I seek leave to move a motion to provide for the consideration of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice standing in the name of the Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate, I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion relating to conduct of business—namely, a motion to provide for the consideration of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills.
I have circulated a motion in the chamber this morning which would allow for the housing bill to be considered after the government and the Prime Minister report back as to what agreement, if any, the Prime Minister can get out of National Cabinet in relation to the extraordinary amount of pressure renters are facing around the country today. We know, of course, that the housing bill, which this government has stubbornly been opposed to negotiating over, is before the Senate today, and the Greens would like for us to postpone that bill until the Prime Minister can show what he is going to do to relieve real pressure on one-third of Australian households.
We have been fighting long and hard to ensure that real money is put on the table to deal with the housing crisis, and—after months of being told that there was nothing that the government could do and they handed down a budget with no real money to deal with the housing crisis—over the weekend, we've seen, finally, a bit of cash, stashed at the back of the couch, put on the table. Finally, the government has found an extra $2 billion to relieve some of the pressure, to start getting on with building affordable, social housing. Well, good. Get on with it. Spend the money. And, in the meantime, give us your plans as to what you're going to do in relation to that one-third of Australians who live every day with the fear that next week, or next month, or next year, their rent is going to be put up. We know that the pressure that Australians in rental accommodation are feeling is extraordinary. We hear the stories every day. Our offices are inundated every day. They want us to act.
This motion says that we can deal with the housing bill on 16 October, after the Prime Minister comes back from National Cabinet having secured a deal. It is disappointing that, so far, the Prime Minister has done nothing for renters in this country. In fact, worse than that, he has said it is out of his hands. I mean, come on, mate. You're the Prime Minister of the country. You're the most powerful man in the land. You can, of course, use your influence, your abilities and the infrastructure of government to get something done. Put some money on the table at National Cabinet and get your colleagues, who we know are wall-to-wall Labor states on the mainland, to deliver for real people right now—renters and those needing social housing. Don't be so stubborn about it; just get the job done. Come to the party and be prepared to negotiate. If Labor acts on soaring rents at National Cabinet, this bill can pass, but, until then, what we are seeing is stubbornness and a refusal to act.
One-third of Australians have been left in the cold because the Prime Minister is playing games. Rents are rising, living costs are soaring and a third of Australians are being told: 'Bad luck. Not my problem.' We need our Prime Minister to take more leadership than that. We need a Prime Minister who is prepared to act for all Australians, whether you own a home, whether you're in social housing or whether you rent. We know that the people in rental accommodation are among the most vulnerable. They're in the most casualised work. They're students. They're single parents. They're young people. They desperately need to hear that this government cares about them, but all they've had so far is refusal, stubbornness and being put in the too-hard basket. It ain't good enough, which is why the Greens are standing here today. We will put this bill off until the Prime Minister comes back from National Cabinet with a plan to help renters.
Senator Hanson-Young, you don't need to wait until 16 October to start addressing the problems that you're talking about. You can start fixing this problem today. You can vote with the Labor Party to start addressing this problem this very day—not on 16 October but this very day. I can see you already—there you go!—lining up with your allies on this. Senator Ruston and Senator Hanson-Young are working out how they can delay $10 billion worth of legislation that will start improving the position of renters and of homeless people in trouble. How can they start helping? They can start by voting for this today.
Senator Hanson-Young, part of this program that we would vote on today is $100 million for crisis accommodation for women and children. Why are the Greens opposing that? Why wouldn't you vote today to start getting that $100 million out into crisis accommodation for women and children? Why are you lining up with the coalition to block $100 million for crisis accommodation for women and children? There is also $30 million to build housing and provide services for veterans. Again, Senator Hanson-Young, why would the Greens be lining up—we know why the coalition doesn't want to spend money on veterans to give them better accommodation, but why aren't the Greens backing this legislation? Why are they sitting there and lining up with the coalition to block this legislation?
Part of this program is $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing in remote Indigenous communities. On a day when we've just voted to pass legislation to recognise Indigenous Australians through a Voice—a referendum—why on this day, of all days, would the Greens be lining up with the coalition to block $200 million worth of investment for the repair, maintenance and improvement of remote Indigenous housing?
