Matters of Importance

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (17:32): It is always interesting in here to get up and see a little bit of argy-bargy, but there is no argy-bargy like the government versus the Greens. They like to give it to us, but there is no better ringside seat than when the government takes on its good mates the Greens.

Brad Rowswell: That’s why we are here.

Danny O’BRIEN: I can only assume it is why everyone is in here, because it certainly is not to listen to me; I know that. All the government members, pretty much all of the ones over there, got elected on Greens preferences, but here they are ripping into them every time they get the opportunity. It is just extraordinary. There is no fight like a family fight, is there, when they really get into each other, and that is what we are seeing here. But this has actually been an interesting debate, because sometimes we do get told in politics that we are all the same: ‘You’ve all got the same policies. You’re indistinguishable from each other’. Well, this has actually been a pretty interesting debate to highlight the differences between all the parties in this place – at least between the Labor Party, the government, and the Greens. No better demonstrated is this than by the fact that the Greens think that this Labor government is neoliberal. What does that say about the Greens? Where are they? Somewhere next to Trotsky? I don’t know – Marx? I am not sure what it is, but if this government is neoliberal, I will be winning Australia’s Next Top Model next year. This is just extraordinary.

But it is true, what I am saying. The point is accurate that there are very big differences between the parties on these issues. We have got the Greens, who think that the government should own everything, basically, and the government should only build public housing and social housing. We have got the government, which even though the member for Footscray just talked about supply does not actually get the supply issue and thinks that taxing housing is going to help it, and us on this side, who realise that it will be private investors investing in housing – mums and dads putting away something for their future and providing a place to live for someone who wants to rent – who will actually solve this problem. So the words are supply, supply, supply.

When it comes to actually addressing the housing crisis, we have seen this government absolutely botch it every step of the way. Since this government came to power, we have seen 49 increased or newly introduced taxes, and 23 of those new or increased taxes have been on property. In the midst of a housing crisis what have we seen in the last couple of years? We have had a windfall gains tax introduced on property development. What do you think the property developers are going to do when they get a windfall gains tax?

Brad Rowswell: Tell us, Danny.

Danny O’BRIEN: Are they going to just cop it? Are they just going to say, ‘Well, that’s an increased cost to business’? No, they are going to pass it on to the cost of housing, aren’t they? And then this year the geniuses in the Treasury office, at the height of a housing affordability crisis, a housing availability crisis when rents are going through the roof, what are we going to do?

A member: Tax.

Danny O’BRIEN: Another new tax. We are going to introduce a rent tax on landlords. The Treasurer had the gall in his Treasurer’s speech this year to refer to economics 101; he said, ‘If you know economics 101’. As I said at the time in the budget, I have actually done economics 101. It is literally a course description.

Tim Richardson: How did you go?

Danny O’BRIEN: I aced it, thank you, member for Mordialloc. I did very well, unlike the Treasurer, who clearly has not paid any attention whatsoever. Because if something is in short supply and you add a cost to it, a cost that cannot be avoided, it is going to be passed on. And what is going to happen then? Rent is going to go –

Members: Up.

Danny O’BRIEN: Thank you very much. It is going to go up. We have the government at this point in time adding additional taxes – 49 additional or new taxes, and they have increased 23 of them on property. And the government is now surprised that we have got a housing affordability crisis.

James Newbury: They did not do economics 101.

Danny O’BRIEN: They did not do economics 101, that is right, member for Brighton. This all comes on the back of the new rental laws that were introduced in 2021. Some rebalancing of the rental laws may well be appropriate. I think that there is a balance in this. You always have to make sure the renters have rights and that landlords have rights. But we saw the changes introduce a ban on rental bidding, new rental minimum standards, which has forced a lot of landlords to have to spend a lot of money in the last couple of years. We have got no eviction without a reason, allowable modifications by renters, which has had a big impact on those people who are providing rental accommodation. Landlords, many of them are telling their agents, ‘I do not want to see my house modified without approval.’ And there are new rules with respect to both pets and urgent repairs.

Again, some of this may well be justified, but the evidence has already shown that landlords are getting out of the market. We have seen this in recent weeks in relation to the government’s new land tax changes. An article on 23 June on said:

Victoria has been dubbed the nation’s worst state for landlords and faces economic headwinds and housing shortages as population growth soars.

Who would have thought? That came from a survey by the REIV that said nearly 90 per cent of real estate agents in Victoria have had an increase in contact from landlords who are looking to recover increased costs as a result of the Victorian governments new and increased land tax on investment properties. What did I say? Economics 101: if you add a cost, it gets passed on.

The member for Gippsland East, I do have to mention him because he gave an excellent speech. It was very good. It did not probably get the credit it deserved, but he made the point that our rental providers in the main are mum-and-dad investors. Seventy per cent of them only have one second property, and 43 per cent of those earn less than $100,000 a year. This is not wealthy landlords in the main. This is not people with multiple properties. That is the reality of our housing affordability and the housing availability in Victoria where 70 per cent of rental properties are provided by the private sector.

For the Greens to be saying no private stuff and put in a rental cap, let us stop everything – what do they think is going to happen? If you make rental availability less attractive, there is going to be less of it. I know what they will say because they have said it to some degree, ‘If landlords are selling up, that is good because more people can then afford to buy a house. If there’s more supply, house prices will come down.’ Yes, in theory, to a bit. What if you are a 23-year-old just starting to make your way in the world and you need to rent? You are not going to be able to go out and afford to buy a house. This is just economic lunacy from both the government and the Greens.

On the public housing question, back to what this is really about, I give the government credit for the Big Housing Build. We absolutely needed to increase the level of public housing stock in Victoria, and – we know this from the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee – that is because the Victorian government was a long, long way behind the rest of the country on a per capita basis in terms of public and social housing availability. That was in the ROGS data in 2021. The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services made it very clear we were at the bottom of the table, so we actually needed to keep up. Those opposite have mentioned the former member for Richmond. He acknowledged that; he actually accepted that we had to do a lot more. So it is good.

But we have also just heard from the minister before and we hear from the government regularly how they are going to deliver 12,000 new homes. We are going to have 8200 new homes. That is a net gain. So far – and again this has just come back from the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings this year – there is an increase of 2900, so we are still a long, long way from anything like what the government is claiming that it is going to deliver. That is in the context – other members have raised this – that in the past 12 months, in the 12 months to March 2023, 3681 people, or households, were added to the public housing waiting list. 842 of those were priority families. So we have got an increase in the waiting list, more and more people, and we are not keeping pace with the investment, even with what the government is doing. That is something that the government needs to address.

In my own electorate – the Big Housing Build is $5.3 billion – in South Gippsland shire there are six new homes, six. I have got people coming to me all the time looking for housing, whether it is private housing, whether it is rental or whether it is public housing. The government needs to do better. The $1 billion it is pledging to apparently spend on regional housing after the Commonwealth Games debacle it absolutely needs to deliver to rural areas of the state. It needs to do a lot better, and it needs to ignore the Greens when it comes to policy on housing in this state.

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