Radio interview, ABC South East NSW with Scott Bevan

SCOTT BEVAN: Let’s head to Canberra now, or at least hear from one of the region's voices in Canberra. Kristy McBain is the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro and also the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, and she joins us now. Kristy, good morning to you. How are you?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Scott.

BEVAN: The Housing Australia Future Fund, this big platform of the Albanese Government, of your government. Now, if this was a building project, people would be worried. It's not getting off the ground. The Coalition has called this $10 billion fund an accounting trick. The Greens have been concerned it's a gamble. They're holding firm on what they want. Are those 30,000 affordable homes that the Prime Minister has talked about in regard to the Fund? Are those 30,000 homes going from being a great Australian dream to a pipe dream?

MCBAIN: It's pretty sad when we've got communities that are crying out for additional housing, especially social and affordable housing, but also housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence, for veterans at risk of homelessness, for key workers in our economy. We know that there's an issue. We've got Liberal-National and Green party members holding back on voting for the Housing Australia Future Fund. A Future Fund that we have that helps us fund medical research in the country, a Future Fund that helps us look at new and innovative technologies. This isn't a gamble on the stock market. This is perpetual funding that will be in our system year on year for the rest of our lives. Housing isn't something that we can just invest in one year and let go for the rest. We know there has to be continual investment, which is why we've put forward this Future Fund. It’s not the only thing that we're doing on housing. We've invested an additional $2 billion to social and affordable rental homes by increasing the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation's liability cap. We have added $67.5 million to help tackle homelessness. There's a $1.7 billion extension on the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. We have been working with the states and territories to start addressing the issues in the housing market. This is going to take all three levels of government working together. It’s just a shame that we have political parties holding the housing agenda to ransom when right across our regions we know what a big deal it is.

BEVAN: Well, the Greens are holding firm. They're saying more should be done for tenants in particular, and buffer renters from those skyrocketing rents we're seeing at the moment. And given the housing stress at the moment being felt by so many, is that unreasonable?

MCBAIN: It is not within the remit of the Federal Government to deal with. I mean, we can't magically alter the Constitution to give the Greens party some comfort on rental freezes. The Constitution sets firmly that the powers and responsibilities of the Federal Government and having a nationwide rental freeze does not sit within the power of the Federal Government.

BEVAN: Last month you heralded that the Albanese Labor Government will help more people in this area, in your electorate, into home ownership sooner through what you called a significant expansion of criteria for the home guarantee scheme. Yet that statement is at odds with how many aspiring home buyers feel at the moment as they feel further away than ever in the face of rising interest rates and another rate rise last week rising costs of living. They're feeling further away than ever from ever being able to afford a home.

MCBAIN: It’s a really difficult environment at the moment and there are a lot of homeowners out there that will find the independent Reserve Bank's interest rate rise last week really hard to cop. There are a lot of aspiring homeowners out there that are frustrated that it's going to take longer for them to get into the housing market. What we have done by expanding that criteria in the Regional First Home Buyer scheme, for example, is making it available to any two people, whether that be brother and sister, friends or family members. It's important that we're assisting more people to access the scheme. We've also said that that scheme will be available to people that haven't owned a home in Australia for more than ten years, so that we're expanding that criteria again. Owning a home is still part of the Australian dream and we want to make that easier and that's why we're helping people through expanding out that criteria.

BEVAN: How will expanding criteria boost confidence though, when people feel so low in confidence at the prospect of not just being able to get into the housing market but being able to remain in it, to afford to remain in it?

MCBAIN: Well everyone has to make that choice. They've got to look at their own financial circumstances and confidence isn't something that is easy to achieve. Australians are always prepared to look at what they can do and people with the aspiration to own a home will get there, but sometimes it takes a little bit longer than necessary.

BEVAN: I'm talking with Kristy McBain, the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro. Kristy, on another matter a recent Newspoll has shown support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, at least among the respondents of this poll is at 46 per cent. What are you hearing among your constituents, among people in this area about The Voice to Parliament and what more as a representative, can you do should you do to communicate to the electorate about the voice? Because the electorate seems confused as to what it all means.

MCBAIN: It’s really important that we don't put too much stock in polls and we've seen polling for a whole range of things over the last little while not be accurate, but it is important that we are getting the correct and factual information. There is so much misinformation on social media platforms, for example, written statements put on random accounts and being shared as though that they are fact. It is highly damaging, not just to this referendum, but to also our democracy. If we're going to have a discussion, it needs to be based in fact. It’s really important that we are getting our information from reputable sources. To that extent, there is a tonne of information on the Australian Electoral Commission's website about the role of the referendum and what that process will be. There is also a tonne of information on about what the proposal is and what it seeks to achieve. Two sources that aren’t spin. One just about the education campaign around the referendum, the other one about what this proposal actually is. There's also a tonne of information out there, both from the Yes campaign's website and the No campaign’s website. Some of the things that I've seen on social media are highly damaging to our democracy because they're not grounded in truth. I would urge people to continue to have the conversations with each other about what this means. When I speak to people across Eden-Monaro in particular about The Voice, some of the questions that have been asked include why does it have to be a referendum, and then questions around why do we have to try something different? My continual response to people is closing their gap. Targets have not gotten any smaller. Life expectancy for First Nations peoples is much less. Housing outcomes, social outcomes, health outcomes and educational outcomes are far worse in our Indigenous communities. We have been making decisions on behalf of First Nations peoples for a couple of hundred years and some of those have not been very good. We did something different.

BEVAN: We have to leave it there and go to the news. But thank you for your time.

MCBAIN: Thank you very much.