Well, it is no wonder that this scheme has quickly become known as ‘HomeBlunder’ because, like so much that this government does, it was clearly always a matter of spin over substance, packaged up for a by-election announcement—even if the PM did make that most un-Australian of mistakes and encourage people to step on some newly sown grass while making it! It sounded like support for people to do renovations that they might not otherwise be confident to do during a recession and like it would help ensure jobs in the construction industry that could last through the recession. Instead, it’s a bit of extra cash for wealthy people to go ahead with renovations they already had planned.
And you don’t have to take my word for that. Here’s some feedback from respected economists. My colleague the member for Fenner has looked at the numbers and, on the ABS data, concluded this would support the wealthiest fifth of Australians. Nicki Hutley, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics, observed:
All I can see that this is going to do is give a hand out to people who probably would have gone ahead with this anyway … If people were baulking about going ahead because they were worried about the economy or job security, it’s probably not a good idea to encourage them to do so.
And quite frankly giving handouts to people, who already own their homes when there are so many who can’t get their foot in the door would seem to me to be not very wise policy.
She went on to say:
The cynic in me would say they’re under a lot of pressure from the sector to do something, and quite rightly. It’s actually a cornerstone of the Australian economy and one of the largest sectors …
I don’t see this as cynical. It is, in fact, calling out the government for exactly what it has done: spin over substance.
If the government really wanted to support the construction industry, they would do much better to look at the suggestions that Labor has put on the table. They would do much better to look to the huge need in this country for social housing. We have too many people sleeping rough in this country. We have women and children at risk of violence in their own homes who have nowhere to go. We have people with disability stuck in nursing homes because there’s nowhere suitable for them to live. We have frontline workers—the supermarket workers, the police, the nurses and the childcare workers; the people we’ve talked up and who we’ve been relying on through this crisis—who can’t afford to live anywhere near their work. All of these people would have their lives changed dramatically if this government would step up and support them. But is that what they’re interested in doing? I might have missed it, but did the Assistant Treasurer talk about these people at all? Did he reference them? Did he reference the support that they need? I heard a lot about Labor in his speech, which really goes to show where their focus is: attacking Labor, with spin over substance, and support for the wealthy, not for people who need it most.
Again, you don’t have to take my word for the fact that this is a dud scheme. We know that investing in social housing would genuinely provide construction jobs into the future and not rely on work that would have happened anyway. The OECD, whose report the government has made so much of this week, has called for investment in a social housing program as part of efforts to support jobs through this recession. The PM just said there’s no greater focus for his government than jobs post this crisis. Well, this isn’t the scheme for that.
The PM also just said that the scheme was never meant to support small renovations. He spoke about how in fact he’d deliberately cut out lower and middle income earners from being supported through this scheme, and then he had the gall to suggest that it was people over this side that might be out of touch with people in the suburbs. I know the Prime Minister has been very busy dealing with the crisis, and I do understand that, but, if he suggests that we haven’t been out in the suburbs, I suggest it might be time for him to go out and talk with a few low- and middle-income earners in Australia about how they feel about this scheme, because it certainly will not be supporting them.
Of course, the other thing this scheme does not do is support the jobs of the future. We know we already have a crisis in terms of apprenticeships, trade training and TAFE in this country. Before this happened, the TAFEs in my electorate were telling me they’re struggling. They were telling me they’re not getting the support they need to get the pipeline of workers we will need in these industries in the future. Now the industry are saying they’re facing the loss of 2,000 apprentices a year. There’s nothing in this package that supports that or that will mean that we get construction jobs into the future, that we’ll have apprentices or that we’ll have an industry going forward. This is a failure of a scheme.