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Labor’s Attempt to Appease Greens Fall Flat as Greens Cling to Rent Freezes

The Greens are being chastised for their failure to support one of Labor’s key legislative policies, the Housing Affordability Future Fund (HAFF), after the government rejected their demand of a country-wide rental freeze, with the Prime Minister calling them difficult.

This is despite the announcement the government would make key changes to the bill that would address the concerns raised by the Senate crossbenchers, including dumping the Greens party’s major concern over the $500 million ($338 million) cap for earnings distributed to housing. It will now guarantee that a minimum of $500 million per year will be used to generate new housing from 2024-25.

Speaking on ABC Radio Breakfast on June 13, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that the Greens were being very difficult on this issue.

“The truth is that the Federal Government has no control over rents, and so the Greens are being quite difficult here,” he said.

“It’s in the control of the state and territory governments, and there are eight of them, and each of them will determine their own policies. We want a renters’ rights accord at the federal level, but that basically requires the state and territory governments to come to an agreement on that.”

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Sept. 1, 2022. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)

The prime minister explained that although he had secured a verbal agreement at the National Cabinet that the Premiers would talk about the rental situation, each of the eight different states and territories in Australia all had different policies on rental income and that it was not possible to just tick off the Greens’ policy idea.

“It seems to me that at this point, Greens are saying, ‘no, we don’t want $10 billion; we want more than that, so we’ll vote against the $10 billion.’ That makes no sense,” he said.

“The truth is that this is a $10 billion fund that will boost housing supply for people in social and affordable housing. It will also boost supply for women and children escaping domestic violence, for veterans, for people in remote communities, and you can’t say that you support additional funding for housing and then reject a $10 billion fund that’s going to provide just that.”

The prime minister said that all of the experts the government consulted with have said that the key to solving the crisis is additional supply, and noted that the federal government was already putting $1.6 billion into social housing just in the coming year, and through the  National Housing Accord with industry and unions and community housing groups build a million additional houses.

The federal government has also created a series of tax incentives in the federal budget to encourage build-to-rent schemes, which is estimated to result in between 150,000 and 250,000 additional dwellings.

Additionally, on June 13, Housing Minister Julie Collins announced the government had also amended the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s (NHFIC) investment liability cap from $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion, which is expected to support around 7,000 more new social and affordable dwellings.

Greens Maintain Hardline Stance

Greens Housing spokesperson Max Chandler-Mather has said these changes are not enough.

“All the government has done here is close a loophole that could have seen no money spent in any given year,” he told Sky News Australia.

“To be frank, they haven’t addressed the two key concerns the Greens have put forward again and again for eight months, which is firstly more guaranteed funding for public and affordable housing.

“And a billion dollars on the table to incentivize a national freeze on rent increase. Let’s be clear, what the government is proposing is to not spend any money for 12 months times and then only $500 mullion, not index it for six years and not build a single home until 2025. That is not a response to the worst housing crisis this country has faced in generations.”

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(L-R) Greens candidate for the seat of Griffith Max Chandler-Mather, party leader Adam Bandt, Queensland senate candidate Penny Allman-Payne and Queensland Senator Larissa Waters take a selfie during the Greens national campaign launch at Black Hops Brewery in Brisbane, Australia, on May 16, 2022. (Dan Peled/Getty Images)

He said that the Greens wanted to keep on negotiating with the government, but they were frustrated the government was not budging on these two key issues.

“The government’s own body has said to tackle the housing crisis, it needs $15 billion of investment in public and affordable housing every year,” he said.

He said that what the Greens were proposing was not impossible.

“Many states and territories froze rents during the pandemic,” he said, noting that it was done in an emergency situation that Australia faces right now.

“It is not sustainable in the country to have unlimited rent increases.”

Greens Should be ‘Disgusted With Themselves’: Senator

The Greens’ hardline stance on the HAFF bill has also caused pushback from independent senators who support the bill.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, from the Jacqui Lambie Network, has said the only people holding up this bill are the Greens.

Jacqui Lambie
Australian Senator Jacqui Lambie in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Sept. 9, 2019. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

“Quite frankly, they should be disgusted with themselves,” she said.

“You might want to go and talk to your member while your there, you green machine, because they’re not bloody happy with you either.”

She called for them to pass the HAFF legislation.

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