Prime Minister Anthony Albanese faces an uphill battle inside Parliament House this week, as he fights to turn key policies into law.
In the final four sitting days before the May budget, the government still needs to secure support to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund, and the Safeguards Mechanism.
The Coalition opposes both, meaning the government needs to get the Greens and at least three crossbench senators onside to pass the two pieces of legislation.
While it’s understood Labor is inching closer to reaching a deal with the Greens to pass its signature climate change policy; Mr Albanese is facing his first legislative defeat over the $10bn housing bill.
The government will also introduce the Constitution Alteration Bill this week, which will formalise the question all Australians will be asked at the Voice to parliament referendum later this year.
The government’s National Reconstruction Fund is also likely to pass the senate this week.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese needs to pass key pieces of legislation this week ahead of the May budget. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
The Greens, who might be willing to meet the government halfway over its emissions reductions concern with the Safeguards Mechanism; are frustrated the government won’t budge on housing.
A key Labor election promise, the Housing Australia Future Fund would invest $10 billion, funded separately from the Federal Budget, into the Future Fund, with the earnings to be used to build social and affordable housing.
Labor’s intention is to build 30,000 new homes over the fund’s first five years; with a spending cap of $500 million annually.
Thousands of homes would be dedicated to housing women fleeing domestic violence; older women at risk of homelessness; defence force personnel; and First Nations people.
The Greens want the cap significantly raised to $5 billion; threatening to vote against the bill unless the government increases its housing budget and makes provisions for renters.
They say the Future Fund will only exacerbate the housing crisis in Australia, and have threatened to launch a door knocking campaign if the government doesn’t seek to pacify them.
The Greens are concerned the Housing Fund will do little to address the housing crisis at hand. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Meanwhile, Tasmanian senators Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell are unlikely to support the housing fund unless the government agrees to build 1200 of the 30,000 promised homes in the southern isle.
Senator Lambie said she still had ongoing concerns but said the government’s biggest hurdle was getting the Greens over the line.
“What we do know is whilst we’re arguing over this, we’re not getting any houses built,” she told Nine on Monday morning, stressing she had not yet formed a final position.
“We need to start building houses, get this done and we can come after with more money. We can see what this looks like.
“The first house will be two years away. We really need to get something done here and I just see more people out there with homelessness … that will be a problem.
“We need a start point.”
Fellow crossbencher – and crucial vote – David Pocock wants the government to double its capital investment, citing concerns the bill would not cover projected social housing shortfalls.
Housing Minister Julie Collins has warned without “ambitious” reform, people will suffer.
“That is why I reiterate my call for people in the Senate particularly to get the Housing Australia Future Fund through the parliament, and get more homes on the ground quickly,” she said last week.
She last week stressed the government was doing more for housing than just the future fund.
Senator Jacqui Lambie is still in negotiations with the government over the housing future fund. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Meanwhile, the Greens will make a final decision on where they stand on the Safeguards Mechanism early this week, before a vote progresses in the senate.
The cornerstone climate change policy seeks to ensure the country’s 215 biggest polluters are reducing their emissions each year – or buy carbon credits if they fail to do so.
The Greens are concerned about the opening in the mechanism that allows for new coal and gas, but have said they are open to negotiations on other ways to reduce emissions.
Senator Pocock is also concerned about the potential for more fossil fuel projects.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said he’s had “some very good discussions across the board” with the crossbench.
“This is an opportunity I don’t believe the parliament can – or will – miss to decarbonise our biggest emitters,” he said on Sunday.
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