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David Littleproud criticises $10B housing investment and voices concerns on Indigenous Cultural Heritage Laws

Government's $10 billion investment, housing crisis, Indigenous representation, and Western Australia's policies raise concerns.

By news@gippsland - 2nd August 2023 - Back to News

David Littleproud MP, leader of the Nationals on his conference with the journalists about the parliament house, Gallery Doorstop, housing fund, increasing rent, pharmacies and regional health, The Voice and cultural heritage laws.

David Littleproud criticises $10B housing investment as risky with taxpayers' money. Urges action on supply and planning cooperation

David Littleproud criticises $10B housing investment as risky with taxpayers' money. Urges action on supply and planning cooperation

Bill criticism unveiled

H3:A journalist asked Mr Littleproud "The Housing (Bill) is coming back today. What's the problem with it?"

Mr Littleproud replied, It's a $10 billion punt with Australian taxpayers money. They're going to borrow $10 billion, hope that they can make an investment greater than the interest rate they're paying on it and not going to build a house until after the next election. The problem is here and now, it's about supply, it's about lifting supply.

We had a one and a half billion dollar fund that was about partnering with the private sector to actually increase supply straight away. In their wisdom, they got rid of that straight away when they got into government, and then they had to come back and give an extra $2 billion now. That $2 billion isn't going anywhere near regional Australia. Let me give you six to four on that.

Housing challenges and hypocrisy

All of Australia is feeling the pain of this. There should be strings attached, even to the money they're putting out now, the $2 billion, and making sure that there are planning consequences because this housing crisis is an abject failure of state and local governments, and federal governments are stepping in and we acknowledge that we tried this, government has tried, but you've got to make sure you get the policy settings right for the here and now.

And that's where the problem is, the here and now. And we have to have a mature conversation, particularly with those that want to live in a capital city, the planning may need to go up rather than out. We don't need to knock down prime agricultural land for more housing estates. If you want to live in a capital city, you might have to live in a unit.

That also means that you get supply in there quicker. When you've got this Greens movement that is running around the country saying they want to increase supply, yet protest about increases in housing density in capital cities, you've got to question the hypocrisy of that mob and what they actually stand for. And are they genuine about working with local and state governments in giving them the environment to create more supply?

Two- year rent freeze

The journalist asked, "What about their pitch for the two-year rent freeze though?"

Mr Littleproud replied, "I think you've got to be very careful with rent freezes and having unintended consequences of increasing supply and in making, creating, an environment for investors to get into the market. Because not everyone can afford a mortgage and particularly where interest rates are at the moment."

"And they're going to continue to stay longer, higher, under this government because of the pressures of inflation. Even the RBA government said that it's got to get back to that two to three per cent setting. And the discretionary spend of Australians is dropping. But what isn't coming down is their spending on essentials like electricity, and their food, which is a direct result of this government's energy policy," he said.

Renewables and inflation impact

Mr Littleproud said, "This reckless race to 82 per cent renewables by 2030, is not just driving up household power bills. It's driving up your food bill because food processors bills have gone up three, sometimes four times what they were last year, and they have to pass that on. And so that's driving up inflation."

"So you've got to look at the drivers of inflation and look at what pressure this government is putting the RBA under. And so this is where you don't necessarily need to flood the economy with money. You need to flood it with some common sense and pull the levers that actually reduce inflation and take the pressure off the RBA and bring down not only interest rates, but bring down inflation," he said.

Proposing doctor standards

The journalist asked, "The RACGP have said they want to change the standards for bringing foreign doctors to Australia. This used to be prioritised to rural areas. That's now changed? Would you like to see the standards change in that rural change?"

Mr Littleproud said, "Well, Mark Butler has destroyed regional health and put lives at risk by removing the designated priority areas. Because foreign doctors were designated to be able to work only in regional, rural and remote areas."

"And extending that into peri-urban areas means that, I know that the Rural Doctors Association already identified over 40 locations where we've lost rural doctors and have nothing there because of the consequence of Mark Butler's reckless policy that is putting lives at risk. Now we have to make sure that the settings of foreign doctors and their qualifications have some equivalency and we have confidence in those standards."

"But we need to revert back to the fact that regional health is in turmoil. It is in crisis. And even before Mark Butler came, we lived less and we were sicker than most other Australians. And by taking doctors away is not the way to help regional health. There needs to be a significant investment. And that's why we took a pragmatic policy as Nationals. We led this in saying, let's look at vaping," he said.

Common sense regional health

Let's actually look at how we can actually reduce vaping for young children in particular and go to a model that has worked, particularly the cigarettes where we've seen juvenile use of cigarettes, reduced by 80 per cent, when we regulated the packaging. But where the point of sale is, and if you use that exercise for regional health, then you will be able to make those investments, not just in doctors, but in allied health and in the infrastructure we need.

That's the common sense solution that The Nationals are being prepared to lead on. Despite those in the AMA that have sat there and condemned us, the reality is, we're not contesting the science on vaping and things like vaping, but they're not the ones that are talking about regulation. Their science is right, but I don't think that they have the expertise to talk about regulation.

