Greens call for improvements to treasury and energy legislation

with this legislation leaves much to be desired The Greens push for amendments to help improve it. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (20:00): I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Treasury and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. The Greens will not be opposing the bill, but I will make a few comments about it. We will also move some amendments during the Committee stage. Other than the fact that, obviously, we have a Treasurer who is also the Minister for Energy, it is curious that the bill is primarily a piece of energy legislation that has jammed into the middle of it—there is also a little bit of other Treasury stuff—this shared equity scheme. I agree with the shadow Treasurer. It is not so much a scheme as a kind of scheme for a scheme—an outline for what might one day become a thing.

In the course of that outline, it gives huge discretion to the Treasurer to decide who it is going to apply to and whether or not there will be onerous conditions placed on them. I understand there have been proposals suggesting how it might apply to some of the public sector workers. In applying it to first home buyers, there is also the idea that there might be some sort of annual check‑up required of the property or other requirements that are baked into the terms or guidelines that would govern how this scheme would work in practice. I think that is properly the remit of this Parliament to determine and the Treasurer should bring the proposal, even if it is by way of regulation, to Parliament so that we can have some oversight and make sure that individuals who are entering into this scheme are protected and that the money is being handled in a transparent and accountable way.

I express concern that the scheme has been shoved in at the last minute in the middle of a bill that otherwise has nothing to do with shared equity, which was brought to us a mere four weeks before the end of the parliamentary term. There is no real plan in the bill. The land tax proposal came out last week. There is now this shared equity scheme. Although The Greens very much support the idea of a shared equity scheme—as we do the general concept of transitioning to land tax—the way in which the Government proposes to bring in these measures shows it has no real plan for how it will deal with housing affordability. It is saying, in a half‑baked way, "We'll apply it to certain parts of the market. We'll probably have it in relation to this but we're not going to tell you. We're going to do it under guidelines and who knows when they might come out."

Today the Standing Committee on Social Issues, of which I am a member, released a report on an inquiry that I initiated on behalf of people aged over 55 who find themselves in homelessness, which is a cohort growing at a much higher rate than other parts of the community, and on behalf of people who work in the sector. The report made it clear that the problems of housing affordability and homelessness are complex. We cannot simply fix them with demand‑driven factors. We cannot look at the demand side and ask, "Right now houses are incredibly expensive. How can we help people to afford a home?" It is not as simple as the Government taking a stake in those homes. It may provide some immediate assistance to people, as might waiving stamp duty, but we must look at what those measures would do to house prices.

We could do many things across the housing market, including on the supply side by adding supply. We could address negative gearing, capital gains tax discounts, investors who own multiple empty homes and Airbnb and other platforms that are out of control. We should also build a huge amount of social housing to help people who are in dire need. Proposing half-baked measures without a coherent vision does not give me confidence that the Government understands the housing market or plans to address housing affordability on the whole, which is concerning. On the other hand, The Greens do have a vision. Interestingly, shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said that there is no mention of which financial institution would help the Government with its plan. Last year The Greens launched a plan for a public bank of New South Wales.

The Hon. Shayne Mallard: Compulsory deposits.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: The public bank of New South Wales—it is a thing.

The Hon. Taylor Martin: It sounds like Russia in the 1930s.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: All right. It is absurd that an essential public service such as banking is entirely privatised in this country. That is not the case elsewhere in the world. Most countries have a State bank. If a public bank of New South Wales held that money—rather than paying fees to financial institutions to manage our money, and rather than councils putting their money into private financial institutions—we could have a very tidy sum to seed a public bank of New South Wales.

The Hon. Taylor Martin: What on earth!

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Have you not heard about the public bank of New South Wales? Do you not believe in public banking?

The Hon. Taylor Martin: The old one?

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Oh dear. Let us move on. The point is that The Greens launched the idea of the public bank of New South Wales precisely because we need an institution that is flexible enough to help people in hard times. The public bank of New South Wales could help people who are going through tough times, such as COVID, by taking an equity stake in their property. That would allow them to move forward. We do support the idea of a shared equity scheme, but the Government's bill is all spin and no substance. The Greens will not oppose the bill, but our amendments will seek to put some sort of oversight on the scheme. I express some small hope that the Government is at least thinking about taking more housing stock into public hands.

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