Australian Prime Minister Doorstop interview – Launceston

Prime Minister

Good afternoon and welcome to beautiful northern Tasmania. I’m Brian Mitchell, the Federal Labor Member for Lyons, and I’m joined here today by the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who’s flew in for a fantastic announcement. Today we’re joined by Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins and Senator Helen Polley, who’s based up here in Launceston. This is a wonderful example of what the Albanese Government is all about in terms of addressing the housing and homelessness crisis facing the country. We are putting more than $25 billion so far into addressing housing and homelessness, and congratulations to Centacare Evolve Launceston and City Mission and all their partners on this wonderful facility here in Youngtown. 24 units, one and two bedroom units, that are housing people who need housing, and that’s what it’s all about.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Brian. It’s great to be back in Launceston for what is a really exciting announcement that we’re making today that will be included in Tuesday’s Budget. Last night, I convened the National Cabinet to get sign off from every Premier and Chief Minister in the country on our measures that will add to the previous measures that we had undertaken when it comes to housing. As Brian has said, we’ve had 17 different measures with $25 billion when it comes to housing, to improve social housing, to improve supply, to help people to buy a new home, to assist with Build to Rent, in the private sector incentives as well. Across the board, my Government has been very focused on housing supply, because that is the key to dealing with housing issues in this country. And today’s announcement will go further in ensuring that Australians have more opportunities to buy their own home, to live in a rented home, social housing or to increase in housing supply. Today’s announcement consists of three components. The first is a billion dollars to assist to build housing for the sector, in conjunction with state and territory governments for women and children escaping domestic violence. We know that women and children escaping domestic violence need to have somewhere to go, and too often they’re turned away from shelters because there simply isn’t an option for them. Too many women and kids are spending time couch surfing with friends or staying in their cars, or worse still, staying in a dangerous potential relationship. That is because they have nowhere to go. Now, the National Cabinet, just a week ago, signed off on the extension of creating permanently a leaving violence payment to provide that immediate financial resources. What this is about is providing the housing resources, so a billion dollars, which will be over $700 million of that will be in grants to organisations to be able to provide that emergency funding or to provide appropriate housing so people have somewhere to go. A billion dollars in addition to that, will be provided for infrastructure, of which 25 per cent can be used by states and territories for new housing. Associated with that new infrastructure quite often, one of the impediments to building more social housing is access to water, energy, basic infrastructure to enable construction to go ahead or to allow for refurbishment in appropriate facilities. The billion dollars will make a difference there as well, and will be available from July 1. In addition to that, we have $9.3 billion as part of an agreement with states and territories over five years for our Housing and Homelessness Agreement. This will provide for the the essential work for states and territories to expand the supply of social housing. In addition to that, of course, we’ve already had the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator, the Build to Rent scheme, the Help to Buy scheme that’s currently stuck in the Senate due to the intransigence of the coalition of naysayers in the Liberals, Greens and the National Party. But we want that carried as well. We had the Housing Australia Future Fund of ten billion that finally was passed after being delayed by the coalition of Liberals, Nationals and Greens for far too long, but that is now in place, and that is now making a difference. So these three measures, $9.3 billion for the Housing and Homelessness Agreement, a billion dollars for