Greens Oppose Handouts to Big Developers

The Greens today opposed the Berejiklian Government's bill to give a massive tax handout to developers, and to instead put the revenue into public housing. Read her speech below:


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 19:15 :09 ): Before I raise The Greens' concerns with the State Revenue Legislation Amendment (Surcharge) Bill 2017, I note that the previous speaker, the member for Myall Lakes, just put on the record that the Government was keen to introduce measures that would assist with housing affordability. It is relevant to note that when the first debate on the stamp duty surcharge for foreign investors occurred in March 2017, the ABC reported that the Premier herself acknowledged that the stamp duty surcharge for foreign investors was designed to raise revenue for the Government and not to make housing more affordable for first home buyers. It seems that since that time opinions have changed and some good headlines were needed to whip up a bit of anti-foreigner sentiment by introducing some measures on foreign investors—heaven forbid we talk about measures on investors in general.

We really need to look at the housing affordability crisis as a whole. But an attempt to draw some headlines around foreign investment turned into a scenario with a slow winding back of some of the measures to meet the call of the Property Council of Australia, , reported in Domain magazine in May 2017, for the New South Wales Government to remove hurdles for overseas investors as part of its housing affordability plan. In New South Wales there is currently a housing affordability crisis. There are 60,000 individual applications which probably represent more than 100,000 individual people who are currently approved for public housing in this State but unable to access it because there is not enough public housing stock and the stock that is there is not being properly maintained. At the other end of the spectrum there are more and more people living in rental accommodation who are unable to own their own home. I note that in the latest census, renters outnumbered people with mortgages in many of the electorates of Ministers and shadow Ministers.

Young people in those electorates are no longer in a position where they can put themselves under the extreme housing stress that so many first home owners find themselves in. They are not able to take up a mortgage and find themselves subjected to the private rental market, which leads them into a life of insecurity and forces them to move house every six to 12 months. Let me be clear: This is not a public housing crisis because the tenants are in crisis; the tenants are wonderful people who are doing their best in the worst conditions. There is an underinvestment in public housing and the maintenance of public housing and a failure to provide affordable housing stock across the public and community housing sector for the urgent, critical need in this State. We are seeing people in the private rental market living with massive insecurity. This legislation does not address the housing crisis that is before us, and it does not do anything to assist people in that. Instead, exemptions are being provided to big property developers.

Let me take a second to put this legislation into context. We have tens of thousands of people who are waiting for public housing, we have claims by the Government that it cannot find the funds to invest in more public housing, and what are we as members of Parliament doing about that? This bill provides exemptions for big property developers and big corporations. We are making sure that they are provided with exemptions or, basically gifts, as the member for Cessnock described it earlier. We are virtually giving a blank cheque to property developers. No-one can answer the question: How much will those exemptions cost in terms of money that will not be received by consolidated revenue?

When the amendments were first announced, The Greens called on the Premier and the Government to make the surcharge a housing affordability measure. One simple way to make this legislation not just a revenue-raising exercise would be to hypothecate the money raised from the surcharge and apply it to the provision of housing affordability measures. We know there exists in this State a massive need for investment in community, public and affordable housing, and one way to address that would be to turn revenue-raising legislation into an affordable housing measure. It looks like what has happened is that yet again the Government has caved in to big developers. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that, as a result of the Government's announced housing affordability strategy, "Subsequent discussions with building industry bodies suggested that additional flexibility would be beneficial …". It seems that the only people who were consulted about these measures are those who will benefit by receiving the exemptions.

I acknowledge suggestions that building industry bodies are those who build the houses, but we need to be clear that supply of itself is not the solution to the housing crisis. However, supply of affordable housing is the answer, and that is what we need to see. Allowing more and more property developers to provide more and more supply at a larger and larger profit for their bottom line is not the answer to the housing affordability crisis. The Greens know that this Government continually abdicates its responsibility when it comes to dealing with the housing crisis in this State.

If the Government genuinely wanted to deal with the issues facing communities and people in New South Wales who are facing housing stress, we would see a number of reforms—to which The Greens are committed—and they would include: immediate and urgent reform to rental laws in this State, which would provide people with the security they need if they are living in the private rental market; an immediate and significant investment in public and social housing provided to people to reduce the 60,000-strong application waiting list that represents 100,000 people who are without a home because, despite being eligible, they are not being provided with public housing; and an end to the idea of providing property developers with an endlessly open door to this Government so that property developers' profits and bottom line are put ahead of an essential need that should be a basic human right, which is that in this State housing is provided so that everybody has a safe and secure place to call home.

There is no denying that New South Wales is in a housing crisis. Instead of debating housing affordability measures, this Government is introducing not only exercises in revenue raising that do not specifically address housing affordability but also attempts to wind back housing affordability funding to provide property developers with exemptions and blank cheques. This legislation is not the solution to the housing affordability crisis. The Greens do not support the bill. In conclusion, I sound a final note of caution to Government members and campaign teams that may join them in the lead-up to the next State election. While there is a focus on foreign investment in relation to the surcharge, any attempt by anybody in this House or anybody in the community to try to whip up racist fear about foreign investors or foreign owners of property somehow being to blame for the housing crisis in this State will be called out.

I will call them out in this House and I will call them out on the streets. I adopt that position because we need to acknowledge that that is not an acceptable answer. Any Government or Opposition member who attempts to shift the blame for the housing affordability failures of successive Labor and Liberal governments onto some foreign investor or foreign shore entity will be called out by me and other members of The Greens.


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