Can I just say from the outset that the level of hardship, the level of housing insecurity, the level of difficulty that people are facing out there in the Victorian community when it comes to affordable housing, the idea or the fact that there are thousands of homes sitting empty in our community is just abhorrent. That is why we will be supporting these amendments that we worked constructively with the government to bring forward to this place. It is the scale of the housing crisis that really led the Greens’ approach to this legislation, and when this legislation was first introduced, we flagged our concerns about it not meeting the needs of the Victorian people and not meeting the scale of the crisis that we are facing. We flagged a number of improvements that we wanted to see, both in this bill and broadly across government, in terms of what our priorities are for housing in terms of affordability for renters and it was the scale of the issue that really drove the Greens response to this. In addition to the broader issues that we brought to the table, specifically in regard to this legislation, are concerns that even though the legislation expanded the vacant residential land tax – this tax on vacant homes – to across Victoria, the issues remained with its effectiveness.
We raised two issues in regard to improving its effectiveness. Number one was the rate of the vacant residential land tax, and number two was the enforcement of that tax. We were largely concerned that this tax was not being effective in what its purpose is. The purpose of this tax is not to collect revenue but actually to push empty homes onto the market for renters and for people who are in need of their first home. The key amendments that are being brought before the house now are to increase that rate to 2 per cent if your home is vacant in the second year and then 3 per cent if it is vacant in that third year or subsequent years. My understanding is that this will cover a significant number of empty homes and will go a long way to pushing those homes onto the market. Secondly, enforcement – we will be seeing a pilot by the State Revenue Office (SRO) to look at every dwelling. That will really go a long way to ensuring that with the current system, which is the opt-in system, people simply are not avoiding or simply not paying this tax.
Another issue that was raised with us with this legislation was the significant increase in the fire services levy for renewable energy and storage projects. What we were told by the industry is that this would essentially put the brake on investment in renewable energy and storage in Victoria. So we were pleased to be able to work with the government so that rate would be lowered. Those projects would now be covered by a public benefit.
There are a number of other amendments within this bill that we will be supporting. We will not be supporting the opposition’s amendments. I want to put on the record my thanks to the Treasurer, to his staff and to the SRO for working constructively with the Greens, working constructively to address the housing crisis and working constructively to address investment in renewable energies. The Greens were elected on a platform at this election to make housing more affordable and to increase support for renewable energy and on climate change. As I said, we looked forward. We were elected on a platform of pushing for more affordable housing and for more investment in renewable energy, and in our constructive negotiations with the government we now have a bill that the Greens are prepared to support where previously we were not. So we will be supporting these amendments, and we look forward to further constructive negotiations with the government to address the housing crisis.