2CC Stephen Cenatiempo Breakfast Show- 08/02/2022

08 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Political panel with Liberal Senator Zed Seselja; Canberra Protests; Housing Affordability; Federal ICAC.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Time for our regular political panel. Joining us is the member for Canberra Alicia Payne. Good morning, Alicia. 


CENATIEMPO: Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT and Minister for International Development, the Pacific. G'day Zed.


PAYNE: Morning Zed

CENATIEMPO: Parliament's sitting today. Alicia, it's going be an interesting sitting week, we've got a number of protests happening outside Parliament House at the moment. What does that, from a practical perspective, does it really make any difference to you guys inside Parliament House?

PAYNE: Well, I know that it's been making a difference for many Canberrans over the last week or so that they've been here. And obviously Canberrans welcome peaceful activism and protest. But some of what we've been seeing hasn't been that. I've been seeing on Twitter, that some of the protesters have been harassing local businesses and people working in shops. It has caused disruptions to people trying to get where they're going. It has created some difficulty getting into the building, and things like that. So there is sort of that impact. But once we're inside the building, I suppose, yes, we're not really affected by that. Every sitting week, there are usually lots of rallies and things outside the building, which we do come out to. And there are several of those planned today, with other groups as well. And it may make it problematic to get to those as well, because of some of the behaviours we've been seeing.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, the problem I see with all of these protests, whether it be Black Lives Matter, or whether it be the March for Justice, or whether it's this mob. Firstly, they all seem to be a little bit confused about what they're protesting against. And whilst there's obviously people with genuine concerns. It tends to be the organizers who are the ones that are the problem here and they always get infiltrated by a bunch of lunatics.

SESELJA: Well, you, I mean, you always have that potential with protests. And look, I support peaceful protest. And of course, the other thing, and we see this, I think, unfortunately, when you see some of the extinction rebellion protests, where there's a deliberate, I guess, effort to really seriously inconvenience the entire community. So I think people don't respond well to that either. So peaceful, they're not going out of their way to make everyone's life difficult. There's nothing though, you know, people, whether they agree with them or not, you know, will support their right to protest. And that's what you want to see. In a democracy, we see protests, it is part of our democratic rights. But you know, there's a way to do it, I suppose that brings people along on your cause. And there's a way to do it that maybe alienates people. And so, you know, protesters need to think through that. But of course, you'll get a number of elements, you'll get, as you say, very sincere people that have concerns about X, Y, and Z, and then you get from time-to-time some extremists who want to go a fair bit further.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, here, and I know this is really a local issue, here in the ACT, the cost to buy and rent a house is near about, well renting it is the highest in the country, and to buy is near enough the highest as well. That doesn't seem to be a lot to be done to improve this situation. Is there anything that you think the federal government can do to improve this?

PAYNE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Canberra does have very high housing costs, both buying and renting, but we are not the Lone Ranger in that, that is happening around the country. And there's very much a lot more that the federal government could be doing. For example, Labor has announced a $10 billion investment in social housing that will build 20,000 new properties if we get into government. But also an issue that constituents raise with me regularly is around the first home buyers grant. So this helps first home buyers with their deposit. But the limit is different depending on where you're buying. And for Canberra, the limit is that the full cost of the property needs to be under $500,000, which, unfortunately, in Canberra, the median house price is $1.1 million at the moment. When one constituent raised this with me, we went through the ads and couldn't find a single house in my electorate that was under $500,000. So that's something I've written to the Minister about and something I hope that the federal government would look into.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, that's a fair call because, I mean most people, when you say quickly, you think, 'Well, anybody who can afford to buy a house with more than half a million dollars doesn't need a handout from the government'. But when you can't buy a house for under a million dollars, it kind of makes that a moot point, doesn't it?

SESELJA: Well, I think with the rapid increase in prices, I think it's been sort of over 30% in Canberra in the last year, which I think is pretty unsustainable. I think those things need to be considered always, I'm sure that the minister will. But the reason that we're seeing the explosion in prices, the reason we see the highest rents in the country here in Canberra is because the ACT Government, and Alicia won't say this because it's the Labor government here in Canberra, are just exploiting first home buyers. They're doing it a number of ways. I mean, the rents are very high because taxes are very high, but also because the squeeze on supply which is pushing the prices up, and that's a deliberate policy to have 70% in fill versus 30% in the green fields. There's not enough in the outer suburbs being released. And that's why, you know, I've made it easier. The federal government's made it easier for the ACT Government to be able to develop into Tuggeranong into West Tuggeranong. And they're refusing to do that, they're dogmatically refusing to do that. But they're also quite deliberately slowing down the supply. And people need to understand is that it's not just me saying it, Jon Stanhope, former Labor Chief Minister says that it's profiteering. And it's profiteering at the expense of first time buyers and renters because renters are paying the highest in the country because of the taxes. So it is time that the ACT Government changed their policies, I'm going to keep pushing on the levers we can do at a federal level. And we try and do that where we have land release, where we have these levers, and we've pulled one of those levers inn Tuggeranong. But the ACT Government simply refuses. So Alicia, you know, I mean, from time to time, you could disagree with your ACT Labor colleagues and say they've just got it wrong, as Jon Stanhope has. He said they've absolutely got it wrong and they have and a lot of first time buyers are suffering.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, I think that's ... I'll let you go first.