We've seen what's happened with cigarettes, let's use that money for regional health, but let's use some common sense and get foreign doctors as a minimum out into the bush. And if you train them in the bush, statistics show that 40 per cent will stay and continue to practise in the bush. That's the common sense solutions The Nationals want and how you're going to pay for it. Well, let's look at the exercise on things like cigarettes and vaping.

Voice and treaty debate

Journalist's question: The Prime Minister says that the Opposition is trying to muddy the waters when it comes to Voice and Treaty. Do you think that the debate is becoming too skewed?

PM's referendum trust

Mr Littleproud said, "No, it has been a respectful one that we've created from the start about our position in particular, the onus of responsibility sits with the Prime Minister. This is the Prime Minister's question. This is the Prime Minister's Referendum. He's made a lot of statements about the Uluru Statement from the Heart."

"And the Uluru Statement from the Heart is about Voice, it's about Truth, it's about Treaty, it's about all three. And in the second reading speech by the Attorney General, he made it very clear that this was the first step in that whole process that would go towards a treaty in terms of a Makarrata Commission."

"And so there are legitimate questions that Australians want answered. But when the Prime Minister won't take the Australian people into his trust and put the legislation of the mechanics of the Voice in Parliament, not just for politicians to see, but for all Australians to see before they vote, then why should they trust him?" he said.

Trust and transparency in voice debate

Mr Littlepoud continued, "This is his question. This is his Referendum. And it's important he takes the Australian people into his trust about not just the question and this first part around the Voice, but the journey that he as the leader of this country is going to take our country on. That's a legitimate question that I think every Australian wants answered and rightfully because we want to get it right."

"And I think that is the journey The Nationals have been on from the start. We took a principal position that if this was about Constitutional recognition and a proper process of a Constitutional convention, not just where one cohort of the population gotta turn up and to have input into, but where a cross section of our community, of this great nation got to turn up and have input into what the question is and what the Constitutional change would be, then we, we are open to that process."

"But to add another layer of bureaucracy, of lived experience of ATSIC mark two, that we live with the consequences today. And I just say to those that live in cities, seek to understand us. Because we live with the consequences of the last time we had a representative body. And that's where the disadvantage is. So just on this one, while people look down their nose at that sometimes, on this one, we know a little bit," he said.

Inadequate representation

The journalist asked, "Indigenous people live with the consequences of not being adequately represented. We can go back to say, an intervention in the health policy to house. Aren't they living with the consequences as well?"

Effective indigenous interventions

Mr Littleproud replied, "Well, you are right. We need another intervention. We need an intervention here in Canberra in the bureaucracy, an intervention that sits around the town halls and in around the bush campfires with the Elders. Because you know, that's how you close the gap. We know, to the postcode and to the area in which we are deficient in that gap in each of those communities and where they are and who is actually being disadvantaged."

"So repeating the mistake of the past, of sending someone from out there that covers an area of hundreds of hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and hundreds of different communities, for a bureaucrat in Canberra to sit here and generalise and to put a national program back out that they have no buy-in gets the same result," he said.

Empower local elders

Mr Littleproud also said, "This is nothing new. We have done that before, but what we need to do is send the bureaucrats from Canberra and to sit around the town halls and listen to those Elders. Because I've seen it in my own electorate where you empower a local Elder that identifies the problem and has buy-in of her community to be able to change and shift the dial."

"That's how you close the gap. That's the common sense solution. That's where the intervention, there needs to be a 2023 intervention. And that needs to happen here in Canberra and getting bureaucrats out of here and sitting around town halls and listening to local Elders," he said.

Voice for empowerment

The journalist asked, "Isn't that the point of the Voice having those people come in here so they can go back to those communities. And if what you're saying is needed, then why hasn't it happened already and under your previous government?"

Challenges of national programs

Mr Littleproud said, "Well, I've made it clear there's been failures of the past definitely in making sure the bureaucracy is held to account. But what will happen is what happened last time, is that in the practical terms, you are talking hundreds of thousands square kilometres. I represent 10 percent of the Australian landmass."

"Let me tell you, the Indigenous communities in Warwick and Stamford are different to that in Cunnamulla, as they're different to that in Longreach. They have different challenges and different opportunities. But having one representative that comes to Canberra, along with probably four or five other regional ones around the country, and then comes here and tells bureaucrats as they did last time, this is our challenge, this is our opportunity."

"What happens is we have the same mistake we did last time as we let these bureaucrats fall into what they're able to do is just generalise and create a national program that they think will solve the whole nation's problem," he said.

Empower local elders

Mr Littleproud said, "It's more bespoke than that. It has to be at a local level. I'm not even convinced that regional voices work. It has to be a local voice, a local voice where the local Elders are empowered. They're the ones that know, and I can tell you, I was in Carnarvon in Western Australia, walking the streets at 9.30 at night with one of the Elders who's picking up young children off the streets."

"She wasn't talking about the Voice. She was talking about a bus and just a place for the kids to be put into a warm bed and get a hot feed. That's all she was asking for. That's different to what the challenges are in Cunnamulla. But she knows best and her message is diluted," he said.