new infrastructure to assist with social housing, and a billion dollars to be available for emergency housing and shelter or women and children escaping domestic violence. Together these measures make a substantial contribution. Going forward, we’ll continue to work with state and territory governments, continue to work across the board to make a difference, and Julie Collins is doing quite an extraordinary job, a great Tasmanian doing a great job, not just for Tasmania, but the whole country, in delivering good, solid housing policy after a decade of neglect from the former Government. Can I also make some comments while I’ve got you about infrastructure here in in Tasmania. Next week’s Budget will deliver $219 million for Tasmanian roads. More than half of that is for new projects, including the Lyell Highway from Granton to New Norfolk, the Huon Highway Corridor upgrades and planning along the Devonport to Cradle Mountain and Arthur Highway Corridors. $95 million will be to existing projects to make sure they can actually be delivered. Now, this improves on our $2 billion investments that we’ve allocated to 35 different road and rail projects here in Tasmania. What these two announcements will do, new housing and new road infrastructure, here in Tasmania is to create jobs during construction, but also improve livability here in Tasmania, they are part of our commitment to delivering for the whole nation, including here in Launceston, but right around this great state of Tasmania. And I’m really looking forward to Tuesday night’s Budget, which will have at its heart the three principles of cost of living relief, including through a tax decrease for every single Tasmanian taxpayer, not just some, but everyone getting a tax cut in Tuesday night’s Budget. Secondly, to have further cost of living support that puts that downward pressure on inflation. And thirdly, a future made in Australia. Support here for construction, support here for making more things here in Australia, including, of course, the opportunity that’s here in Tasmania in areas that it excels at, in the agriculture sector, in the maritime sector, in so many areas as well. Tasmania has a bright future if we’re prepared to put in place the policies that enable a seizing of that future. I’ll turn to Julie and then we’re happy to take some questions.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Thanks, Prime Minister. It’s great to be here with the Prime Minister and of course, with my colleagues, Brian Mitchell and Helen Polley. But I particularly want to thank Launceston City Mission and Centacare Evolve for having us here on this site. As we’ve heard, this is a mixed development, private, plus affordable rental, plus social housing. That is what we want to see more of right across the country, more homes for Australia. That’s what our housing package, that the Prime Minister has outlined today is adding to our other measures for more homes for Australians, more homes to rent, more homes to build, more homes for Australians who need it. That is what Homes for Australia is all about. There are a whole range of announcements that we have made in the lead up to today, more than $25 billion in new investments from our Federal Government since the last election into housing and housing services. This is a significant investment to deliver more homes for Australia. We have an ambitious national target of 1.2 million homes from 1 July, including, of course, social and affordable homes. 30,000 social and affordable homes from the Housing Australia Future Fund, 10,000 affordable homes from the Housing Accord, 4000 social homes from the Social Housing Accelerator being delivered by our Government, but importantly, in partnership with other tiers of government and with the community housing sector and with industry. We all need to be working together. We need everybody with their shoulder to the wheel so that we can deliver the homes that Australia needs, the 1.2 million homes ambitious target. We announced earlier in the week, more tradies to build more homes, because we know that’s critical. Today we’re talking about more funding for infrastructure for more homes. We’re talking about more social homes. At every opportunity, our Government is stepping up to work with other tiers of government, to work with industry, to work with the sector, so that we have more homes for Australia.

