Transcript: Interview, ABC Sunshine Coast - Jobs and Skills Summit

15 September 2022

Alex Easton: It is 21 minutes to 9:00. You are on ABC Sunshine Coast and I'm Alex Easton and I'll be with you through till 11am. Now, tomorrow, the State Government is hosting a roundtable meeting on the housing crisis as part of the lead up to a summit which is now being planned by the State Government for next month. But while a state level summit is being welcomed by groups ranging from Vincent de Paul to the Local Government Association of Queensland, it's not exactly what they've been asking for. They want a national summit. Anthony Chisholm is the Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development and he's also the federal government's duty senator for the Sunshine Coast. Good morning, Anthony, and thank you so much for joining us. Now, the calls for a national summit have been coming since well before the election. We've now had a national summit on the skills and labour shortage, which is an important issue, but not on the housing crisis. Why not?


Anthony Chisholm: Thanks for having me on, Alex, and good to be with your listeners. It was a significant topic at the Jobs and Skills Summit and there was a significant outcome of Jobs and Skills Summit in the Federal Government, unlocking $575 Million to help invest and unlock investment in social and affordable housing. In the round tables that we did in the lead up to that Jobs and Skills Summit. I participated in a number. Including one on the Sunshine Coast with the Treasurer and it was a significant focus on the Jobs and Skills Summit and it's a challenge right across Queensland. It's a challenge right across the country and we feel as though we're providing the national leadership that had been absent previously since we formed government back in May.


Alex Easton: The housing crisis is generally regarded as a very complex issue because it's not simply a matter of just throwing money at it, because of the issues with the construction sector, because of this volume of houses that are needed. Like, for example, I think last year the figure is something like 30,000 people came to the Sunshine Coast and adding 300 new homes is a big stretch. Even in an area where we do have a lot of development underway, the general feeling seems to be there needs to be a lift from all levels of government on this local, state and federal, along with the private sector, along with non-government organisations. Doesn't it need a summit or something like that to coordinate all of those different moving parts?


Anthony Chisholm: I think it certainly needs national leadership. And the fact is that the National Housing Ministers, State, Territory and Federal, hadn't met for five years until we formed government. They've met twice since we formed government, so that national leadership has been absent. We also took some plans to the election that we need to implement that will start to have an impact. The biggest one of those was the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that will look to build 30,000 social and affordable housing properties over the next five years. And then we also announced that we would develop a national housing and homelessness plan. And the work that we will do to formulate that plan is going to engage with the state, it's going to engage with local government, it's going to engage with the real estate industry, it's going to engage with community housing providers. So I think that work will involve all those people across the community that deserve to have a say on this important issue and will formulate that plan. So I think that if that work was absent, I could understand people's call, but the fact is that we are doing that work, we are providing the national leadership and we also have policies that are going to help make a difference as well.


Alex Easton: I suppose the thing with that though, is that you're referring their to 30,000 social and affordable houses over five years. And I understand that's only one part of that plan. But as I just said, we had 30,000 people come to the Sunshine Coast last year alone. We have families living in tents right now on the Sunshine Coast and that's something that is just continuing because there's not enough places like there's an immediate crisis that people are experiencing right now. I don't know how do you resolve that?


Anthony Chisholm: The short-term crisis accommodation is one that Federal Government helps fund with the States and Councils to help deliver on, and that work is ongoing. There is or should be available crisis accommodation for people on the Sunshine Coast. I would encourage people to get in contact with their local state members or their local federal members, or indeed at my office in the Senate, if there is work that we can help provide or put them in touch with those community housing providers as well, and those crisis accommodation providers.


Alex Easton: The reason we know about these families, though, is because they've been going to providers like that. The family are referred to living in a tent in Nambour. We were told about that a week ago by the chief executive of St. Vincent de Paul's. Like, these people are putting their hands up for help. That helps. The housing is not available.


Anthony Chisholm: And that's why the government are working constructively with state and councils to ensure that we're providing as much cross accommodation as we can. That is something that is important. We understand there's a need right across the country in that regard in all parts of Queensland as well. So there is urgent action that needs to be taken on that. But as I said, we are providing that national leadership. The state and federal housing Ministers have had two meetings. That hasn't happened for almost five years. So we do understand how important this is in our working constructively with state and local government to help alleviate these challenges locally.


Alex Easton: Presumably the baseline of a goal in this would be to reach a point where you don't have to have people living in their cars and you don't have to have families living in tents, regardless of anything else. Like, just as a starting point for that, at what point would you like to see us get to a place where there are no people having to there are no families having to live in tents and there are no people having to live in their cars because there's not enough housing?


Anthony Chisholm: Well, you'd obviously want to get there as soon as you can. It is unacceptable in a country like Australia that this is happening. When you think about the jobs and skills shortages that we have and the common feedback from when we did do that roundtable on the Sunshine Coast is that we need more people to come work here, but when they come, where are we going to put them? So there is such a strong link between the labour shortage that many communities face. At the same time. Part of the answer on the labour shortage front has obviously been allowing migration to start up again. So when people come into the country, where are they going to base themselves? Because you would assume that the Sunshine Coast would potentially be a popular place for people to move to from overseas as well. So there is an urgent need to get more housing built. We are focused on that, but we understand that there is a really challenging situation in many parts of the country right now.


Alex Easton: Is there any point where people on the Sunshine Coast will be able to say, okay, well, what is going on with housing? What is the plan? And they can go to a place and say, Right, well, here's the plan. Here is where we're going to get to this point where there's enough housing for everybody. This is how we're going to accommodate all the extra workers that are coming in from overseas to address the skills and labour shortages, because that is a big issue on the Sunshine Coast as well. It's one thing to say we're putting money into this and we'd like to do this and we'd like to do that, but presumably the people who are being affected like this would like to see something concrete that tells them this is what's happening and this is when it's going to be fixed.


Anthony Chisholm: And I think the substance of what the Federal Government are working towards in that regard is developing a new national housing and homelessness plan. That work has started, but it will engage more broadly than just states. Local government are obviously a significant player in this. Some local governments are already doing substantial work now to release more lots for development. But it is federally that we can provide that national leadership provide that plan. So from my point of view, that is what I would expect people to look to the Federal Government providing the national leadership, but also putting money in to ensure that we're doing our part with states and local government to ensure that we're making progress and that more accommodation is being built, more affordable accommodation is being built where it is needed.


Alex Easton: All right, Senator Anthony Chisholm thank you so much for your time this morning. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat.


Anthony Chisholm: Thanks Alex.



Alex Easton: Cheers. Senator Anthony Chisholm. He is the Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development and he's the federal government's duty senator for the Sunshine Coast.