Specific solutions needed

Mr Littleproud said, "When you actually send someone to Canberra and allow a bureaucrat, rather than saying to a bureaucrat, you will sit down and you'll walk the streets at 9.30. You won't leave that place until that program is designed specifically for Carnarvon. And when it's designed, it's implemented and we've measured it, then we know we've succeeded."

"But this generalisation is the mistake that we continue to fall into. And that's what I say, we live with the consequences of what happened last time, a representative body, just the sheer practicality of the hundreds of thousands in Western Australia being millions square commons, that they'll be covering hundreds of different communities that have different diverse challenges. We're just doing the same thing. This isn't anything new," he said.

Fear and treaty debate

The journalist asked, "Isn't it pretty cynical to raise the question of Treaty when the Voice debate is going on. Isn't that about increasing fear, planting seeds of doubt in people's minds about the Voice mixing up Treaty?"

Mr Littleproud answered, "No, the Prime Minister has made it clear. This is about the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Uluru Statement from the Heart has three elements. Voice, Truth, Treaty."

Referendum proposal

The journalist said, "The Referendum proposal is about the Voice."

Mr Littleproud said, "Yeah. But even in the second reading speeches, as I just articulated earlier, the Attorney General said, this is the trajectory the government wants to take the nation on. And so it should be an entire journey that the Prime Minister can lay in front of the Australian people that we have confidence in, where he wants to take this nation and what are the elements of that."

"And by taking them into his trust, not only about the Treaty, but he should be saying to the Australian people, I will lay bare the legislation of the mechanics of the Voice on the Parliament's table so that not just politicians can see, but every Australian can see."

Trust in people's determination

Mr Littleproud added, "But he won't do that so that he won't take the Australian people into his trust. Why should they trust him? This is the Australian people's country to make a determination about their founding document. And why wouldn't we have had a Constitutional convention, a Constitutional convention, not just where a certain cohort turned up, but a broader section of the Australian community got to have a say."

"That's a key tenet of this country, a key tenet that I believe passionately that no matter your race, no matter your religion, we're all equal in this country. I'm sure we'll have an equal say, that is something over a hundred thousand Australians have lost their lives for. A key principle that I don't think we should ever give up on. And as a politician that's been given the privilege to sit here, it's one principle I won't let slide," he said.

Native title debate

The journalist asked, "Did you try to raise the native title debate from the early 90s when you brought up the WA cultural heritage laws in the party room yesterday?"

Mr Littleproud replied, "No, I'm talking about a real concern when 600 farmers are prepared to leave their farms and go and protest in a little town called Katanning and 400 gave an apology, that's how polite we are in the bush, weren't able to turn up to a rally but gave their apology. It goes to show the extent of the overreach of this policy in West Australia."

"So to put this in context, it's not just farmers, it's actually anyone who owns land over 1100 square metres. If you dig a hole, dig a hole greater than 50 centimetres down and you lift more than 20 kilograms of dirt, then you must have a cultural survey before you do that at $120 to $160 an hour, $1200 a day. Now, just to put it in context for you, I don't know whether you've been to Western Australia, but it's a pretty big state."

Costly fence line

If you want to do a fence line, or a post every 500 metres, that's a lot of posts. You are talking kilometres of fences. So that's a big cost that you are asking farmers and even individuals in the outer suburbs of Perth to pay on their freehold land. Now I think we've worked and walked hand in hand with Indigenous Australians, particularly in the pastoral industry, but this is an overreach by the Western Australian government.

And when you have an options paper that Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese is looking at, and one of those options in that says quite clearly that another new body, another new Indigenous body will be created and it will have the power to prevent a development or force it to be redesigned, then you need to understand the scope and reach of what is being proposed by the federal government in addition to the reality of what Western Australians are living in.

Anxiety over government reach

So I'm talking about the here and now, and what people are telling us is they're worried, they're worried about the extent of which Anthony Albanese will reach with his federal policies. And I think that's a fair question. It's a fair question that we want to make sure is answered.

Farmers, I would contest every day of the week, have been respectful of Indigenous culture and they see it and they respect it and make sure that they work with traditional owners in making sure their livestock and their and their practices stay well clear of it.

And this is an overreach of what Rio Tinto did wrong. And Rio Tinto should pay the price. Make no mistake, I have no qualms in that. But to extend this into overreach has consequences. And I can tell you there's anxiety and fear out there. And it's not just now in Western Australia. It's here right across the Nullarbor.

Clarity on legislation

The journalist asked, "Is there any link to the Voice that you are hoping to draw between those two things?"

Mr Littleproud said, "No, I'm talking about the here and now. The fact that Western Australia has policies that Western Australian farmers are living with today. And the fact that Tanya Plibersek has made it clear that she intends to bring federal legislation in, we're just saying be clear, be honest.

Because if Western Australia is the benchmark, then every farmer and in fact households around the country should also be concerned about the reach in which she intends to take. That is a reasonable question to ask any government, no matter the timing. Thanks guys.

Pictures from CatholicCare Victoria website.


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