Federal Parliament - HomeBuilder [18 June 2020]

June 18, 2020

Dr ALYI want to use my time today to talk about the government's HomeBuilder scheme. I appreciate the sentiment of this HomeBuilder scheme. We really do need to intervene in order to create jobs, particularly for tradies, and to help keep the economy going. But I would urge the government to consider the value and indeed, the relevance of this scheme for the people who I represent, the people of Cowan. Families in Perth's northern suburbs were already suffering from mortgage stress and high unemployment even before COVID-19. In fact, in August 2019 WA surpassed the rest of Australia in mortgage stress. This was made worse by stagnant wages and insecurity in employment. In the northern suburbs of Perth, and indeed across Western Australia, house prices have been falling. They have been falling since the end of the mining construction boom. It's taking them a long time to recover. Homes in suburbs in Cowan were already overcapitalised. And while a $150,000-dollar renovation might be the average on, say, a $1 million property in the inner suburbs of Sydney or of Melbourne, it is certainly not true for Cowan and for homes in the outer suburbs of Perth. To ask people to have a handy $150,000 to devote to renovations in order to qualify for a $25,000 grant towards those renovations is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I really cannot fathom the logic in this, particularly when you add to that the other conditions, the conditions of having less than $125,000 salary as a single and a home that is valued at less than $750,000. Nobody is going to take the risk of overcapitalising on a home by spending $150,000 on renovations, even if they meet all the other criteria, to take that risk on overcapitalising on a home where they are never going to recoup that value, especially if they face unemployment or insecure employment and especially not in a recession.

The intent of this scheme, we're told, is to stimulate employment for tradies. Again, I appreciate that sentiment. But I ask: what good is a scheme that people can't access to both the home owner and the people for whom it's meant to create employment, the tradies? Today's Australian Financial Review reported that Australia's population growth would shrink, leading to a dramatic decrease in the demand for housing, with approximately 80,000 fewer houses needing to be built, reduced demand for rental properties and increased risks around residential property. So it seems to me that now more than ever we need a housing stimulus package that protects jobs now. Frankly, HomeBuilder isn't going to do that, particularly considering the forecasts outlined today in the Australian Financial Review.

As of today, there have been zero—zero!—applications for the HomeBuilder scheme, because the government hasn't put in place any way for people to submit their applications, despite the very short time frame that's attached to the scheme. The scheme is meant to be stimulating the economy now and generating jobs in the industry now, but it's not doing that, because the closest that people can get to applying is to provide their email addresses on a website so they can receive updates when more information is available. Time is critical.

There are people in Cowan who need help right now, and this scheme just isn't helping them. Max is 86 years old. He lives in Wanneroo. He called my office to learn more about the scheme because he wants to do some home renovations. He's in a wheelchair, and his home has damage along the walls where he's tried to navigate around the house and the wheelchair has scraped the walls. He was hoping that he would finally be able to get the repairs he needs done, but he's been filled with disappointment. This scheme reflects the out-of-touch priorities of the government. Once again I urge the government to consider the value of the scheme for the people whom it's meant to help.