Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Statements on tabled papers and petitions

Department of Treasury and Finance

Samantha RATNAM

Department of Treasury and Finance

Budget papers 2022–23

Samantha RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (17:20): I would like to make a statement on the Department of Treasury and Finance budget papers 2022–23, particularly budget papers 3 and 4 that pertain to housing. We are in a housing affordability crisis. On any given night in this state over 30,000 people are experiencing homelessness. Over 120,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing. The majority of those are in urgent need of public housing, and thousands more are experiencing rental stress like we have not seen before. People are living in cars, in tents, on couches and on the streets.

We are having people turn up to our offices, call our phones and email us constantly in dire distress because they do not know where they are going to sleep that night, and I know it is not our offices only that are hearing from these distressed Victorians. I have talked to many MPs across this place who are saying they are experiencing housing distress and constituents turning up to their offices like they have never seen before, and that is happening because we have let housing affordability get to a catastrophic crisis in Victoria because governments have not done enough to make housing more affordable. The reason why constituents are turning up to MPs offices is because the social service sector cannot cope with the demand that we are seeing – unprecedented demand – for housing and homelessness services.

It is time for this Parliament and for this government to act, and to act with urgency. But what do this government and these budget papers tell us about what the government’s priorities are when it comes to housing affordability? Let us talk about budget paper 3, which has no plan for renters – thousands of renters experiencing distress, so many of them in the chamber here this morning to hear of the inquiry into rental affordability. Budget paper 4 – no money for new public housing, but it does demonstrate that four times the amount of money that is going into so-called social housing is being spent on toll roads in Victoria. If you want to know what the priorities of this government are, that budget paper tells you. It is writ large what this government prioritises.

What does this government do in the face of a housing affordability crisis? In this chamber we saw a live example just today. Faced with a choice about investigating something so we can come up with solutions together – thousands of people in the midst of a rental crisis want an inquiry into rental affordability – what does this government do? It stands opposed, and instead of discussion in good faith the minister for landlords – sorry, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, who has by the way the highest number of investment properties I think of anyone in these houses, which is not much of a conflict of interest, but that aside, calls the property industry to lobby members of Parliament to vote against an inquiry into making rentals more affordable in Victoria. He calls the inquiry ‘a prank’, ‘student politics’ and ‘childish’ instead of negotiating in good faith with this Parliament to get to the bottom of what is happening with the rental affordability crisis. We went in good faith to negotiate, but he slammed the door in our face and by doing so slammed the door in every renter’s face who came to this chamber to ask for a solution to the crisis that we are facing.

If you ever wondered what values drive the modern Labor Party, well, they are writ large in this chamber today – a bunch of neoliberal centrists who have lost their way, so much so that they are evicting a 68-year-old woman from public housing. Margaret Kelly was in the chamber yesterday. She had gone to the minister’s office last week to ask for a meeting. She had to stage a sit-in in the minister’s lobby because the minister would not give her a meeting to hear her out. Instead of meeting her they called in the police and surrounded her. That is what the Labor government does to its own renters, putting this government in the running to become the worst landlord right across this state. Maybe that is why they did not want an inquiry into renters, because they too are a very terrible landlord.

This Parliament has a job to do: to put ideas on the table, to hold the government to account and to find solutions, and that is what we could have done today. Instead, while demolishing public housing estates you are privatising our public housing. Your ground lease model is a con. It is PR spin that hands millions of dollars to private developers and knocks down our public housing. This government does not care about housing affordability in Victoria. It is the reason you knocked back a parliamentary inquiry into making rentals more affordable. It is the reason you put no money into public housing in the budget.