4 January 2023

Doorstop interview, Adelaide


Joint doorstop interview with
Nat Cook MP
State Minister for Human Services 


Thanks for coming out today – I’d like to extend a really warm welcome to Minister Julie Collins. So Minister Julie Collins is here doing a few things today, but importantly, she’s joining me to announce this incredible partnership where we are going to work together – as a state and federal government – to improve the quality and the quantity of social housing and affordable housing here in South Australia, on this site here at Park Court. Park Court has been closed down as a public housing site for some time now, awaiting plans for redevelopment. There were some plans put in place, over a year ago now, by the previous government. We, as the Labor Party, were critical of the lack of improvement of numbers or quantity of social housing on this site, and so when we took government in March, I was very pleased to work with the Housing Authority to actually make some changes in regards to the missions for this site. We’ve reviewed what was the submissions, at the time, for this property and we have made a commitment that there will be an increase in the numbers of social houses here in the range of 30 to 50 social houses, from 29. It will depend on the submissions put in by the successful tenderer. We will also see dozens of affordable houses.

So, the majority on this site will be affordable housing and, of course, that is really important when it comes to essential workers who will be housed within these properties. So, people who are providing those medical, health and other services to our community close to the city will be able to rent here at 75 per cent of the market rate and, of course, then have access to the city very close by, as well as people here living who need that extra help with social housing.

So, social housing is charged at about 30 per cent of their income, so we’ll see a really good mix on this site within the next couple of years. The beauty of us taking a pause, having a rest and thinking about how we’re going to develop this site, it’s given us an opportunity to work in partnership with the Albanese Labor Government - with Julie Collins particularly - to build a relationship, for not just now, but for in the future, to improve what we can offer for the people of South Australia who are struggling to afford the cost-of-living pressures, but also to secure tenancy in a market that’s been red-hot for a number of reasons.

So, I look forward to working with Minister Collins – not just now but in the future – to secure a range of offerings. I’ll let Minister Collins have a talk about how that might work, and then we’ll be open for questions.


Thanks, Nat. Thank you, it’s terrific to be here in Adelaide with Minister Cook to talk about this development here. What we’re talking about here is a partnership between the state and the federal government and a social housing provider. It is the type of innovation we want to see right across the country. We’re talking about a mixed-housing development here; we’re talking about social housing, affordable housing and some private housing all on one site.

We know that that is a good outcome for local communities, and we know that in this case – as Minister Cook has outlined – that it’s great particularly for key workers in the local area. When you talk about doctors, teachers, police, cleaners, being able to rent affordably here on this site, that is a terrific outcome and shows the partnership of two governments working together with social housing providers.

This development here is the first from the unlocking of up to $575 million by the Federal Government, from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility. That is our immediate measure that came out of the Jobs and Skills Summit - why we talk about and get invested our $10 billion in our Housing Australia Future Fund, which will have the returns every year be invested in social and affordable housing right across the country. And, of course, our Housing Accord that was announced in the Budget, where we’re talking about an aspirational million homes over five years from 2024. Working together with states, territories, local government and social housing providers right across the country.

We’re very serious about making sure that more Australians have a safe, affordable place to call home. We’ve very clearly said before that no one tier of government can solve this alone. This is about working together, it’s about partnerships. The funding for this is $70 million here, on this site, of which $50 million is in grants and loans from the Federal Government, from the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation that is soon to become Housing Australia. We currently have out there our Housing Australia architecture reform bills for comment. We are getting moving. We will not waste a day in trying to make sure that more Australians have a safe, affordable place to call home. This development is the first of getting stuff on the ground and unlocking the immediate money to work with others to get more homes on the ground more quickly. We, of course, have also announced this week; up-and-running is our interim Supply and Affordability Council. I’m meeting with the Chair tomorrow, in Melbourne, to make sure we get independent advice to governments right across the country about what will increase supply and make it more affordable so more Australians have a safe, affordable place to call home. Thank you.


Nat, do you want to start? Can you talk a bit about the [inaudible] please?