JOURNALIST: The Greens claim that your announcement just continues the federal funding at its current levels and may even be a cut.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they’re full of nonsense, aren’t they. You know, this is the mob that oppose funding, including they oppose the Housing Australia Future Fund. Time after time they deferred it. That fund could have been operating from July 1 last year, but they decided to block it in partnership with the Liberals and the Nationals. They’re now blocking the Help to Buy scheme, which will provide for assistance through a shared equity scheme, in the Senate. So they’re opposed to more social housing, they’re opposed to more people buying their own home, and every opportunity that a Greens councillor gets in a local government area, they vote against development, including of course, the Greens Members in the inner suburbs of Queensland, they’ve never seen a project that they support. The truth is that this is additional money. This is the $9.3 billion, that program was due to end on July 1. I thank the Premiers and Chief Ministers for coming together. This billion dollars for new infrastructure is really important as well, as is the funding for women and children escaping domestic violence. I found it extraordinary that the Housing Australia Future Fund had a component in it allowing for 4000 homes to be built for women and children escaping domestic violence, and it was held up by the Greens, the Liberals and the Nationals. Only Labor is committed to building more homes. Only Labor is committed to practical policies to go forward, which is what we have done with our $25 billion before these announcements that we’re making today.

JOURNALIST: Have you increased funding for homelessness support in this package by reducing funding for social housing?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ve increased funding for homelessness. And in addition to that, we had the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator, which accelerator’s the hint in the title there, that we brought forward as a prepayment for this Housing and Homelessness Agreement. We gave it to the states and territories last June, that is already being used to build homes, just in addition to the Housing Australia Future Fund, that’s a $10 billion fund, which is there for social and affordable housing, that contributes more than $500 million every year. This is additional funding under this Government. This Government is seeing the greatest investment in housing that we have seen for a very long period of time. Housing was something that was completely neglected by the former Government. They withdrew their support for housing. They regarded it as something that was beneath them. That’s why we’ve had to pick up the pieces here and make sure that we have all of these programs that are delivering additional housing.

JOURNALIST: The package is aimed largely, of course, at public housing and homelessness. What support is on offer for first home buyers and average families facing soaring prices and interest rates?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are two things and I’d ask Julie to add, but one is our Help to Buy scheme. The Help to Buy scheme, which is currently before the Senate, will provide for some five and a half billion dollars of shared equity to be available to make a difference, so that people can purchase a home without the level of deposit that they would need otherwise, and so that their repayments are lower because they’re only paying off a portion of the home. And then at some stage when it is convenient for them, they can either shed that when the home is sold, or they can pay that down at a time that is convenient for them. That’s a program that is before the Senate, and I hope that the Senate come to their senses and vote for that program. In addition to that, what we have is the Build to Rent scheme. Now the Property Council estimates that that will make a difference between 150,000 and 250,000 private rental dwellings. That will make an enormous difference as well. I note that the housing stakeholders that have made comments about this today, people who actually follow these issues. Kate Colvin from Homelessness Australia has said that this, “will make a life changing difference.” Wendy Hayhurst from the Community Housing Industry Association has said, “additional investment to help women experiencing domestic and family violence is both vital and welcome.” Denita Wawn from Master Builders Australia has said, “the key to solving the housing crisis is supply, supply, supply, targeted measures, increased funding for critical infrastructure to support new home building reinforces the important role of commercial and civil construction in building sustainable communities.” Mike Zorbas from The Property Council of Australia has said, “we strongly welcome this agreement and the additional funding, this additional money means new homes will get built faster.” Jocelyn Martin from the Home Industry Association, “today’s announcement provides an additional boost to the housing Australia Future Fund to build more housing under that scheme, today’s announcement is an important step forward.” Across the board, all of the organisations involved in housing, and we’ve got some of them here today who are making a difference on the ground, these are people we are working with on real solutions. And it is, as Master Builders have said, it is about supply. So what we’ve got to do is use every asset at our disposal to increase supply, and that’s what today’s announcement will be doing.

MINISTER COLLINS: Just in terms of home buyers, we also, of course, have the Home Guarantee scheme, and since we’ve come to office now, we’ve supported more than 110,000 Australians into home ownership sooner because of the changes and amendments and additions we made to the Home Guarantee scheme. Importantly, for first home buyers, that’s gone from one in seven first home buyers using the government scheme to now almost one in three first time buyers is getting their first home through our Government scheme.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister. Can you confirm that the only new money in this package is a billion dollars for housing infrastructure?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s not right. There was no agreement. The funding ran out on July 1. This is a new agreement going forward. This is a new agreement as well as new money for infrastructure, new money for women and children escaping domestic violence.

JOURNALIST: And will there be any help for struggling renters in the Budget?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’ll see on Tuesday night a range of measures that will provide support, including, I do note that every Tasmanian taxpayer will benefit from the tax cuts that we have. Tasmania in particular, will benefit from this, close to 90 per cent of Tasmanians will be better off than they would have been under the Morrison Government’s tax cuts for some, not tax cuts for all. Women in particular, will be advantaged. Young people in particular will be advantaged. Some 98 per cent of young people will be better off as a direct result. The former Government left people who were earning under $45,000 behind completely. We have ensured that everyone gets a tax cut at the same time as real wages are increasing, you have real wages increasing, you have taxes decreasing, because my Government wants people to earn more and wants people to keep more of what they earn. Peter Dutton wants people to work longer for less.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we have a workforce shortage here in Tasmania. How can the Government incentivise workforce to come down and relocate to Tasmania to help build stock?

