SUBJECTS: Housing for women and veterans; international students returning
NATALIE BARR: Well, the government's $10 billion housing fund has hit a bit of a snag in the Senate, with the Greens and the Coalition uniting to delay voting on the bill until June. The fund would build 30,000 new social and affordable homes over five years, at a time when 1.5 million migrants are forecast to settle on our shores. Let's bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. Sussan, let's start with you.
SUSSAN LEY: Good morning.
BARR: The Opposition Leader's budget reply criticised Labor's lack of focus on infrastructure, on housing. So, why are you against more affordable housing?
LEY: Well, Nat, Peter Dutton delivered an outstanding speech last night which focused on middle Australia and middle Australia is being left behind by this Albanese government. But Labor's been tricky on migration, very tricky, because hidden in the budget papers, 1.5 million new migrants, cutting infrastructure at the same time. No mention of it in the budget speech, no mention of infrastructure. And this is in the middle of a full blown cost of living crisis. So, if Labor is so proud of this, why haven't they mentioned it? And of course, we want to support new migrants and of course we want to support Australians with housing, but migration in this numbers, without a plan, is simply going to put so much pressure, urban congestion on our cities. And if you need more - you need more roads if you bring in more people. So, there are a lot of sneaky issues that we weren't told about on Budget night Nat that actually misrepresent what Australians need to know about their future for their families.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: That's just rubbish. Immigration would be higher under the Liberals and housing would be lower. There's no change to the infrastructure spend in the Budget.
Right now, Nat, there are mums and kids waking up in cars because they're fleeing domestic violence and refuges are full. Those mums and kids will wake up in cars again on Sunday morning, on Mother's Day, and have to tell their kids they can't go back to where the violence happened, they can't go forward. We've got a chance to fix this. There's legislation in the Parliament to build more permanent housing for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. It's being stopped by this unholy alliance between the far right, the Liberal Party and the far left, the Greens, who are voting against this. No wonder people hate politicians when they're behaving like this.
BARR: Sussan, let's just drill down on that. So, the government wants to spend this money on 30,000 new dwellings. The Coalition and the Greens are against it. A lot of people would be saying, "Well, don't we need more houses?" I know it's not enough, but shouldn't we start there?
CLARE: You bet. You bet. And it's the Liberal Party standing against it.
LEY: Nat, the fact that so many people. Excuse me, Jason, Jason. Nat, the fact that so many people in the Parliament are opposed to this bill and it's struggling in the Senate -
BARR: So why are you -
LEY: Is a demonstration of how ineffective it is, it's not the right plan. It's a very, very small number of houses. It's not the number of houses in the dollars in the budget for housing, it's just the earnings off that fund, which is a very small amount. It's not going to fix the supply of housing, it's not going to work with the state governments where land is locked. It's not actually going to address the problem. And meanwhile, there's this hidden in the budget papers, 1.5 million new migrants. If the Treasurer and the Prime Minister are so proud of it, why didn't they mention it in the budget speech? It seems very sneaky to me. You can have migration, but you must have a plan and you must have a housing and infrastructure plan that actually works and actually supports struggling families, middle Australia, who has been completely left behind and left out of Albanese's budget.
BARR: Yeah. And Jason, obviously the Opposition Leader, we've heard Dutton all week saying there’s 1.5 million, 300,000 Australians. This is going to be talked about in lounge rooms across the country. Do we need to bring this many people in right now?
CLARE: What Peter Dutton won't say is that when he was Home Affairs Minister, he was projecting more migration than this and less investment in housing. Now, there's been a temporary spike because international students are coming back to study at university, but then the projection is less migration under Labor than the Liberal Party.
Now, just behind you, Nat, is Martin Place, where you'll see people who are sleeping rough, sleeping in the street. What you won't necessarily see, but I can tell you, is that one in ten of them are veterans, people that we trained and sent off to places like Afghanistan that we say we'd remember on Anzac Day, but the fact is that the Liberal Party and the Greens are forgetting. Because this fund doesn't just build housing for mums and kids who are fleeing domestic violence, it builds housing for homeless veterans too, and they're standing in the way of that as well.
BARR: Okay, well, look, we've got a lot more to say on this, but we haven't got -
LEY: Nat, this is the biggest -
BARR: Yes, just quickly Sussan because we've got to go.
LEY: It's the biggest net migration in Australia's history. It's the biggest migration number in Australia's history in the middle of a full blown cost of living crisis.
BARR: And look, the numbers have been swung around.
LEY: That's the problem. That's what Labor needs to address.
BARR: We did have, obviously, negative immigration during COVID so it's hard to get a handle on the numbers, but I think you've both had your say so. We'll see you next week.