Unions and advocacy groups have reacted positively to Anthony Albanese’s vision for Australia outlined in his Opposition budget reply, particularly in response to Labor’s social and affordable housing policy.
Master Builders Australia, a national group campaigning for the end of homelessness, and the Health Services Union have welcomed Labor’s policy announcements revealed in the budget reply on Thursday.
Albanense said the nation needed to not only ‘come back’ but ‘build back’ stronger.
“This budget offers a low growth, low productivity and low wage future. And a trillion dollars of debt – is that really the best we can aspire to?
“I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self reliant,” he said.
A $10 billion proposal to go towards social and affordable housing fund outlined in Albanese’s budget reply was just what the Master Builders Australia and the CFMEU had called for the government to do when the economy was locked down during the height of the pandemic.
Master Builders CEO Denita Wawn said it was pleasing that the opposition leader and the Housing and Homelessness shadow minister had listened.
“We applaud the opposition’s $10 billion social and affordable housing fund,” Wawn said.
“Master Builders welcomes the commitment to setting up agencies and structures to focus on jobs, skills and manufacturing. As the industry with the largest economic multiplier effect, we would hope there is an emphasis on responding to the needs of the building and construction sector,” she added.
Labor proposes that the multi-million dollar fund will finance 20,000 social and 10,000 affordable homes over four years.
The fund has been designed to exist in perpetuity and, according to campaign group ‘Everybody’s Home’, provide a sustainable funding base for greeting housing options across Australia.
Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin said the fund would give people on low and modest incomes better housing options ‘as they grapple with a runaway housing boom’ in prices. Although the fund was unlikely to meet all the housing needs of this vulnerable group, she noted that was a ‘sustainable’ starting point.
“Booming house and rent prices are driving many Australians to desperation, especially in regional communities,” Ms Colvin said.
“Social and affordable housing need to be recognised as entirely legitimate housing options. All of us need a home to protect our health, look after families and aspire to stability and prosperity.”
Colvin added that it was noteworthy federal Labor had recognised the role of the commonwealth in social and affordable housing.
“The states simply cannot solve the rising problem of housing stress and homelessness without the commonwealth’s financial firepower,” Colvin said.
Part of the social and affordable housing fund policy is to provide a fifth of the allocated housing stock to women and children escaping family violence. Everybody’s Home reports that last year alone one-third of the 54,000 people escaping family violence were turned away from homelessness services because no accommodation was available.
“Expanding social and affordable housing means greater choice and relieves pressure,” Colvin said.
The Health Services Union (HSU) issued a statement on Friday, also supporting the Opposition budget reply.
HSU national president Gerard Hayes said Labor’s support for the union’s Fair Work Commission case that is pushing to increase aged care wages by 25% was a ‘bold step forward’. He also welcomed Albanese’s commitment to minimum staff ratios in aged care.
“The only thing that has prevented aged care crumbling into further chaos and crisis has been the goodwill of underpaid, overworked women in insecure jobs,” Hayes said.
“As a community we owe the aged care workforce an enormous debt of gratitude, yet Scott Morrison won’t even commit to lifting their wages above $21 an hour.”
Hayes said that the government’s 2021 budget delivered only half of the funds needed to properly resource the aged care sector. While federal Labor was moving in the right direction, it was important to continue to engage stakeholders in the development of the policy.
“Anthony Albanese is moving in the right direction. He has heard the stories of aged care workers and he understands the need to attract, retain and appropriately reward the workforce,” Hayes added.