PAYNE: Yeah, thanks. If I could just respond to that, the development that Zed is talking about west of the Murrumbidgee, the reason that didn't go ahead was because of ecological concerns. And there has been an increase in supply. I think roughly, actually the increase in supply and yes, it has been infill because we are nearly out of greenfield land in Canberra, that is something that unless you are going to go into areas ...

SESELJA: That's because they're ruling it out.

PAYNE: … and ruin the environment.  Yeah. Because the advice was ...

SESELJA: There's always some environmental, environmental developmental issues.

PAYNE: Well, I think that is important. 

SESELJA: It is important, and you can and you can actually …

PAYNE: Environmental concerns are important. But actually, the supply has been increased, in terms of the infill an area, roughly the size of Belconnen has been built in new dwellings, including, units and higher density housing, but the supply has been increasing. The fact is, is that there is not much new land in the ACT.

CENATIEMPO: But it's the supply of the wrong kind of property. Because I mean, the numbers themselves bear that out, Alicia. Is that is whilst unit prices aren't going up and house prices are, it says that people want to buy houses and that's why the market is so competitive. They don't want to buy units. Whereas the AC T government would say 'Well see everyone's buying units, they must want to', well it's because they don't have any choice? 

PAYNE: There are many good reasons for infill, including environmental concerns, making people closer to town centres, and city, all of these things. And the fact is there just isn't more land. This is true. Zed is talking about a development that was ruled out or over 10 years ago, I believe, because of advice on the ecological impact that that development was to have.

SESELJA: I'll respond to that if I could, because it was ruled out because of blind ideology. And, and if you're talking about infill, West Tuggeranong is one part of the picture, it's not the whole picture. But actually, it's quite close to the town centre so it actually would provide great opportunities. You know what happens instead? People buy further and further away from Canberra, over the border. Now, if you think that's sustainable for people to have to travel, you know, 40 minutes, an hour, go further and further into New South Wales. It's not sustainable. And so this policy is quite dogmatic and Andrew Barr, in response to the other day, in the Canberra Times said, 'Oh well, you know, you can buy a unit'. Well, a lot of people don't want to buy a unit. Yes, many do. But many don't. And many, if you've got a family of two or three kids, it's not appropriate for most people and to say, then well, bad luck, you've got to buy a unit, frankly, is just not good enough.

CENATIEMPO: We need to move on. The federal government has now decided it's not going to introduce legislation for federal anti-corruption commission. Look, I think it was a stupid idea in the first place. But if you say you're going to do it Zed, why not do it?

SESELJA: I think there's been some misreporting and a couple of clarifiers. So Michaelia Cash, there's been I think, some misreporting as I understand it. Michaelia Cash has made it clear all through this term. We've got a bill. If the Labour Party will come on board, if we've got the support of the parliament, we would get it through. I think she made a comment in the last couple of days saying that during this sitting, in this next fortnight, it wasn't likely to be debated because there simply isn't the time. But we've had it on the on the agenda for a long time. The Labor Party had said they will not support it. And they can't explain why. They say oh, they'd like to have you know, something more like New South Wales ICAC, which we disagree with. But we've got a bill on the table. If there was the support. We could get it through the parliament and this term of government but as we understand that there isn't, so we'll see how it goes.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, I mean, that's a fair, it's I mean, if that's what you're pushing for something like New South Wales. New South Wales ICAC, it's been an absolute farce since the beginning.

PAYNE: Well with this government, it is always someone else's fault. And it is just extraordinary that they would try and blame us when they have not brought this legislation onto debate. We will deliver a federal ICAC with teeth as a priority if elected. And we have been calling on the government to introduce this legislation. It has been over 1000 days since the government committed to introduce a federal integrity commission, yet they will not bring this legislation on and that is how you get to pass legislation. Is by bringing it on, having the debate, making amendments. So it is not our fault that they have not brought it on. And it is just extraordinary that it has taken three years for this government not to introduce it. Yesterday, we had the Attorney General say that they're out of time, which is what we all know, because there are 10 sitting days before the election, seven before the budget. But this morning, we've heard the Prime Minister saying there is still time, because this is a government completely divided and in chaos at this point and he's desperately scrambling and saying there is still time. Bring it on. Bring it into parliament. 

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, I agree with you that if they it's up to them to bring the thing. But the whole division thing, it's, I notice that you guys have even pushed Bob Carr out to push that now. We've got to move on. Alicia Payne, Zed Seselja, thanks for your time this morning.