Press conference, Brisbane

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Queensland Government housing announcement; Greens blocking Albanese Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund; Donald Trump Jr.

Rebecca Oelkers, CEO, Brisbane Housing Company: Hi everybody. My name is Rebecca Oelkers. I’m the CEO of Brisbane Housing Company. It’s really lovely that you are all here today. I really appreciate you coming. We’re here today to announce a really fantastic housing development. The Brisbane Housing Company is about to have the ministerial infrastructure designation process here in Woolloongabba. So the new project is going to be in Carl Street, Woolloongabba. It’s going to provide 81 or up to 81 units of social and affordable housing for low-income people. And as we all know, that is incredibly necessary at the moment.

Studios, one bed and two-bed units that will house individuals, couples and families. And we’re really proud of it. It’s actually a architect designed complex, designed by Cox Architecture. It will be up to 15 storeys high, beautiful communal garden on the top, communal areas and, most importantly, it’s in this amazing area of Woolloongabba, which is very very close to public transport, to your shops.

So we’re absolutely thrilled about this. The project is being done in partnership with the Queensland State Government, and I can’t talk highly enough about the partnership that we have with the Queensland State Government. It’s absolutely fantastic to be able to provide such affordable housing through the Housing Investment Fund which, as people know, is a fantastic funding opportunity that we have here in Queensland – in fact, quite similar to the Housing Australia Future Fund which we hope to get through the Senate federally.

I would like to hand over to the Minister, but before I do just would also like to say that this project has been done through the ministerial infrastructure designation. We work typically with Brisbane City Council and we’ve had a very good relationship with them. But this mechanism that actually came out through the Housing Summit is brought forward to actually increase the speed with which things go through planning, which is really important. Because, at the end of the day, we really do just need to get more social and affordable housing on the ground as quickly as we can. Thank you.

I’ll pass over to Minister Meaghan Scanlon.

Meaghan Scanlon, Queensland Housing Minister: Thank you so much, Rebecca, and thank you so much to Minister Wong for being here today. And can I just acknowledge the wonderful partnership that the Queensland Government has with the Brisbane Housing Company. Today we’re out front of a 32 unit complex that was built in partnership with the Brisbane Housing Company and the Queensland Government. It will provide social and affordable housing that Queenslanders need. We have a long history of working in partnership to build the housing and we want to do even more of that. Of course, our $2 billion Housing Investment Fund will deliver social and affordable housing right across this state. And we’ve already announced up to 1,200 homes to be delivered with both the Brisbane Housing Company and the Queensland Investment Corporation through a commercial partnership agreement.

Now, we’ve announced two of those projects already – both at Chermside and Redcliffe and I’m very pleased today that we are announcing the third project. As Rebecca just said, this has the potential for 81 new units in Woolloongabba. And it will mean more social and affordable housing for people living here in Brisbane. This is the first project in Brisbane that is seeking a ministerial infrastructure designation process, as Rebecca mentioned. Really, this allows us to speed up the time to try and build those houses as quickly as possible. We know there are Queenslanders in need right now, and if we can find ways to speed up the planning approvals process and the building process we are all ears.

And so I want to acknowledge the advocacy of the community housing sector who put forward this proposal to us, and we’re really pleased to be doing this process here and we hope to see many more in the future. And as Rebecca mentioned, you know, this particular design I think is wonderful and includes a rooftop garden. It’s close to the bus way, the train station, it’s close to the shops. It really is a great design in a perfect location. But we could do more of these homes if we had the Housing Australia Future Fund. We’re looking at over 30,000 additional homes across the country. While it’s great to see that the Federal Member for Griffith supports this particular project, right now he is blocking 30,000 other projects across the state by stopping the Housing Australia Future Fund going through the Senate. So while our opponents may be blocking, we’re focused on building, and we’ll continue to do that.

I might hand over now to Minister Wong, and we’ll take questions after that.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Can I first thank Rebecca. Thank you for the intro. Thank you for what you and your team do to deliver social and affordable housing to Queenslanders. It’s really important. Thank you for reminding us all why we do this. More houses, more social and affordable housing for Queenslanders, more social and affordable housing across Australia.

To Minister Scanlon, thanks for the invitation, and thanks for your work. And to Chis, as he know him in the Senate, Anthony Chisholm, thank you for all you do to bring the perspective of Queenslanders to the National Parliament.

Labor governments, the Labor Party, Labor people, for us housing is one of our key values, perhaps none more so than Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who was brought up by his single mum in public housing. But we understand and we know that Queensland, Adelaide where I’m from, across Australia there are many Australians who are really struggling either with rental affordability or access to housing. We want to do something about that. We want to do something about it because people’s economic security, personal security, so often begins with having a roof over your head.

