Topics: Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023, National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023, and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023.
Senator Ayres (New South Wales—Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) (10:29): Firstly, I'd like to thank those senators who've engaged with and contributed to this important debate on improving housing outcomes for Australians. The three bills that form the housing legislative package are significant milestones in implementing the government's broader housing agenda, which will support improved access to safe, secure and affordable housing for all Australians. The government is committed to implementing these important housing reforms as an immediate priority. Establishing the Housing Australia Future Fund as soon as possible will allow it to begin generating returns and providing much-needed funds for social, affordable and acute housing projects across the country.
The government is also committed to ongoing evaluation of the housing measures contained in this package. This will include ongoing engagement with the community to consider how the government can deliver the best housing outcomes for Australians. I'd like to thank the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for its inquiry into these bills and note the committee's recommendation that the Senate pass the bills.
The government has agreed to ensure that $500 million will be disbursed from the HAFF in each financial year from 2024-25 onwards. This provides further certainty that long-term commitments will be met regardless of the earnings generated from the investments of the fund. The government has also agreed to apply indexation to the disbursement amount from 2029-30 onwards. This will protect the real purchasing power of disbursements from 2029-30 onwards and deliver improved housing outcomes for Australians over the long term.
Additionally, the government has agreed to amend the bill to provide flexibility for the Minister for Finance and the Treasurer, as the responsible ministers, to increase the disbursement amount in the future by making a determination via a disallowable instrument. The responsible ministers will also have the ability to apply indexation to the new disbursement amount through the determination. Consultation with the future fund board of guardians will be required before any changes are made to the disbursement amount by way of legislative instrument.
The government has also agreed to bring forward the first statutory review of the Housing Australia Future Fund to 31 December 2026, in response to recommendations from Senator Pocock and the Greens. This will enhance transparency by providing an earlier opportunity to provide an update on the fund's performance and outcomes.
In addition to this the government will seek to ensure that homes delivered under the fund comply with nationally agreed standards on accessibility and energy efficiency through the Housing Australia Investment Mandate Direction, which will guide the types of projects the HAFF can support. The investment mandate will be made publicly available shortly on the Treasury website. As with the draft bill, there will be a period for consultation, and interested stakeholders will have the opportunity to make submissions before the direction is finalised.
The government has agreed to amendments, moved by the Hon. Helen Haines MP in the House of Representatives, to include regional, rural and remote housing policy as a relevant field for the purposes of appointment to the council and also to include the impact of geographical location on housing supply and affordability and on the demand for affordable housing as a matter the council may consider when performing its functions.
The government has also agreed to the amendments, moved by Senator David Pocock, to include accessibility for people with disability as a relevant field for the purposes of appointment to the council.
The current drafting of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Act 2018 may restrict the ability of NHFIC to enter into long-term contracts that are required to deliver dwellings under the HAFF and the National Housing Accord. As such, the government is amending the treasury laws amendment bill to add an amendment to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Act to provide the flexibility for the minister, through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation investment mandate, to direct that the NHFIC is not required to hold capital and reserves against specified types of liabilities or loans. This is a sensible and appropriate amendment that preserves the intent of the original provision in the act while not unduly restricting the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation's ability to enter into long-term contracts to deliver dwellings under the Housing Australia Future Fund and the National Housing Accord. This package represents a significant step forward in implementing the government's ambitious housing agenda, establishing the frameworks and long-term commitments needed to deliver better outcomes for Australians experiencing housing stress and homelessness.
The Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 establishes the Housing Australia Future Fund. Distributions from the fund will support the delivery of social and affordable homes, including 30,000 new dwellings over its first five years of operation, as well as helping address acute housing needs for people most at need in our society.
The National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023 establishes the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council as an independent statutory advisory body with independence a central feature of its operation. The council will inform the Commonwealth's approach to housing policy by delivering independent advice to the government on housing supply and affordability. Establishing the council will ensure that the Commonwealth can play a leadership role in improving housing supply and affordability.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 renames the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation as Housing Australia and expands its activities to support the delivery of social and affordable dwellings under the Housing Australia Future Fund. It also establishes an annual review mechanism for the National Housing Infrastructure Facility and provides certainty to the community housing sector by extending Housing Australia's legislated Commonwealth guarantee until at least 30 June 2028. I commend the bills to the Senate.