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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Matter of Public Importance: Housing

What you don’t hear in question time from this government is anything about the housing crisis facing Australians. What you see in question time from this government is a very self-satisfied Prime Minister and frontbench who basically come in here every day and tell Australians that they’ve never had it better. We hear the litany of statistics from the Prime Minister basically telling Australians that they are so fortunate to have us as a government. And they never mention the housing crisis as being failed.

The most recent example of that was in question time when we had the Prime Minister blatantly refuse to answer what I thought was a very reasonable question of the government, and that question asked: why on earth, in the last two years of the Albanese government, did we have the number of migrants coming to this country running at the very least twice and on some statistics up to four times as many homes being built? Think about that—twice to four times the number of migrants coming in than homes being built.

We saw statistics reported in the Australian last week from Simon Benson, who outlined that 900,000 migrants had arrived from the time this government won office until 31 December, and in that time, when 900,000 migrants arrived in this country, 265,000 homes were built. May I say, Madam Deputy Speaker, a figure of 265,000 homes is delving into record lows for this country. Under this government, under the Labor Party, we now see new home builds at their lowest level since the global financial crisis. We see the number of first home buyers at its lowest level for over 10 years. Since this government came to office, the rents that Australians are paying have increased by 26 per cent. Sadly, we see data that shows approvals are at their lowest level for over a decade. What that means is that, if the housing crisis is bad now, it is just getting worse. That’s because approvals data is the canary in the coalmine for home builds later this year, 2025 and 2026. If homes aren’t being approved now, they won’t be getting built over the next two-year period.

What do we hear from the government in response? Obviously, we don’t hear anything about it in question time. We have heard the minister talk about the Housing Australia Future Fund.

I’ll take that interjection, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Housing from the government says ‘supply’. She says, ‘We are concentrating on supply.’ I don’t think I’m verballing the minister. She said that very clearly across the dispatch box. Well, let me give the minister a report card. Let me give the minister a sense of how well she and the government are doing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has highlighted the weakest quarter of construction in more than a decade, with a meagre 23,000 dwellings commenced in the September 2023 quarter. The housing minister says, ‘We’re focused on supply.’ What does the report card say? What does the scoreboard say? It hasn’t been worse for over 10 years, Minister, so you are failing your own test.

That’s why this is just going to get worse. The truth is—for those in the gallery and those watching—the reason it will get worse is that the government won’t admit there’s a problem. The government say, ‘We’re focused on supply; that is what we’re focused on,’ yet they are failing badly. As I said, we have seen renters have their rents increased by 26 per cent, with absolutely no plan from this government on how you get more homes into the market. We also saw, on the weekend, a very fair assessment, I think, from the Australian people. They said, ‘We are bringing in record numbers of migrants—900,000 migrants compared to 265,000 homes. Where on earth are those people going to live?’ We know that all this is doing is pushing down vacancy rates. We now have a national vacancy rate of one per cent. It’s no wonder that in Melbourne, in my home state of Victoria, when you see an ‘open for inspection’ for a rental the queues sometimes go around the block. When you bring in 900,000 people with no idea of where they’re going to live, guess who suffers? It’s the Australians who live here. It’s the Australians who live here who suffer.

I’m a very proud product of migration. I come from a migrant family. I’m a huge supporter of migration, but it must be planned. You must have a clue about where those people are going to live. We often talk about infrastructure and migration and the fact that the infrastructure in our cities has to keep up with the ever-growing number of migrants to this country. Well, there is no more important social infrastructure in this country than a roof over your head. There is no bridge, road, tunnel or drain that is more important than a roof over your head. So I would say to the Minister for Housing and the government: you can’t abrogate your responsibility and say: ‘Well, that’s another minister’s responsibility. The number of people coming in is not my responsibility as housing minister.’

In the September quarter of the year we had 548,800 migrants, and in that time we had 176,000 homes built. But there’s a kicker in those statistics, an important kicker: of the 176,000 homes built, at least a third—potentially up to half—are actually just replacements of existing stock, so a portion of those 176,000 are not increasing the numbers. So those figures are even generous to the government.

Knockdown-rebuilds—we see it all the time. It’s a new home, but it’s not increasing the stock of housing in this country. The government say, ‘We’re focused on supply,’ but they’re failing. They get an F for supply. No government has done as badly as them since the last time the Labor Party was in government.

To get back to what we saw over the weekend, Australians—I think rightly—said: ‘Well, if you’re bringing in 900,000 migrants, surely you’re bringing in some of the people who actually build the homes. Surely you’re bringing in some of the trades that build those homes.’ But, no, we aren’t. We find the 200,000-person increase in migration, year on year, to the September 2023 quarter—the increase by 200,000, to 550,000 people—was predominantly made up of students, not the tradies that are required to build the homes we need. So you don’t have that countervailing support for the people that create this industry and build this industry.

In conclusion, where do we find ourselves now? We find ourselves in a dire situation. Labor’s housing crisis is getting worse. There’s no way you can spin the numbers. Labor’s housing crisis is getting worse. We’re at 10-year lows in the number of homes being built, we are at the lowest level of first-home buyers for over a decade and we have rents going up exponentially. And what’s the plan? What’s the policy from this government? The minister, after two years in office, will have the Housing Australia Future Fund established on 1 July, which we opposed. If I’m completely and utterly wrong and the minister’s right, and her Housing Australia Future Fund works tickety-boo and is perfect, how many homes will come out of that Housing Australia Future Fund? Six thousand a year. So, at a time when they’re bringing in 548,000 migrants, this minister’s answer is to say, ‘We will fund 6,000 homes for those 548,000 people.’ I think it’s very heroic to even think that they will meet their own targets. Since when has the Labor Party ever met a target like this, whether it’s pink batts or school halls? You name it. But, even if I’m wrong and the minister delivers her meagre 6,000 homes, at the same time as the government is bringing in 548,000 migrants per year, what does it mean? It means misery for Australians and it means, quite frankly, our children will not have the same opportunity to own a home in this country as we had, and that is a shame on the government.

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