Budget goal to build one million new homes

Treasurer to hand down first Labor budget in a decade

Building a million new homes will be the target of a Labor plan to bring together governments, the construction industry and super funds to boost investment in affordable housing.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers will confirm the plan’s details when he delivers his first budget on Tuesday night.

The federal government has already pledged $10 billion to its Housing Australia Future Fund, which it says will deliver 30,000 social and affordable homes in the next five years.

Dr Chalmers said reaching the one million homes target would tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the nation and its economy.

“As I go around Australia speaking with local communities, employers and workers, one of the big challenges we have in our economy is we’ve got these jobs and opportunities being created, but it’s becoming harder and harder to leave near where those job opportunities are,” he told ABC Radio.

“I’ve been working really closely and really hard with superannuation and other investors … with the building and construction industry, and with the union movement, to see what we can do to shift the needle on affordable housing.”

Dr Chalmers said he would unveil the timing for achieving the target in Tuesday’s budget.

His comments come as figures released ahead of the budget show the bottom line will look rosier than expected.

The deficit for 2022/23 is forecast to hit $36.9 billion, less than half the $78 billion forecast in the March budget delivered by the Coalition government.

High commodity prices and strong employment are anticipated to keep propping up the public purse, although this boost to revenue is expected to start slowing down after two years.

But Dr Chalmers said the $548 billion to be spent on health and aged care across the next four years was one of the huge pressures on Australia’s budget.

He said he hoped Labor’s renewed focus on health would drive down soaring GP wait times.

“We want to take pressure off emergency departments, we want to strengthen Medicare, we want to fix the crisis in aged care,” he said.

“Those are very clear priorities … we’ve got a lot of spending pressures on the budget but we need to invest in people’s health, a healthy community gives us the best chance of a strong economy.”

The budget, to be delivered in parliament by Dr Chalmers at 7.30pm AEDT, will also flag new ‘wellbeing’ measures and outline a package of support for women.

Alongside aged care and health, disability services and defence are expected to be the biggest areas of spending.

Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume warned the government against producing a high-taxing, high-spending budget.

“The Coalition left the budget in a good space … unemployment was really low, tax receipts were up and that’s a good thing and fed into the budget bottom line,” she told Nine’s Today program.

“Now we want to see a plan to bring inflation back into line to that 2-3 per cent range so the RBA doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting … it will take everything for Labor not to fall into their usual trap, which could be disastrous for Australians.”

– with AAP
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