last week’s federal budget, but voters remain a little bit skeptical about the Government’s proposed cost of living measures. Joining me now is the Shadow Housing Minister, Michael Sukkar. Michael, if I could ask you a more general question about the polls. Look, Labor is pretty steady there in the primary vote. The LNP isn’t sinking. It’s kind of going up one or two or a little back month by month. Doesn’t this show you ahead of the next election that in fact Labor faces more threat from the minor parties, Independents than it does the LNP.

Michael Sukkar: Well, Laura, I mean look, you’re a commentator on these things. I think the truth is we saw out of the Budget that Australians have not given Labor the kudos that they were hoping for. Labor engaged in a big spending budget, an inflationary budget, and I think Australians have marked them down. I would have been hoping for a big bounce out of the billions and billions of dollars of spending. What I’ve said to you before, Laura, and I’ve said it many times is politics is an arm wrestle. There’s sort of no silver bullet. I think what you’ve seen is we have a consistent, principled approach and our vote is pleasingly increasing. It’s not happening, you know, in big jump, but bit by bit. And it’ll be an arm wrestle between now and the election. But the message from Australian voters to the Labor Party is that their budget has not made their cost of living any better and that’s why I don’t think I’ve seen a bounce.

Laura Jayes: Okay, do you want the next election to be fought on housing?

Michael Sukkar: Absolutely. We would be very happy to fight the next election on housing. I mean, we saw clearly from last week one of the battle lines will be Labor’s approach for higher migration with fewer homes being built and our view that you need to reduce migration in order to take pressure off the housing market, that’s quite a stunning difference between the two parties. Labor will be arguing for higher migration at the election, we will be arguing for a more sustainable migration level partly because of what it does to the housing market. We’re building fewer homes than we’ve built for over ten years, and yet we’re bringing in record numbers of people. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that those numbers don’t work, Laura, which is why Peter Dutton’s budget in reply speech and his comments on reducing migration to a sustainable level is a battle line that we will be very, very happy to fight on, including its impacts on housing.

Laura Jayes: Well, their own budget papers show next year, the year after, will be down to about 260,000 net migration – you were about 140. What about all the skilled workers we need to actually build these homes?

Michael Sukkar: Well, just a couple of things lower on that. Firstly, you’ve got to look at what labor delivers, not what they say. I mean, the 2022 23 budget said that they would have migration of 235,000. It ended up being 528,000. So they were just 297,000 people short. So we will go by what they deliver – Not what they say. But even on the projected figures, our reductions in population growth will see the first year, 40,000 additional homes made available 100,000 over five years. They’re very conservative estimates in our proposed reductions to migration growth because the truth is our industry, even if it was running at 100 per cent, which by the way, it’s not at the moment under the Labor Party, but even if it was, just cannot build the homes fast enough for the migration levels that the Labor Party have baked into their budget. And you’ve got to be realistic about these things and they lower, I say this all the time, I’m a product of migration, I love migration, but it’s got to be planned migration in the best interests of Australians, not this wing and a prayer will just bring people in and hope it doesn’t have an impact on renters, on first home buyers…

Laura Jayes: Well sure, but you’re going to have – you’re cutting some skilled migrants there…

Michael Sukkar: In relation to your first question, so Peter Dutton made very clear in his budget in reply speech that we will prioritise the sorts of skills we need within our intake, within our cap to build the homes we need. The Master Builders Association has excoriated this Government for the fact that even though it’s run a massive migration program – a totally unsustainable migration program, they have moved away from bringing in the sorts of skills that we need to build homes. Presumably due to pressure from the CFMEU and other unions. So even though they’ve been running massive migration programs, they’ve not been bringing in those skills. We will ensure that we have sufficient number of those skilled workers to build the homes.

Laura Jayes: Do you have a figure?

Michael Sukkar: No, no. It will be dependent on the skills list at the time. It will be dependent on the skills you need at any particular.

Laura Jayes: If you’re talking about housing. What do you mean? It depends on the skills list. We know what we need and time after time we’re told by Master Builders and others that we need more tradies and we need more engineers.

Michael Sukkar: Sure. And what we’re saying is that in our program we will make sure that we do prioritise those sorts of skills. My point is those skills do fluctuate and change from time to time. When we’re in government, there were a whole heap of issues with supply chains. Those things have changed. Those supply chain issues have differed. So you’ve got to address the issues at the time. And the problem now is we’ve got first home buyers at the lowest levels for over ten years. We’ve got fewer homes being built since records have been kept. And the worrying thing is approvals are down even further. So that means over the next 12 to 18 months, even fewer homes are going to be built than the pipeline that this government inherited. So on every single measure, fewer homes are being built, which is why it’s extraordinary that they’re standing by their big Australia, standing by the high population projections. And I think to go back to your first question, Laura, that will be one of the defining features of the next election. Labor arguing for higher migration and the Coalition arguing for sustainable migration and its impacts on housing – and that’s a fight we have every day.

Laura Jayes: Okay, so the target at the moment from this government is 1.2 million homes in five years. With your plans in place, do you think you can meet that or exceed it?

Michael Sukkar: Well, let’s be clear. Their target, their promise – of 1.2 million homes has been junked by every single group and economists.

Laura Jayes: With your plan, could you do more or less though?

Michael Sukkar: Well, we’ll build more than Labor. I mean, there’s no doubt about that.

Laura Jayes: So more than 1.2?

Michael Sukkar: We will build more than Labor. What we won’t do is create targets that can never be met. The Labor Party are going to fall 400,000 homes short, Laura.

Laura Jayes: Yeah, but do you have a target? Like everyone is skeptical about the target but they agree that you need to have a target. So will you have one?

Michael Sukkar: No, I don’t think everyone agrees that you need to have a target at all, Laura.

Laura Jayes: You need to have something to work towards, don’t you?

Michael Sukkar: Well, no, if your target is 1.2 million homes, but you’re only going to build 800,000. That absolutely destroys the argument for a target because it means that the target’s not being taken seriously. It means that the target has no credibility. I mean, they’re going to fall 400,000 homes short, Laura. It’s an embarrassment that they are still clinging on to this so-called target because we’re having fewer homes built now than when I was housing minister, fewer homes built now even since the Rudd-Gillard years. I mean, this is how badly these guys are going. First home buyers are down, approvals are down, every single metric is down. I don’t think the target is helping them in this instance. So we’ll build more homes and bring in fewer people to take pressure off the housing market.

Laura Jayes: Alright. I’m setting a date in the calendar 20th of May. You said it and I’ll see you soon, Michael Sukkar.

Michael Sukkar: Good on you, Laura.