Yeah, sure. So, there has already been some early scoping done with community housing providers who have the capability to do such a large project and, as I said before, partnering with the Federal Government enables a more efficient and affordable process for all of our community housing providers to be able to participate in this. So, we would hope to see some plans fairly firm over the next few months and really get cracking on this. As you can see, it’s a shovel-ready site, the demolition is already underway and that will be completed very soon, and we would hope to see people turning the key in the locks of their new homes within the next couple of years. So, it’s really exciting.


Obviously – I don’t know who wants to answer this – but obviously the pandemic put the brakes on the construction industry, there’s a lot of backlog. Do you think that’s going to have an impact on this?


Well, I can answer a little bit about South Australia and then Minister Collins might like to expand. We actually know that in South Australia, the building market has actually been fairly hot. It’s been quite difficult to secure contractors to be able to undertake work, to some degree, and some of that is a consequence of the HomeBuilder Scheme, which I’m sure Minister Collins would love to comment on. We’ve seen a lot of people who are already in homes, building better homes; we’ve seen a lot of people who are already in comfortable homes make their homes more comfortable; people who were maybe looking to afford homes within the next few years, affording them earlier. What hasn’t changed and, in fact, what has gotten worse is those people in our community who are sleeping rough, sleeping uncomfortably, and needing public housing and social housing support. That hasn’t improved because there hasn’t been the capacity or the capability or the will. So, there are some pressures that have been caused due to some of the grant schemes that have been in place, and potentially the HomeBuilder Scheme might be something Minister Collins might like to comment on. But, from a South Australian point of view; we know that builders have been – and tradies – have been reasonably busy. But, we also know that there is a cliff coming – a looming cliff where jobs are going to be completed, and we are wanting to make sure that we can continue this pipeline of supply for those who need it, but also a supply of jobs for hard-working tradies.


Thanks Nat. The situation nationally is very similar – what we’re seeing through a range of grants programs is building and construction brought forward by many people. What the building and construction sector tell us, federally, is that they’re expecting in the second half of this year for that demand to drop off. We know that there is also a skills shortage and there’s supply chain issues in the construction sector. We’re talking with the sector about how we assist with that. We’ve also, of course, announced some of our fee-free TAFE places for the sector. We are continuing to talk to them about, ‘How do we get more skills on the ground? How do we fix the supply chain issues? How can we make sure that this construction can get out of the way?’ As Minister Cook has said, in many parts of Australia we know that in the second half of this year or the early next year that the current demand is coming off substantially, and what we want to do is to fill that gap with more social and affordable housing right across the country. What we have here is a supply issue, what we want to do is get more supply on the ground more quickly, and make sure it’s affordable for most Australians.


And while I’ve got you, what is your response to China’s threats of retaliation over the current testing scheme?


Well, as the Treasurer has said today, you know, we’re about making decisions in the best interest of our country. The decision that we’ve taken is one in an abundance of caution. We’re implementing measures that are similar to other like-countries; the United States, England, Italy, France, South Korea, are all implanting similar measures to what we’re implementing. We’re doing it out of an abundance of caution, we’re doing it as a measure while we wait to see exactly what is happening on the ground.


Nat, doing you mind going through – I know you mentioned [inaudible] how does your plan differ to theirs, to what they were proposing initially?


Yeah, so, the plan is different in that; (a) we have made a commitment to increase the offering in terms of the numbers of social housing within the site, but also we have managed to secure a partnership with Federal Government, which will ensure that we have the capacity and the future with partnerships with the community housing sector to do more, not less.


And, while I’ve got you, we’re a few weeks out from school, obviously, there are families still doing it tough after a big Christmas. What can you tell us in terms of what is available for families doing it tough?


Cost-of-living pressures have not eased at all, and with Christmas only just in the rear vision mirror, of course families are thinking ahead now towards going – returning – to school and those bills will start coming in. I would encourage all families to have a conversation with their school to see what is able to be provided for them. I am aware that there are people on low-to-no incomes who will need support, and of course that can be secured through their school in terms of discounts and school cards. School fees will vary from school to school, but the best piece of advice I have is; have the conversation early with your school. The schools aim to have all children at school with all their supplies, in their uniforms, and will do everything they can to provide that support. The primary aim should be to have the conversation early about how you will manage payment and delivery of that for your children. Schools are compassionate and understanding, and together as a community, we are all standing ready to support people who are having cost-of-living struggles.