Grievance Debate - Housing crisis

30 August 2023

Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (16:46):

I would like to continue from the amazing contribution of the member for Yan Yean, who grieved for many different things that I will also be speaking about – the crisis of housing that we are facing. We are facing a crisis of housing supply, and I genuinely grieve for a Victoria under the Liberals and the Greens, who would rather block and ban housing than get on with delivering it. I grieve for Victorians, who want choice in where they live, including in rural and regional Victoria, and who do not have the support of those opposite to do that. The Liberals are divided on where to build housing. Some of their members in the north are calling for increases to density to help with the housing crisis, whilst others in the east say, ‘Oh, not in my backyard. I don’t want it here. Put it somewhere else’.

Meanwhile the Greens political party do not support our housing statement, despite the fact that they have not read it because we have not actually delivered it yet; it is still being written as we speak. Instead they are attempting to write their own housing statement for political pointscoring, and we saw earlier during question time that the member for Richmond thinks that she knows more than the Minister for Housing, which is just absolutely laughable. They just want to point-score; they want to take credit for our projects. They want to take all of the credit and act like they are doing it, rather than us on this side of the chamber. They could not care less about delivering affordable housing in rural and regional Victoria, as they are instead just obsessed with winning inner-city seats. I very highly doubt they have left the inner city in a very long time.

Members on this side of the chamber are the only representatives who truly care about ensuring all Victorians have a place to call home. Tragically, those opposite only care about throwing stones, and only when they actually turn up, because the Greens political party are very rarely in this place if they do not have to be. I remember seeing this for myself when I worked in the not-for-profit sector, advocating for more public housing to be built. I tried as hard as I could to meet with all sides of politics, and unsurprisingly next to no Liberals and Nationals responded to my meeting requests. The only Liberal who did respond was the former member for Kew. I caught up with him in his electorate office. He had a picture of the Queen on the wall. Instead of caring about our housing crisis and those needing public housing, he was completely, solely focused on how we could kick more people out of public housing to free up our housing stock. That is all he wanted to talk about to public housing advocates: chucking people out of public housing. It is so disgraceful, it is so disheartening and it is just representative of an opposition in Victoria that pretend to care about housing but, when push comes to shove, demonise vulnerable people. They do not have any vision for building more social and affordable housing.

This is in stark contrast to this side of the chamber. We walk the walk, we do not just talk the talk like those opposite. We are delivering the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build and the $1 billion regional housing package that our state needs. Our Big Housing Build has already delivered 7600 brand new homes right across Victoria, including in my electorate, which I am so proud about. We now have nine brand new social housing properties in Mitchell Park, with 30 more on the way. We are building 29 new homes as we speak in Ararat, and I am fighting for more to be done there. These homes have changed lives and they have saved lives. In total the Big Housing Build will build more than 12,000 new affordable homes, with 25 per cent of them in rural and regional Victoria.

Our $1 billion regional housing package will also deliver an extra 1300 social and affordable homes where we need them most. There are so many excited locals in Ripon who cannot wait to see more homes delivered, and when we made that announcement I got so many emails and so many phone calls from people interested in seeing housing in their particular community within Ripon. These funds are a game changer for our communities, and it will mean that we can build the much-needed key worker housing our industries have been screaming out for. It will mean that we can address the chronic housing supply issues and rental stress so many are experiencing. I know so many other members in this place experience this as well, but I cannot go anywhere without the topic of housing coming up.

Just last week I met with True Foods. You may not know them, but they are an amazing commercial bakery in Maryborough that employs 320 locals. They make tortilla wraps, naan and flatbreads, including for KFC and Subway, so you have probably enjoyed them. They said that one of the biggest issues stunting their growth as a business is the lack of available housing in the region. So many major employers in St Arnaud and Ararat raise this issue with me as well, and having that extra $1 billion – and I will continue to say it in this place – will make such a difference. One billion dollars in regional Victoria is a huge amount. It will create jobs and economic opportunity. It will help so many of the most vulnerable people in our society.

But the Greens political party do not want people in Ripon to have a house. They would rather block and stall and oppose and wreck progress. In Canberra they are continuing to abstain from the vote on the federal government’s Housing Australia Future Fund and effectively stopping vulnerable people from getting a roof over their head. They are making housing affordability worse, and they grandstand and talk a big game, but they never deliver a single thing. They would rather hold out for a whimsical utopia than get on with delivering right now. They are always thinking about what the perfect vision is rather than actually getting on with delivering in this moment. They have never heard the words ‘compromise’ or ‘pragmatism’, but they very much know the words ‘block’, ‘stop’ and ‘abstain’. They stoke the flames of nimbyism – we know they do – and when they have the chance, especially at a local government level, they shut down much-needed housing projects and get in the way of progress. They cannot be trusted with the housing crisis.

