Doorstop interview

CATHERINE KING: Thanks very much. I'm Minister Catherine King, the Minister for Infrastructure, and I'm joined here by Minister Collins, the Minister for Housing, and also Matt Collins, no relation, but from the Australian Planning Institute. 

Well today's a terrific day. We are announcing the opening of a Housing Support Program. That is a $500 million program available for state, territory and local government to really get our housing supplies moving. It was part of the National Accord to build 1.2 million homes in this country, and we listened very closely to state and local government who were saying one of the impediments to get housing into the marketplace is really two things. One, the planning capacity within local councils, particularly to be able to deliver the land that's needed to build new homes, but also that some of the costs of infrastructure, connecting utilities, connecting local roads, making sure that water and sewerage [indistinct] is available and those things are really important. And that's what the Housing Support Program delivers. 

In the first tranche that will be opened today up to $5 million available for local government and state government to really build that planning capacity, bringing in town planners, unlocking land, being able to get those developments ready and well and truly available for development ‑ is it too noisy? Are we having trouble with sound, are we? 

JOURNALIST: No, no, sorry, no. There was a ‑ there was something behind you. 

CATHERINE KING: Okay, all right. Well I will just keep going. 


CATHERINE KING: I will plough through. 

JOURNALIST: Sorry, I didn't mean to be distracting then. 

CATHERINE KING: No, no, that is all right. I will keep ploughing through. 

So that first stream opened today which will be available for building that local planning capacity, and then shortly to follow the next stream which will be the funding to connect those utilities. 

I'm really pleased to be partnering with Minister Collins on this particular proposal. We know that this is really part of making sure that we get more housing supply in this country. As Infrastructure Minister, I'm determined that as we build that housing supply we actually build the infrastructure that's needed. 

The applications will be assessed on the basis of the amount of homes that are being built in well-located areas. As you can see from this area in particular, close to hospitals, close to public transport, close to shopping, and also close to where people work. The Woden precinct has seen huge development in recent years and it's a great example of the sorts of precincts we want to see, well-located homes that are great for people to live in and great for people to work in. 

I'll hand over to Minister Collins. 

JULIE COLLINS: Thanks, Minister King, and it's great to have Matt Collins here with us also. 

This is a really important part of the Government’s housing agenda. The Housing Support Program, as Minister King has outlined, is $500 million that will support local, state and territory Governments to get the homes on the ground faster. 

We want to work with other tiers of government, and we've repeatedly said no tier of government is going to solve the nation's housing challenges alone. We all need to be working together. This program that we're opening up today is about part of the solution. 

Since we came to office, we've now announced more than $25 billion in new investment in housing over the next decade. We're doing everything we can from homelessness, to social and affordable housing, to private market rentals, to homeownership, to get as many Australians into a safe and affordable place to call home, and what we're talking about today with the Housing Support Program is part of that agenda. It’s an important critical part, as Minister King has outlined. We want to see more homes on the ground as quickly as we can right across the country. 

I'll hand over to Matt.

MATT COLLINS: Thanks very much. The Planning Institute of Australia welcomes this announcement. It's an important step towards achieving the national housing [indistinct] goal of [indistinct] homes over the next five years. 

We know that planning is key to enabling more homes to meet Australia's changing and diverse housing needs over the long‑term, especially when it comes to density in well-located areas. 

Planners are all about creating great communities by setting different strategies that determine where new homes and infrastructure will be built and then assessing development proposals against those plans. 

We are really pleased that this announcement today is all about investing in good planning and investing in efficient assessment pathways so that we can get the right housing in the right locations when we need it to tackle Australia's housing crisis. 

Thank you very much. 

CATHERINE KING: Happy to take any questions. 

JOURNALIST: Can you talk us through the timeline of how long it's going to take to [indistinct] the second tranche? 

CATHERINE KING: Yep, sure. So, the first tranche is open today and once we get applications in they'll start being assessed and we should get those, by the second half of this year applications will be notified if they're successful and in May the second stream will be open for the program. Again, we're wanting to get the money out the door this year because we know just how important it is to get as much housing supply into the marketplace as we possibly can. 

JOURNALIST: And when do you expect that all these houses will be built? 

CATHERINE KING: Well I'll hand over to Julie because it's not just a one system question, there's over $25 billion being invested in housing programs right the way across the [indistinct]. 