So what are we doing? Well, we’ve got the recent announcement of a $2 billion social housing accelerator to try and deliver thousands of new houses across Australia, social homes. We’ve got the national housing accord to deliver more affordable homes. We’ve extended the Commonwealth‑State Housing Agreement. We’ve increased Commonwealth rent assistance by 15 per cent. That’s the largest increase for 30 years. And, of course, additional funding for financing and build to rent.

But as Minister Scanlon referenced, we also have the Housing Australia Future Fund – a $10 billion fund to deliver 30,000 additional social housing units across this country, including 4,000 reserved for women and children escaping domestic violence. Very important. And it is an example today, an example of a government that can deliver it because they have the fund is what we see behind us and what the minister spoke about.

But we’ve been blocked from delivering it by the Greens, including the local member here Max Chandler-Mather. It’s a political tactic. It’s a tactic which requires the Greens to join up with Peter Dutton. But you know who bears the cost of this tactic? It’s vulnerable Australians looking for homes. That’s who it is. So my message here in this is to say to the Greens, get out of the way and let Labor Governments get on with the job of building more houses in this city and in this country for Australians who need it. Thanks very much.

Journalist: A question for Minister Scanlon, just quickly on this project, considering, I guess, the fast-tracked planning approvals process, best case scenario, how quickly should everything go well, when will we –

Scanlon: So sometimes in the planning process you could be waiting up to six months, the ministerial designation process allows us to do that anywhere as quick as sort of six weeks, the process. Obviously it depends about what sort of that consultation says and what amendments might need to be made. But this is really about fast-tracking that process. So we hope to see this really speed up the time it takes to deliver on social and affordable housing. But we’ll let everyone know at the end of that particular bit of process, but I expect that to be much quicker.

Journalist: Best case scenario, when can construction begin?

Oelkers: As soon as we’ve got the development approval through, the MID. Then we can – it really just starts from then. And a building of this kind of size, 81 units, can take anywhere between 18 months and two years to build. So it is still a lead time. But that’s what development is. We’re talking about the provision of new supply. It does take that lengths of time. But then when you’ve got it, you’ve got a building like this, that’s there forever.

Journalist: How long did that take to build?

Oelkers: Actually this one itself was built through Covid and it took around 12 months. So that was pretty amazing. It was done right through the middle of Covid. It took one year in the DA process and then one year to build. But this is an example of a really terrific partnership with the Queensland State Government built on land that was owned by the Queensland State Government.

Journalist: What is it like, I guess, trying to find labour at the moment to build housing?

Oelkers: It’s difficult. Yes, it is actually very difficult. And certainly some of those build times have blown out a little bit because of labour shortages and also material shortages. So that is definitely an issue. At Brisbane Housing Company we’ve got very strong relationships with our builders. The partners who have built this one are moving on to build another complex for us at the moment in Nicol Street and they’ve just completed one in Wattle Street as well. So we’ve got good relationships with labour, but we’ve got a large program of big projects. We’ve got seven in the pipeline, and they will have different builders. But, yes, you’re absolutely right, that is a challenge.

Journalist: I guess the Brisbane Housing Company is, I guess, a big player in the rental affordability scheme. Do you expect that the people who come off the NRAS may find housing in your new buildings?

Oelkers: They may do, yes. And certainly Brisbane Housing Company has built NRAS properties in the past as well. So all of the NRAS properties that we have obviously are going to be retained, even though the subsidy is not there any longer. Because we’re a charitable organisation they will all be retained. But certainly as NRAS comes off in Queensland we definitely have seen that there are more people requiring that housing and coming to the Brisbane Housing Company for that.

Foreign Minister: Okay, anything more for the Minister or on the announcement?

Journalist: Senator, what do you make of Clare O’Neil’s tweets calling Donald Trump Jr a big baby?

Foreign Minister: Well, I understand the tweets were deleted.

Journalist: But what do you make of them?

Foreign Minister: I understand the tweets have been deleted.

Journalist: Is it wise for a senior Government Minister to be criticising someone like Donald Trump Jr?

Foreign Minister: I’m not going to get into commentary. I understand the tweet has been deleted and I think the Prime Minister today has already responded to the broader issue about the visa and made it clear what that this, as in any other visa, was treated equally.

Journalist: Did you or any of Labor’s leadership team tell Clare O’Neil to delete the tweets?

Foreign Minister: I’ve been on a plane and in functions here in Queensland, so I haven’t been in conversation with any colleague today.

Journalist: Do you share those views that she posted, though?

Foreign Minister: I think people would know as Foreign Minister what I would say to Australians is this. That the decision about who is going to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand, or the President of the United States, or the Chancellor of Germany is a decision for those countries and those electors, just as the Prime Minister of Australia is a decision for you.

Scanlon: Do we have any other questions?

Foreign Minister: Anything else? Okay. Thanks very much.

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