SKY NEWS ON THE HOUR
THURSDAY, 4 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: HomeBuilder; social housing.
ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: In the meantime let's check in with the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. Jason Clare thank you for your time.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: G’day Annelise.
NIELSEN: There is a big announcement from the Federal Government today, $688 million in potential renovations. Surely this is good news getting more people back out working?
CLARE: I don’t know if big is the right word. To be blunt, it's just not good enough. It's not going to save enough jobs. It's not going to be big enough, or comprehensive enough, to save the jobs of lots of tradies who rely on that work in that industry. In an industry that everybody says is about to go off a cliff. You've got about a million people who work in this industry, and the amount of work in this industry is about to go like that (pointing down). This is a small package by the Government that's not going to save enough jobs.
NIELSEN: The university sector has been told that they just need to rework their business model even though they're going to take a huge loss. Why isn't the construction industry just being told the same?
CLARE: I think it's up to the government to look at each industry and try and develop packages that are going to help to save jobs and speed up economic recovery, get us out of this recession as quick as possible. When it when it comes to the housing industry, we were expecting to build 160,000 homes this year before the virus hit. Now it's likely to drop to 100,000. The small package that the Prime Minister announced today will push that up by about 10,000. So you're still going to have about 50,000 fewer homes built in the next financial year. For an industry that employs a million people that means that lots and lots of people are going to lose their jobs. They are going to end up building a longer line at Centrelink rather than building homes.
NIELSEN: It is still a significant amount of money. I mean, these grants are open to people that are earning $125,000 a year, couples up to $200,000. Those are thresholds that normally the Liberal Government would be saying would be way too ambitious. That does show that it is a significant package here, they are trying to get as many people in there as possible. How would you possibly afford an even bigger package?
CLARE: Let's compare and contrast this with what we did when the GFC hit. When the Global Financial Crisis hit it smashed the entire economy, and it hit the housing industry like it's hitting it now. At that time, we put together a package that included grants like this, but also money to build and repair social housing. It was a package worth about $7 billion. It helped that industry to recover, it helped stop us going into recession. Now compare that to what was announced today. We've got an industry that is under even more pressure today than it was 10 years ago, we're in recession right now and the package that they've announced today is less than $700 million. So it's less than one tenth of the package we put together to save the industry and save jobs during the GFC. So bigger problem, smaller response. That's why I called this a fizzer this morning.
NIELSEN: The Government has also said that these kind of programs, they are open to them being scalable, we heard that with JobKeeper, wouldn't this be a prudent approach to something as ambitious like this at this time to start with a narrow protocol for who can qualify for it and then extend it later on, if it is proving to be successful?
CLARE: Annelise the Government doesn't have any excuse here. They have had warnings for weeks that this is coming at them. We know that people who lost their jobs a couple of months ago, when the virus hit, weren't signing contracts to build new houses at the rate they normally do and that there's a lag period of about four to six months where ordinarily people would be pouring concrete at building sites in September and October, November where that won't happen. That's why we said you've got to act now to avoid this calamity. The Government took their time to react, and they've reacted with a package which is not going to do the job.
Albo and I and Jim Chalmers and others have said there are a number of things you have got to do here if you want to save these jobs of Australian tradies. You can do grants, like those being announced today, but you should also be funding more social housing, repairing social housing, because you can do it quick and keep tradies on the tools doing that. Build more affordable housing for frontline workers like nurses and cleaners and bus drivers, the sort of people that kept us safe during the Coronavirus crisis. Extend or expand the first home loan deposit scheme. We need a range of measures, a comprehensive package, to stop the worst from happening and I don't think the package that's been announced today is going to do the job.
NIELSEN: Australia is now in recession, the Treasurer has admitted, for the first time in 29 years. Do you think there are lessons we could be learning from how Australia managed the Global Financial Crisis? While many observers have said it's not the same, there isn't the systemic failure that we saw with the Global Financial Crisis applying here? There's certainly some lessons to be learned about what kind of stimulus would help?
CLARE: The advice we received from Treasury then was to act quickly, go households and the work that we did then stopped us from going into recession. Now, that's all come to a grinding halt under this government and we're in recession. The challenge now for all of us is to crawl out of this mess as quickly as we possibly can. The sort of package that we put together during the GFC to keep tradies working, not on the end of a dole queue, are the sort of things that this Government should have thought up and implemented today. Instead, we've got a package, which I think for a lot of Aussies hearing the news today, they’re just going to be scratching their heads.
Remember Annelise on Monday, flashed across the front page of the Australian, was the headline renovation rescue. People were thinking the Government's going to help us to renovate my kitchen or my bathroom. Turns out that's all rubbish. The only people that will benefit from this are people that have got the capacity to spend more than $150,000 on a renovation - but earn less than $125,000 a year. Now, there's not going to be a lot of battlers in the suburbs or aspirational Aussies, who’ve got the capacity to do that. It seems like a scheme that's been made up very, very quickly, and is not going to do the job that we need to do, which is to keep tradies working and stop those small mum and dad businesses with their names on the sides of utes that work on these construction sites around our cities from going broke.
NIELSEN: At the same token, if you did make it's really easy to access, you made it that it was small grants that you could get out to any old tradie quite quickly, wouldn't that be a system that was really open to abuse, to fraud?
CLARE: I'm not recommending they do that. I'm recommending they put the money into social housing, work with the state governments and put money into renovating social housing. Anyone who's ever been into public housing knows it needs a bit of renovation. There's a long waiting list of people who need to get into social housing, more than 100,000. We should be building more social housing. More affordable housing for the sort of people that don't earn a lot of money, but wear a uniform and keep us safe like firefighters and nurses, the sort of people who just got a pay cut from the New South Wales Government. So there are good things we can do that will avoid all of the risk of fraud and misuse of public money. The government could have done that today but I chose not to. The consequence of that is that more tradies are going to lose their jobs and more are going to end up in that ever mounting line of people outside Centrelink.
NIELSEN: We'll have to leave it there Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare, thanks for your time.
CLARE: Thank you Annelise.