PRIME MINISTER: One of the things that we can do is to train Tasmanians for jobs, including in construction, and there were the measures that we announced this week with more than $90 million to support apprentices and training in construction. One of the common themes in all the time I’ve been coming to this great state of Tasmania is, how do we give opportunities for our young people to stay here in Tasmania when they graduate? How do we stop them going to the north island? And one of the things that we are doing is making sure that people can stay in the south island by providing opportunities through Fee Free TAFE, through construction, by the support that we have as well in areas such as the announcements that we’ve made this week on nurses and people, being nurses, teachers and others, being paid while they’re doing their prac as well, is a practical measure. The $3 billion we’re taking off students HECS debt in Tuesday night’s Budget is making a difference as well. We’re going to create opportunities for jobs here in Tasmania. That’s the key to providing the workforce here, training, including our education, higher ed reforms, our support for TAFE and for training. I’ve been to training institutions right across this state, and that is how you make a difference.

JOURNALIST: The United States says now is not the right time to create a Palestinian state. Just wondering why your Government thinks the time is right now?

PRIME MINISTER: Our position was to vote yes for the United Nations resolution because we believe it was consistent with our support for a two state solution. Importantly, we continue to unequivocally condemn Hamas’ actions on October 7, and we assert that Hamas has no role to play in a future Palestinian state. We also reiterate our call for Hamas to release the hostages. We know that for some time we have had a bipartisan position of the need for a two state solution. If you look at the resolution that was carried in the UN overnight, it spoke about the 1967 borders. So it was a resolution consistent with Palestinians having the right to live in peace and security side by side with Israel. It was a resolution that also, by referring to the 1967 boundaries, affirmed the need for Israel to continue to exist in security with peace and stability as well. So it was a consistent position that we took the decision on when we looked very closely, we said we would look at the wording, there is no doubt that the international community will have to play a role as we go forward, and that is why having the international community have some representation there from Palestinians was worthy of our support.

JOURNALIST: Do you understand why Jewish Australians would be distressed about this situation?

PRIME MINISTER: I understand Jewish Australians being distressed by what occurred on October 7, and I think anyone who cares about human rights will condemn that unequivocally, and I remain concerned, as I’ve said very clearly, about the rise of antisemitism. You can support human rights for Palestinians without it denigrating the human rights of Israeli citizens. I have said throughout this, from day one, that every life matters in the Middle East, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian. And indeed, there is a common interest in both Israelis and Palestinians in having peace and security, in being able to live side by side as we go forward, and that is our position, consistently supporting a two state solution for the Middle East. This is a conflict that has gone on for a long period of time. The international community are overwhelmingly saying that they want that long term resolution to the conflict, and that that involves two states, a state of Israel, being able to exist within peace and security, having prosperity, but Palestinians as well having peace and security and stability going forward.

JOURNALIST: Nine newspapers are reporting another man charged over last month’s alleged bashing of Ninette Simons was a former detainee released by the Coalition. What do you know about this?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the reports are very clear that of the three people who entered Ninette Simon’s home and engaged in that brutal attack, one of them was someone, one of the alleged perpetrators, was someone who was released from detention when Peter Dutton was Home Affairs Minister in 2020, was not subject to any ongoing scrutiny, and that person has an extraordinary record of behaviour, which is of enormous concern. It’s up to Peter Dutton to explain how this occurred, why this occurred, and to reconcile the statements that have been made by Shadow Minister Paterson and Shadow Minister Tehan and Peter Dutton himself, how the statements that they’ve made this week can be reconciled with this fact.

JOURNALIST: Another illegal boat was found in waters here and taken to Christmas Island. Will there be extra funding for Border Force in the Budget?

PRIME MINISTER: We have record funding for Border Force in place now, which is why we’ve been able to ensure that anyone who arrives in such a fashion is not settled in Australia. Australian Border Force have dealt with all of these issues expeditiously in a way that is consistent with Australia’s public policy of strong border protection.