Meanwhile, with their mates, they have the Liberal–Greens alliance, and the Liberals’ and Nationals’ track record on housing speaks for itself as well. When they were last in government, they slashed the housing assistance budget by $340 million. The member for Yan Yean spoke about this earlier, but I am just going to say it again because it is so horrible. They made it harder for people living with severe mental illness to access the rental market by cutting $1 million from support services. Under Jeff Kennett over $176,000 was cut from tenants associations that supported private renters and public housing tenants. As planning minister, Matthew Guy consistently voted against reforms to make renting fairer for Victorians, and I think that probably some of those opposite also voted against making renting fairer in this state.

When we brought in 130 reforms, which have made such a huge difference and so many renters speak to me about those reforms still, those reforms in 2018, the Liberals voted against them. They tried to amend the legislation in the upper house to make it legal for landlords to force renters to pay an additional two weeks rent as an extension of the security bond that had already been paid for renters to have pets. They are solely for landlords and not for the millions of renters that we have in this state.

They do not care about renters. They do not care about people experiencing homelessness. They will rock up to homelessness charity events to make themselves feel good, and then they will come to Parliament and will vote against housing action and housing reform. Many of them actually genuinely think that you cannot end homelessness. They think homelessness is an inevitability, which we know is not true, and the research shows it. They think that you should not support people in times of need, that they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job.

When they had the chance, in those miserable, miserable four years that we all remember, they cut public housing renewal funds by over $300 million compared to the Bracks–Brumby years. Every single time they get their hands on government, they cut housing assistance – every time. They turn their noses up at people seeking shelter.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Member for Polwarth, you will get your turn.

Martha HAYLETT: ‘Oh, those poor people. We cannot help them.’ As recently as last year the former housing minister Wendy Lovell, who is in the other place, said, ‘There’s no point in having social housing in wealthy areas where the children cannot mix with others.’ This is a current opposition MP. She is the former Minister for Housing. It is so disgraceful. They are disgraceful comments –

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! Member for Polwarth, you will have your turn.

Martha HAYLETT: and I grieve for a state where a Liberal housing minister would have those views and do so little to address our housing crisis as a result.

While those opposite continue to pretend to care about everyday Victorians, the state Labor government is actually delivering for them. We are delivering – let us list it out, this is not even the full list – free kinder for three- and four-year-olds, free nursing and midwifery degrees, free car regos for apprentices, school breakfast programs, doctors in schools, mental health workers in schools and $250 power saving bonuses. The Nationals and the Liberals are going around their electorates, saying look at the $250 power saving bonus. They are claiming the credit for it. We are also delivering affordable housing that will have a positive impact for generations to come. In Ballarat we have delivered almost 150 social housing properties and have another 223 underway. Our guaranteed minimum investment in the Ballarat region is $80 million, and there is $15 million in the Golden Plains shire too. In Ararat we are investing $13 million in new affordable housing, and we are building affordable housing in the Hepburn shire, in Northern Grampians shire and in the Central Goldfields shire as well.

This is the important work that only Labor governments do. Unlike those opposite, we know that a safe and secure place to call home gives Victorians a solid foundation to thrive. Every new home being built through government investment is a home that is taking pressure out of the housing market. It provides for a family or an individual in need as well as putting downward pressure on overall rental prices in the private market. Our affordable housing rental scheme, which the member for Richmond pretends she does not know – ‘What’s going on there?’ – is pretty simple. It is an incredible program, and it is delivering 2400 affordable homes to help that missing middle – people who may not be on the waiting list yet but can never afford to buy a home. We need to make sure that we prevent them from actually getting to the point where they are on that waiting list, and that is what that program is all about. It is not just delivering in metro areas, it is delivering in rural and regional areas as well. Our $1 billion regional housing package will deliver for Ripon and our rural and regional areas, in Labor seats as well as in National seats, as well as in Liberal seats. We are delivering for all Victorians. We are delivering 1300 new homes as part of that project – and all the while the Greens are block, block, blocking. They block housing developments in their backyards. And the Liberals are basically silent on social housing.

They expect everyone to get money from mum and dad to buy a home – they do not care. We also saw a decade of neglect by the former Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison governments, and where were those opposite during that time? Where were they? Were they asking their mates in Canberra to do more for affordable housing? No. Were they pushing for more funds to end homelessness? No. Was the member for Kew, in her role as an adviser to the former federal Treasurer, asking him to do more? No, seemingly not. We see the federal coalition again voting against the Albanese Labor government’s Housing Australia Future Fund, stopping important money from being unlocked for the benefit of so many across our nation.

I have got more to say, but I am running out of time. I do want to say that we have an amazing housing minister, an amazing Premier, a Deputy Premier, a cabinet, a public service and an incredible construction industry who are delivering for Victorians in need. We know that there is more to do, and we are the first to admit that. We have come so far as a government in just the last five years to address the housing crisis. Housing is the number one issue in Victoria right now, and that is why we on this side of the aisle are working tirelessly to address this pressing issue.