Labor faces a looming voluntary deadline to get its signed housing package through parliament as it remains at odds with the Greens over policy.
A left-wing minority party is trying to use its balance of power position in the Senate to secure amendments to the bill to establish the government’s Housing Australia Future Fund.
Labor has said it will spend up to $500 million worth of profits from its $10 billion investment vehicle each year on social and affordable housing, promising 30,000 new homes in the first five years.
The Greens, however, argue that the policy has not gone far enough and are calling on the Albanian government to guarantee that a portion of HAFF’s revenues will be spent each year on housing.
Despite the stalemate, the government aims to have a vote on HAFF in the Senate by Thursday night, at the end of the three-day week to process the federal budget.
Green Party leader Adam Bund launched the challenge again on the eve of the federal budget, saying his party was willing to negotiate further but “the ball is in the government’s courts.”
“In its current form (the bill) it doesn’t have our support, so it doesn’t guarantee the amount that goes into housing,” he told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.
“If the fund goes into the red like it did last year, there will be no money to spend on public housing.
“Even if the fund goes into effect, no homes will be built until the next federal election, and when the fund ends, the waiting list will be longer than it is today.”
The Senate is expected to begin debating the HAFF bill as early as Tuesday. The House of Councilors will meet again in mid-June.
Band said it would be a “horrible idea” if the government were to “force” the bill to be voted on this week.
“It would be much better for the government to focus its efforts on negotiating to improve the bill so that it is passed, because that is what the Greens want,” he said.
The Greens also want the government to do more to help Australian tenants through the rental crisis, proposing to impose a nationwide rent freeze.
The Labor Party has glared at the Greens’ demands, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese denouncing the party’s opposition to HAFF as “absolutely illogical”.
ACT-based independent Senator David Pocock, who holds one of two key cross-bench votes, is expected to vote on the HAFF bill so as not to impede passage through Congress.
But Senator Pocock also expressed concern that the HAFF Act does not set a floor for funding from the revenues it generates.
“I’m not going to get in the way of the $10 billion fund,” he told ABC radio last week.
“However, we expect governments to be open to expert advice on indexing funds and allowing them to increase diversification as returns increase. And that is not the case in this case. .”
Community housing providers will need reliable funds each year to maintain the social and affordable housing built as a result of HAFF, he said.
Senator Pocock said if HAFF produced higher returns, it should be allowed to distribute more and should be indexed, stating that “$500 million today will be $500 million ten years from now. It’s not the same as the dollar,” he said.
Cross-ventures Jackie Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell also plan to vote on the bill after securing Tasmanian public housing guarantees in exchange for their endorsement.
The government can easily pass legislation in the House of Commons, but it requires the backing of a coalition government or the Greens and the cross-venture of at least two members of the non-majority Senate.
Liberals and Nationals say they do not support HAFF, citing concerns about using federal bonds to raise money when interest rates and loan repayment costs are rising.
Opposition housing spokesman Michael Sker took this criticism a step further last week, claiming Labor had broken a promise to build 30,000 social and affordable housing over the next five years.
He instead claimed that Labor had signaled to make 1,200 properties available in each state and territory over the same period, providing just 9,600 residences overall.
At the same time, all eight state and territory housing ministers sent letters to all federal senators urging them to support HAFF.
Cabinet ministers, including Guy Burnett, the only liberal from Tasmania, have warned that delaying legislation would jeopardize the provision of vital new housing projects.
https://thewest.com.au/news/labor-and-greens-lock-horns-over-10bn-housing-investment-fund-c-10583571 Labor and Greens surpass $10 billion housing investment fund