JULIE COLLINS: We've got houses under construction today because of decisions our government has taken. Whether it be the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator, the $575 million that we unlocked immediately from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, whether it be the tenders that have just closed for our Housing Australia Future Fund. We are at every opportunity trying to get more homes on the ground as quickly as we can, but it is important that we work with other tiers of government, because other tiers of government, as we've heard, hold a lot of the levers when it comes to social and affordable housing but housing more generally when it comes to the supply. 

We’ll work right across the board. It's important that we partner with states and territories and local governments, and the Housing Support Program that’s opening today, it's just part of that. We have homes under construction today because of the decisions our government has taken and we want more homes, more well-located homes right across the country. 

JOURNALIST: Just a couple for Minister King. 


JOURNALIST: The Greens are threatening to put off your vehicle emissions standards saying the government needs to dump planned changes to gas [indistinct] first. Are you willing to dump those gas changes? 

CATHERINE KING: Well, what I'd say to the Greens is that 25 years of the vehicle efficiency standard has been on the policy books. Only Labor has brought forward a credible plan to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles, but also to provide more choice for Australian motorists who drive the cars that they love and to realise that fuel savings, from whether it be a more efficient petrol car, diesel car, hybrid or electric vehicle. And so, we say to the Greens we look forward to working with them as this legislation ‑ I'm going to introduce it, I'm going back to the House today to introduce this legislation as it makes its passage through the Parliament. 

JOURNALIST: But are you willing to dump those gas changes completely? 

CATHERINE KING: Can I make it really clear, that this is what's before the Parliament [indistinct], the vehicle efficiency standard and I'll be working every day to make sure we get that through the Parliament. I think it has been too long that Australia has been the only other advanced economy alongside Russia that hasn't had the choice of vehicles that other motorists have. 

I'm sure in our constructive discussions with the Greens we'll continue to work with them to make sure we get good passage through the Senate for something they have been asking for for a very long period of time. 

JOURNALIST: Is your government willing to tweak vehicle emission standards to get them through Parliament or is this plan set in stone? 

CATHERINE KING: Well what you saw yesterday was Chris Bowen and I standing up with Toyota, with Tesla, with the Motor Trades Association, with the Automotive Dealers Association as well, as well as the Electric Vehicle Council. The package that we are putting to the Parliament today has broad support. It's a plan that will work. It's a plan that will work for Australian motorists, it will work for Australian car manufacturers, it will work for Australian car dealers, but also work for the environment. 

So our view is this is the best package. It obviously now is going through the Parliament, and it will be in the Parliament's hands as to where it goes. But what our view is very firmly this is a good package, it's a good package for Australian motorists and we want to see it passed as soon as possible. 

JOURNALIST: Will these changes have any impact on the purchase price of a new Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger? 

CATHERINE KING: There is absolutely no real-world evidence that vehicle efficiency standards that have been in place in the US for over 50 years, in Europe for a long period of time, in Japan as well, has an impact on price. The impact analysis showed that, and every piece of real-world evidence has that. 

The way in which this works is that this is across a fleet. It's not about one vehicle over another. It's about what a manufacturer brings in [indistinct] and incentivises those manufacturers to bring in the most efficient vehicles it possibly can. So there's no evidence that it has an impact on price at all. 

This is a highly competitive market. We sell a million new vehicles here in Australia every year, and every one of those manufacturers is competing against each other and none of them want to lose any of their market share so I'm very confident that there will be no price impact in relation to [indistinct]. 

JOURNALIST: When do you want this legislation passed? 

CATHERINE KING: So as soon as possible. Obviously, we're introducing it today, it will get debated when the House comes back in the budget sessions and then it will be up to the Senate when it gets listed and when it gets passed. But we'd like to get it done as soon as possible. 

JOURNALIST: A number of the [indistinct] Labor Party figures, including former party Kim Beazley, have urged the government to put aside the planned extension of the Northwest Shelf project. What do you make of those calls? 

CATHERINE KING: Well, I just say that that's really a matter for Minister Plibersek and I'm sure she'll have some comments to make about that in due course. 

JOURNALIST: It is your government though, what's your view? 

CATHERINE KING: Well in terms of that it's not my portfolio. I've been spending most of my time making sure that we have a good fuel efficiency standard for this country that gives motorists greater choice and makes sure that they can benefit from more efficient vehicles and the fuel savings that that brings. That's I've been concentrating on and I'm sure Minister Plibersek will make some comments about that today. 

Thanks everybody. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you.