TRANSCRIPT: Mix 104.9 Darwin, Tuesday 19 May 2015





TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2015

SUBJECT/S: Housing affordability; Palmerston Hospital


PETE DAVIES: [Audio cuts in] Just quickly before we move onto the Palmerston whatever it is, it’s apparently supposed to be a hospital. Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply speech, we actually had mixed reviews here. I’m of the opinion that Bill didn’t really go hard enough particularly on the area of housing affordability. I really believe that was the missing duck at the showground on both sides, Joe Hockey didn’t address the issue of housing affordability and neither did Bill to any great extent and I think that is really an area we need to look at, particularly with the bubbles in Sydney and Melbourne.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Yeah, I 100 per cent agree with you on housing affordability and we’ve had all these talks in the past. People are happy when the value of their own home goes up if they’re a home owner but they forget that their kids are going to be buying into that housing market in twenty or thirty years’ time. So you actually want to have affordable housing particularly at entry level for people who want to own their own homes and you also have to have enough rental housing that people can afford to rent. In the last budget, the Liberals cut our national rental affordability scheme that had built 38,000 homes and was on track to build 50,000 and got rid of the Housing Supply Council which was the small group of economists and others who were analysing whether we were building enough homes and giving information to the building sector to say ‘no, Sydney’s short, it’s a target market’ or ‘Darwin’s short’ and they got rid of a whole lot of other housing programs, specifically targeting homeless people as well. The real key as you know, and as I know, is we’ve got to make sure that we’re building enough houses in years to come.

DAVIES: Are we going to get to the stage, Tanya, where it becomes part of a person’s life plan to work, contribute to super, build up a certain level of savings, maybe a few investments along the way, not necessarily bricks and water investments, but then inherit the family home, live in it and then pass it onto the next. I mean, are we going to get to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m really hoping that my three children aren’t waiting around for me to die and leave them the family home. I think- we also had of course our first home saver accounts that gave the same treatment to young people who were saving in a special account as they would have got if they had put that money into super, the same tax benefits, the Government got rid of that as well. The key is getting young people saving early, you need to start good saving habits. What you’re seeing is in families, a lot of young people staying at home much longer with their parents-

DAVIES: Tell me about it.

PLIBERSEK: Well I want my babies to stay at home, I want them to stay at home until they’re 50. I don’t know if they agree with that. But you’ve got to start those saving habits early and developers have to think about producing a range of types of housing. It’s not just about the big five bedroom home, separate room to watch television in, double garage and the rest of it. We need to be looking at modest housing that can help someone get their foot on the ladder, so you pay off that place, like you and I did, and then when you’ve paid off your first home you can move to something bigger as the kids come along. We’re not building enough of that variety of housing types either. And we have to look at some of the underlying costs of the high cost of attaching services, the electricity, the water, the sewerage and all the rest of it, how are councils coping with that?

DAVIES: Tanya, have we made a mistake in terms of, when I say this I mean society, not governments, but have we lost sight of you know, you started out with a relatively small unit and then, well okay, maybe went to a three bedroom unit and then you went to a three bedroom piece in suburbia. Now you’ve got young people in their late-20s stitching themselves up for $700,000-800,000 mortgages because they want the big house with the back yard and the barbecue but didn’t go through that gradual progression that we went through, you know, three decades ago.

PLIBERSEK: Look, there’s no doubt that our expectations have changed. So when my parents built their first house, they built the shell of their house, the weatherboard house, they didn’t even have the floorboards down before they moved in and my dad was still working on the Snowy at that time so he’d go away for six weeks at a time, my mum was there with a tiny new baby and a half built house and my dad would come home and with each paycheck he’d buy the next thing they needed. You know, he’d buy the pots and pans that they needed, or the sink for the bathroom. So it really was a work in progress. I don’t think many young people would be content with that these days. So expectations have changed but also you’ve got to remember people are forming their families much later and you know, marrying and forming families much later so a lot of those young people were in their early 20s or sometimes even late teens when they married. So getting a little piece of your own, a little foothold, was a really big deal then. If you’re 30 and you’re moving out of home for the first time, or you’ve been used to renting with friends, with a little bit of disposable income, it’s a different- it’s hard to expect those people to go back to the sort of start that my mum and dad had.

