One of Australia’s most powerful unions wants a tax on big business to pay for social and affordable housing.
The CFMEU has called for a super profits tax to build bankrolls and solve the country’s housing crisis.
National Secretary Jack Smith will outline the ambitious plan during a speech at the National Press Club on Tuesday, which will put pressure on the ruling Labor Party.
Mr Smith said Australia desperately needed more than 750,000 homes and closing the gap would cost more than $500 billion, comfortably covered by a super profits tax.
“There’s money, there’s wealth, but it doesn’t exist in the average Australian family,” he will say in Canberra on Tuesday.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy union Jack Smith (pictured) will outline ambitious plans for a super profits tax
‘It exists in the profit column of a very small and very elite group of corporations.’
Mr Smith said the government could and must take action to address the housing crisis.
‘The state has a role, and Australians want the state to play it,’ he said.
The union boss said the tax would only apply to the 0.3 percent of companies making the most profits.
Research by Oxford Economics Australia, which was commissioned by the Construction Workers Union, said an economy-wide super profits tax would be able to fund a forecast of $28 billion a year to close the housing gap.
The research firm found a gap of 190,000 social dwellings and 559,000 affordable ones, an overall increase of 114,000 since 2014.
Mr Smith said the proposed tax would be a circuit breaker.
‘We must first address an obvious fact: to solve a housing affordability crisis you have to build more affordable homes,’ he said.
‘We need to be more bold than we have been for some time.
‘We need major structural reforms aimed at a serious long-term solution.’
The policy follows the Labor government’s proposed $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which is stalled in the Senate.
The fund will aim to build 30,000 social and affordable homes over the next five years.
Research by Oxford Economics says the government’s proposed 30,000 homes would fall well short of the number of homes needed to solve the problem.
While rejecting plans for a super profits tax, Public Services Minister Bill Shorten said future funding would be key to ensuring more housing was built.
‘Housing is a problem. There is no doubt that we need to develop more supplies. There’s no doubt that people are tightening it in the rental market,’ he told ABC TV on Tuesday.
‘The government has no plans that I know of to have any sort of super tax, so I think the government has got a strategy and I think we should stay and go back to what we know.’
After Mr Smith launched the super profits tax campaign at the National Press Club, the CFMEU will take it to Labour’s national conference next month, calling for it to be included in the party’s policy platform.
‘This reform could end homelessness in Australia, it could boost productivity, it could lift millions of people out of poverty and misery,’ Mr Smith said.
‘I know we’re not used to thinking so big anymore, but there’s a huge appetite for an idea like this.’
The study found Australia faces a current shortage of 750,700 social and affordable dwellings. This gap is predicted to grow to 946,000 households by 2041 (stock image).
Labor went to the last election pledging to establish a $10 billion housing fund – the Housing Australia Future Fund – to spend up to $500m per year to build 30,000 affordable homes over five years.
But the legislation has been stalled in the Senate for months after the Greens persisted in their demand for the government to spend close to $5 billion a year to address the social housing shortage.
Mr Smith will use his speech to criticize successive governments for suggesting ‘only the market can be relied upon to make progress’.
‘That’s nonsense. Governments can’t just step in to solve big, complex national problems – they have to,’ the union boss will say.
‘The state has a role and Australians want the state to play it.’