Speech given in the Senate on 2 August 2022.
Senator DAVID POCOCK (Australian Capital Territory) (14:39): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, Senator Farrell. This week is National Homelessness Week, which draws attention to the over a hundred thousand people who experience homelessness tonight and every night this week. In places like the ACT the dangers of homelessness, especially for rough sleepers, are particularly acute in winter. Could the minister provide an update on progress in the development of the promised national housing strategy?
Senator FARRELL (South Australia—Minister for Trade and Tourism, Special Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:40): I thank Senator Pocock for his question about what is obviously a very serious issue not just in the ACT, which he referred to, but across the country. What the Labor Party has inherited after nine years of neglect on this subject matter is a very serious situation. The decision today by the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates certainly hasn't made that issue any easier to deal with.
Senator Cash interjecting—
Senator FARRELL: Thanks for that intervention.
The PRESIDENT: Minister Farrell, direct your questions to the chair, please.
Senator FARRELL: I'm quite capable of answering the question without any support, particularly from you. Look, there's a serious issue here. Senator Pocock has raised a serious issue. And I'd like—
Senator Van: Why don't you answer it?
Senator FARRELL: I have been answering it.
The PRESIDENT: Minister Farrell, please direct your questions to the President, not across the chamber.
Senator FARRELL: What we've seen is a legacy of inaction on the part of the previous government, and it's the intention of this government to—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a point of order?
Senator Lambie: My point of order goes to relevance. It's nice to go and blame the government during all that time you've chewed up. But with all due respect, if you could answer Senator Pocock's question that would be wonderful. You two can go and play all the games you like, but we'd like an answer.
The PRESIDENT: I'll remind the minister of the question.
Senator FARRELL: In stark contrast to what the opposition did in its time in government, Australia has finally got a government—(Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Pocock, first supplementary?
Senator DAVID POCOCK (Australian Capital Territory) (14:43): My last question was for an update on the progress in the development of the promised national housing strategy. The first supplementary is about the commitment to build 30,000 new social and affordable homes over the next year. Noting the urgency of this task, when can we expect to see enabling legislation introduced and construction actually start?
Senator FARRELL (South Australia—Minister for Trade and Tourism, Special Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:43): I think we should start by pointing out that one of the first things that the Albanese government did when we came to power was, for the first time, incorporate into cabinet the position of minister for housing and homelessness.
You're asking a question about what we're planning to do. I'd start by suggesting that the decision to put that portfolio into cabinet is a very good start in dealing with these serious issues. We've got a very significant and a very strong reform agenda. You've mentioned some of the projects that we're planning to implement.
An opposition senator interjecting—
Senator FARRELL: Well, we've been in government two months. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Pocock, second supplementary?
Senator DAVID POCOCK (Australian Capital Territory) (14:44): Will the government consider wiping the historic $100 million ACT housing debt, as it has previously done for Tasmania and South Australia, to immediately free up funds that can be invested in building more social housing?
Senator FARRELL (South Australia—Minister for Trade and Tourism, Special Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:45): I thank Senator Pocock for his supplementary question. That particular issue is not an issue in the purview of the Minister for Housing; of course, it's an issue for the Treasurer to deal with. But I'm very happy to have a chat to him about that issue, and I'll come back to you with a response.