JOURNALIST: Just back on Ninette Simons, if you don’t mind. Is it hypocritical for the Coalition to have attacked your Government on the matter when it now appears they’ve released someone with an accused violent background?

PRIME MINISTER: People will draw their own conclusions from the gap that is there between the Coalition’s rhetoric on this and their actions when they were in government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you welcome Dean Winter’s support for the Mac Point stadium?

PRIME MINISTER: I do. I think that these are issues that need to be worked through by the Tasmanian Government. In a little while, I’ll be going to York Park, where both the Federal and State Government have $65 million to upgrade the facilities there for the people of Launceston. That’s an important facility. But as well, Mac Point, our contribution isn’t just about a sporting facility. It’s also about housing and about urban redevelopment. I provided $50 million through the Government through the Budget when I was Infrastructure Minister in 2012 and frankly, not much has happened. Mac Point is an extraordinary asset for the state of Tasmania. I think it’s important that Tasmania have an AFL team, that we have a truly national competition, and I know that Tasmanians love their footy, and I welcome Brendon Gale’s appointment as CEO. I can’t think of anyone who has a more extraordinary record. What he did with Richmond was quite remarkable. When he declared that he thought they could win a few flags very early on, when they had not been the most successful team in the comp, he transformed them into a team of champions. I think Brendon Gale will be, is a great Tasmanian, of course, coming home, and that’s one of the things that we want to see. We want to see Tasmanian young people be able to aspire to play for the Devils, that will be a good thing. But we also want to see proper urban development there on that Mac Point site. It’s absurd that in so many areas of Australia in the past, what we’ve had is some of our magnificent waterfront areas left destitute. And when you look at South Bank, when you look at Barangaroo, you look at what you can do with these areas. The area around Launie is now amazing compared with what it was when I was coming here 20 years ago. That’s a good thing. Hobart should be somewhere where the CBD flows down onto the waterfront of the Derwent in a way that captures the wonderful asset that the city of Hobart is. But at the moment, that hasn’t happened. You know, having waste treatment, various things and rocks and mess there really is not what you expect of a great city like Hobart in the 21st century. So I want to see an outcome. I want the State Government to get on with it and to make sure that it’s delivered in an appropriate way. And the Commonwealth Government have made it clear that we’re prepared to be a part of that.

JOURNALIST: When will a decision be made on salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Tassie, salmon is the world’s best. I like eating it, and I like the fact that jobs are created by growing it. 90 per cent of Australia’s salmon comes from here in Tassie, it’s a billion dollar a year industry. We have environmental processes that go through, and it’s important that that happen for a range of reasons, not the least of which is the law needs to be applied, and that will be happening in this case.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister the Anglicare snapshot revealed that there is no affordable housing for seniors, for disabled renters, for young renters. Again, will the Government be ensuring that there will be affordable rentals?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s why we’re here announcing more supply. We know that the former Government wasn’t on the field. There was no Housing Australia Future Fund. There was no Social Housing Accelerator. There was no targeting of housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. There was no Build to Rent, incentives for the private sector. There was no Help to Buy scheme. We’re doing all of these measures with that in mind.

JOURNALIST: I just have one question on international student caps, as well as legislation for a cap on the intake on international students. Your Government has unveiled reforms to crack down on dodgy operators in the international education sector, is the sector currently being rorted?

PRIME MINISTER: We have seen examples where the motivation and incentive for people students coming here wasn’t so much to get an education and upskilling, but was in order to get here and then to reapply in different ways. The former Government paid no attention to any of this, which is why we want to make sure that the higher education sector offers quality training and education for students who come here to benefit them, but also to benefit their economies and to benefit our economy as well. This is a major export industry, and it’s undermined if you have a lack of quality and if you have training and upgrading of skills or education that doesn’t realise the objective. And that’s why we have unashamedly said we want to crack down on those issues in order to make sure that our system, of which we should be really proud, continues to play what overwhelmingly it does, which is an enormous positive benefit for our national economy here, but also for the role that we play in the region to provide those skills and opportunities.

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