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$500 million on social housing repairs: Albanese’s alternative budget

Anthony Albanese will highlight the potential of spending on social housing as a job creator in his Thursday night budget reply.

He says if Labor were in government now it would be investing $500 million to fast-track repairs to social housing, and urging state governments to match the funding.

While Albanese is not putting this as a commitment for the election, he promises he will later announce a comprehensive plan a Labor government would undertake for building and repairing social housing.

Albanese and housing spokesman Jason Clare said in a statement this immediate spending would be a win-win approach, fixing homes and creating work.

Some 25% of Australia’s social housing – 100,000 homes – needed urgent maintenance, they said.

“Repairs could start almost immediately, providing work for local plumbers, chippies, sparkies, plasterers and painters as well as companies that manufacture building supplies and materials. This would also provide opportunities for apprentices.”

Albanese frequently reprises his own “back story” of being brought up in public housing as he emphasises its importance. “As someone who grew up in public housing, I know the difference it can make when you’ve got a roof over your head and a comfortable home,” he said.

Economists in a recent survey pointed to social housing as a high priority for what should be in the budget, but it did not feature.

Albanese’s budget reply, expected to contain a number of initiatives, is being keenly watched by colleagues who are frustrated at Labor’s difficulty in cutting through during COVID.

Even the budget, with its big spending, has not left the opposition a great deal of scope for major attacks.

Labor has written to the Tax Commissioner to formally indicate its support for the budget’s bringing forward and backdating to July 1 of tax cuts that were due to start in 2022.

The acceleration requires legislation but Labor’s guarantee of its passage clears the way for the Tax Office to prepare new Pay As You Go tables.

This means the tax cut will flow to workers as soon as later this month. But the backdated part will not be paid to them until the end of the financial year.

It has been pointed out the budget made the tax cuts people will get appear larger than they actually are by benchmarking them against 2017-18, so including some tax relief that has already been received.

The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, has taken a “wraparound” advertisement in the right-leaning Australian newspaper on Thursday declaring “TAX IS GOOD”. The wraparound will be in the edition that appears in Canberra and parts of NSW.

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