Senator Hanson-Young, here's a proposal: $10 billion to start addressing one of the most serious problems currently in our community. There could be $10 billion of investment, and what are the Greens doing? Are they saying: 'Yes, we'll join with the Labor Party. We understand these problems. We understand the problems that women and children face in finding crisis accommodation. We understand the problems of veterans finding accommodation. We understand the problems of Indigenous Australians and how they might be needing accommodation. We're going to do something sensible here. We're going to put our ideological'—I know you've got lots of divisions. We can see that on a daily basis. We know that you're no longer in control of your own destiny, but there is a way, Senator Hanson-Young, to progress this issue. We don't need to wait until 16 October. We can do this today. We can make progress today. You can leave your coalition colleagues behind. You can leave them to vote against this. You can vote with the Labor Party to get $10 billion worth of investment into housing and into rental accommodation to start solving some of the serious problems.
In time, Senator Hanson-Young, you'll come to realise what a mistake it is to be sitting there, as you were a few minutes ago with Senator Ruston, working out what the strategy is to delay crisis accommodation for women and children, to delay investment in homes for veterans and, worst of all on this particular day, to vote down legislation for remote Indigenous Australian communities.
The opposition will be supporting this suspension, because it is our view that the government has had every opportunity to negotiate with the Greens or anybody else in this place so that your bill will actually reflect the will of this chamber, but you haven't. You haven't even tried. Senator Farrell, in your contribution, you said that, if this bill went through, you could start providing this crisis accommodation, veterans accommodation and Indigenous accommodation tomorrow. Well, you could too if you actually negotiated your bill so that it could get through this place.
Instead, you are absolutely hell-bent on coming in here and continuing to put up a $10 billion future fund with not one guarantee of a cent of this money ever ending up in the housing market. Basically, what you're doing is putting forward a bill that is saying that $10 billion is going to be gambled on the stock market—or to that effect. If you were really deadly serious, you could spend this money today. You don't need to put this legislation through in order to put money into the social housing, affordable housing and support housing that you come in here and talk about. You could have just put it into your budget. That would have been a pretty simple way to do it.
But what we are seeing is a government that is losing control. You may have said, Senator Farrell, that the Greens are losing control. I would actually contend that it is you who are losing control, which will be demonstrated by the fact that you can't even control your legislative agenda today because you haven't done your homework.
Senator Ruston, I remind you to make your comments through the chair.
Of course. What we're seeing today is another demonstration of a government that hasn't done its homework on its legislation but is coming in here. This is a pattern of behaviour that we are continuing to see. We have seen it through many other pieces of legislation. It's all a great big headline. 'We're going to spend $10 billion on social and affordable housing.' It sounds great, but you are not spending $10 billion on social and affordable housing. You are investing $10 billion on the stock market, in the hope that it will provide you with a sufficient return to enable you to put some investment into this area. It was the same as your legislation; you were going to come here and put—
Senator Ruston, just—
care back into aged care, Madam Chair. But no: it was a great headline, but there was no reality in terms of how you were going to deliver it. Another one was pharmacy and 60-day dispensing. It sounds like a great idea—cheaper and easier access to medicines—but you forgot to actually do your homework and consult.
What we have here is a classic example of the implications and the result of legislation that has not been consulted on and legislation which has had no consideration of secondary effects. It's legislation, in this instance, that has completely disregarded normal, reasonable budget practices. And guess what has happened? You've lost control of it, because there are those in this place—and I thank the Greens for their sensible consideration of this—that actually take those three things very, very seriously. You must consult, you must understand secondary consequences and you should follow normal budget processes. Stuffing something off the balance sheet just to give yourself a budget surplus is completely irresponsible, and that's why we will be supporting this suspension motion today.
We saw on the weekend that instead of coming and actually negotiating so that you could come up with something that was palatable to this place to enable it to go through and to enable that money to flow in whatever mechanism you were able to negotiate, we saw the Prime Minister just throwing a couple of billion dollars out there. Once again, this is a classic example of where you haven't done your homework and don't have a process in place. It hasn't been a considered reform and it hasn't been a consulted reform. Maybe you'd find that things go through this place a little bit better if you actually do your homework, do your preparation and make sure that everything is in place before you come in here and demand that the representatives of the Australian Senate vote for something. If you're only going to throw headlines out with your legislation; if you aren't going to put the detail in there or provide advice in terms of subordinate legislation; if you aren't going to follow appropriate and proper processes; and if you aren't going to bring the Senate along with you then you'll continue to see that the sensible people in this place will actually hold you to account and make you go through the necessary processes so that we can end up with a situation where the will of this Senate, which reflects the will of the Australian people, is delivered in your legislation. Stop being lazy and actually do your job.
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 11:53 AM on 2023-06-19
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 36
Total number of "no" votes: 22
Total number of abstentions: 18
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au