Senator Visit

Senator Doug Cameron, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, TAFE and Apprenticeships outlined Labor’s housing and homelessness policies at a recent visit to Perth.

Speaking at a Shelter WA members only event, participants heard directly from the senator ahead of the 2019 Federal Election to be held on Saturday, 18 May.

L-R Natalie Sangalli, Access Housing; Senator Doug Cameron Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, TAFE and Apprenticeships; Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA; Justine Colyer, Rise Community Network 

Although Senator Cameron retires at the end of this term, he has been the Shadow Housing and Homelessness Minister since 2016. He has been the architect of future housing and homeless policies for the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Cameron began his speech by thanking the National Shelter network for “being his advisors” when he came into the portfolio to give him a solid understanding of the issues facing the sector.

“We’ve got a broken housing market,” Senator Cameron said.

“I don’t think anything epitomises market failure, more than the housing market in Australia.

“We need to build up the community housing sector, the state governments need to deal with the public housing sector and there needs to be alternatives to people to try and get a roof over their head. Labor has taken the view that getting a roof over your head is a basic human right.

“When we were last in Government, we did the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) and the housing that we built through the global financial crisis, with the Social Housing Initiative, made the biggest difference I think in such a short period. We’ve taken the view that housing and homelessness is not just a social issue, it’s a major economic issue for this country and it’s a big part of the infrastructure of the country.

L-R Senator Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, TAFE and Apprenticeships; Eugenie Stockmann, Co-operation Housing; Michael Lennon, Managing Director of Housing Choices Australia

“I’ve been arguing, and we haven’t made any announcement on it yet, but I’m pretty confident that if we win the next Election then housing will be part of the infrastructure portfolio. It is such a massive job creator and deals with productivity in the community that housing should be part of that infrastructure area.”

In terms of Labor promises Senator Cameron outlined the $88m allocated for short-term crisis accommodation.

“We will restore the $88m of funding back into short-term crisis accommodation. We do know there are many young people out there and lots of older women who have no income of any significance at all, that are couchsurfing, sleeping in the back of cars or just living in the street.

“This will make a quick start to get some support out there.

“We made a big policy announcement that we’ve given 250,000 National Rental Affordability Scheme Houses, and that means if you’ve got a rent of just $460 or $470 a week you are saving $90 a week through the NRAS scheme.

“So Chris Bowen (Shadow Treasurer) and Bill Shorten (Leader of the Opposition) have been quite clear that we can actually make the investments that we are making and that the new NRAS, the reformed NRAS we are putting in, has got a couple of big design features that are different to the previous one, its about 6.6-billion dollars over ten years, so it’s a big national investment in housing and it will deal with homelessness issues.

L-R Senator Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, TAFE and Apprenticeships; Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA; John Gelavis; Executive Director Master Builders Association of Western Australia

“We just don’t think that public housing, given that it’s a state government responsibility, that its so run down at the moment that that’s an issue that we can turn around very quickly, and we’ve come to the view the best thing we can do is make that $6.6-billion investment in a new NRAS scheme and we said the NRAS scheme will not go to private investors, it will be run through Community Housing.”

“We think by investing through the community housing sector, the not-for-profit sector, that will deliver an ongoing investment in community housing for decades to come.”

Senator Cameron outlined proposed reform to negative gearing and capital gains tax. He spoke about the importance of investing in housing for Aboriginal people and that like metropolitan housing, remote housing cannot be forgotten.

L-R Michael Lennon, Managing Director of Housing Choices Australia; Garry Ellendor, Community Housing Industry Association (WA) Regional Director

Senator Cameron reinforced the need for all spheres of government to work together. He outlined his support for a good public housing system, but raised concerns with maintenance issues, the quality of stock transferred to community housing providers and the impact of these transfers on Commonwealth Rent Assistance. His view was that Community Housing Providers shouldn’t look to transfers as a foundation for growth.

When his opening speech reached its conclusion, members were encouraged to ask questions directly of the Senator. Questions touched on the following areas:

• Ways to support the sector to grow to scale to deal with a build of 250,000 homes over a ten-year period.
• How a small boutique provider can grow to be financially viable so they can continue offering specialist services.
• How to hold state governments to account to deliver their requirements, such as stock transfers, under national housing agreements.
• Why stock transfers are critical in a WA market context.

Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie thanked members for their contribution to the discussion.

“We would like to thank Senator Cameron for providing the opportunity for our members to meet with him and discuss housing policy. We will continue to advocate for housing and homelessness to remain on the political agenda in the lead up to the Federal Election.”

L-R Lyn Brun, Acting Chief Executive Officer at Access Housing; Carmen Acosta, Executive Manager at Tenancy WA



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