DAVIES: Okay let’s move onto the Palmerston Hospital. I don’t know how many conversations you and I have had about this. We were just chatting before about the fact that we never wanted another version of the Royal North Shore, it was always going to be a baby Royal North Shore and it was always going to be a modular design whereby- I used to call it the lego hospital where we could whack a couple of more blocks on. That seems to have been pushed by the wayside. Politics has got well and truly in the road of it. Just to recap the conversations you’ve had, and we’ll go back a couple of years, that first conversation you and I had about the Palmerston Hospital, just explain to people exactly how many dollars then as Health Minister you put on the table.

PLIBERSEK: We offered the NT government, back in the day, we offered them $70 million and we asked them to put $40 million of their own money in. The NT government said at the time they weren’t going to do that, the previous Labor government was prepared to put in $40 million, the new government came in and said that they weren’t going to- they were going to just put $5 million on the table for a scoping study. Well, of course, you remember all that work had already been done. They knew the size of the hospital they needed in the first instance. A lot of planning had been done, it was back to square one. We finally said ‘these delays are unacceptable, we’ll pay the whole lot, just get on with building it’. So in August 2013, I announced $110 million for that hospital which was what the cost was at that time, and it still hasn’t been built.

DAVIES: And on behalf of all Territorians, Tanya, I’d like to thank you for the wonderful intersection that we have. As intersections go, it’s a cracker.

PLIBERSEK: It just drives me nuts, I’ve got to say. I’ve been out to the site, I’ve seen it, but more particularly, I’ve heard from my friend Luke Gosling about how important it is in fast growing Palmerston to have a decent- like a lot of young families out there, to have a decent service that people can get to easily. I know what the stress is on Royal Darwin as well. Royal Darwin’s a fantastic hospital, they do fantastic work, but Darwin’s grown a lot since Royal Darwin was built so we need the new Palmerston Hospital, well we needed it two years ago, but we also need those upgrades to continue on Royal Darwin.

DAVIES: To give people an idea of the age of Royal Darwin, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong but Royal Darwin is actually based on a design, the original design for the Canberra based hospital.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think there are some similarities there. I’d never picked that up.

DAVIES: Yeah so if you think about how long Royal Darwin has been in situ and then when you apply the growth factor to our northern region, and in particular the rural corridor, the Palmerston area and further afield, we are way, way, way behind the times in terms of service delivery.

PLIBERSEK: And that was always the thing about Palmerston as well, it wasn’t just to serve Palmerston, it was to serve the people who have to drive through Palmerston to get to Royal Darwin.

DAVIES: Yep, absolutely. In terms of, I mean we’re just a bit over, in the big scheme of things, a bit over 12 months away from the next federal election. Should you and Bill Shorten form government in your own right, I mean, we’re not going to get the hospital built between now and the next federal election, I mean we might get another nice intersection, maybe a roundabout if we play our cards right. What commitment will you put on the table on behalf of Bill Shorten and the Labor Party right now in terms of delivering this bloody thing that’s just been dragging on and on and on?

PLIBERSEK: Well if I have to sit in Adam Giles’ office with him and hold his hand while he signs off on the plans and gets it running, I’ll do that. I know this is well overdue. I mean, we originally had wanted to work with the NT government and have them put in a share of the funding. We ended up putting up the whole funding because we couldn’t allow the people of Palmerston and beyond to put up with these delays. What shocks me is that Natasha Griggs is so keen to make excuses for them. I think the latest excuse is that the wet season got in the way.

DAVIES: What wet season? It maybe rained three times.

PLIBERSEK: I thought you folk in Darwin- you’re pretty used to building so that you do the construction during the dry and planning during the wet and work around it.

DAVIES: That’s what the brickies and labourers’ job is, is to hold the umbrella. Tanya Plibersek, always a pleasure and hopefully you’ll be back soon.

PLIBERSEK: Great to talk to you.

DAVIES: And we will certainly keep the pressure on about the Palmerston Hospital. The foot has been taken off the pedal and I think that has let the government of the day off the hook to a certain extent, but now is the time, particularly around a year away from another Territory election and no doubt that Palmerston Hospital will be front and centre. Tanya Plibersek, the Honourable Member for Sydney and also the Federal Deputy Opposition Leader.  


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