Scot MacDonald
Adjournment Debate on Labor's Affordable Housing Policy
30th May 2017


Mr SCOT MacDONALD ( 18:08 ): The public has a right to be cynical about gesture politics, particularly when members of the public can look at what a political party does compared to what it says it will do. That is exactly the situation that arises from Labor's weekend policy announcement on affordable housing. It was gesture politics personified—grand statements and wildly optimistic targets. Straightaway Labor's policy was undermined by a Hunter member of Parliament and the Labor-controlled Newcastle City Council. Last month the New South Wales planning Minister, Anthony Roberts, offered up to Newcastle City Council a project for 30 units of affordable housing on Government-owned disused rail corridor in the heart of that city's central business district.

Additionally, the project came with $3 million from the Hunter Development Corporation plus the land, valued at around $1 million. The Minister also pointed out that the council had been sitting on $3 million of Commonwealth Building Better Cities grant funds for more than 15 years. In other words, exactly what the Leader of the Opposition was proposing with a bonus of millions of dollars to make the housing project workable. Guess what the local Australian Labor Party [ALP] operatives have done? They have undermined, talked down and ultimately vetoed the affordable housing proposal.

The Hon. Greg Donnelly: Point of order: The honourable member knows that as a matter of working convention and understanding we do not use adjournment speeches to attack a member of the Opposition. We reciprocate that, generally speaking. If he wants to continue with this line of argument I am quite prepared to take further points of order for as long as it takes to sit him down and shut him up.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( The Hon. Ernest Wong ): Order! I do not think there is any particular comment in the adjournment speech that will justify a point of order. There is no point of order.

Mr SCOT MacDONALD: Tim Crakanthorp, the Labor member for Newcastle, had the opportunity to back the plan, but instead he publicly denigrated the scheme and gave comfort to his old council to not rezone the site for affordable housing. New South Wales Labor's plans for affordable housing cannot be delivered when the Leader of the Opposition's own caucus will not back him and Labor councils across the State stall, complicate and add costs to affordable housing developments. As the Leader of the Opposition should know, it is very difficult to make these sort of projects financially viable for the Government and community housing providers. They have to arrange finance to build and operate a housing complex that will have below market income. The State assists by contributing land, rental assistance and other means of supporting worthy targeted tenants—those individuals in occupations necessary in a functioning city, such as nurses or police officers, who need to work in the city but who find the market rents unaffordable at their salary levels.

The public can spot a fraud. The Leader of the Opposition does not have the unequivocal backing of his regional members of Parliament. He certainly does not have the backing of Labor at the local government level. We have the real-time evidence for that in the Hunter. There is no reasonable prospect of State Labor delivering on the policy. It is dishonest gesture politics: putting something out there that superficially looks attractive, is light on detail and contains outright lies. I quote from the Labor document, "The Liberal Government does not believe in utilising Government land for affordable housing. It simply sells it off to the highest bidder." This of course ignores the Liberal-Nationals Government's plan, announced last month, to put 30 affordable units on the disused Newcastle rail corridor. It is obvious the Leader of the Opposition has not been to Newcastle in a while. He is not aware his colleagues have undermined the project.

The other insulting feature of their plan begins with its title, "Affordable Housing in Sydney". Regional New South Wales is a mystery to the Leader of the Opposition and that is reflected in his policies. The policy barely mentions the State outside of Sydney, yet affordable housing is an issue across New South Wales. Serious planners understand that sustainable housing solutions include sound planning across the State. The regions have a role in supplying affordable housing. As planning Minister Rob Stokes said in Newcastle last month:

The New South Wales Government is committed to bringing more people into Newcastle's city centre, growing jobs and delivering new public spaces alon gside new transport solutions.

We govern for the State. We are proud to govern for every community. We understand the housing pressures of Sydney and regional New South Wales. The solutions to housing affordability are complex and not given to gesture politics as we saw from the Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley, on the weekend. [Time expired.]