Address to the Housing Industry Association Greensmart Symposium
Acknowledgement of Country
I want to begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation and pay respect to their elders, past and present.
These acknowledgements of country are a small but important act of respect and recognition.
As a nation – very soon – we will have a chance to collectively undertake a much larger act of respect and recognition.
In voting Yes in the Voice referendum, we will be accepting First Nations Australians’ offer to join them on the road they mapped out at Uluru.
We all know that better outcomes begin with listening. I am confident a Voice to Parliament will deliver just that.
Thank you Jocelyn Martin for your remarks and that introduction.
Can I also acknowledge the Housing Industry Association for hosting the Greensmart Symposium and bringing this group together.
And I want to acknowledge everyone here - all of you are leading the way in sustainability in the built environment.
The Housing Industry is vital to Australia’s Future
For decades, you have all been a part of the enormous collective effort to put rooves over the heads of Australians.
Providing Australians with homes:
• Where we spend most of our time;
• Where we find comfort and connection to place and to people; and
• Where some of our most special memories are made and shared.
For most Australians, the house we live in will be the most significant financial decision we will ever make.
It’s vital we get it right.
Adapting over time
Every decade since the early settlers has seen Australian buildings evolve and adapt.
As Tim Ross, the MC has championed through his work – our buildings are deeply ingrained in our culture.
Our national emblem – the wattle – was so useful in construction that it took its name from the technique of weaving together a lattice of wooden strips.
While corrugated iron was originally imported in the late 19th century – it became an icon of Australian design.
But we don’t stop adapting.
In the 19th century, Lysaght broke new ground, importing new sheets of corrugated iron. Today, they’re incorporated into a proud history of manufacturing – Bluescope – and they’ve kept innovating.
Where once you would use paperbark and ironbark as building materials, they are now part of the colour options for Colorbond rooves and fences.
While we were influenced by ideas from abroad we always made it work our own way – using our own materials and ingenuity; adapting to our own environment; developing our own tastes and style.
And we need to keep adapting.
Our population, our demographics, our preferences, our needs, have always and will always shift.
And the reality is our climate – which once could be relied upon as a constant – is also shifting.
Climate and Housing
Across the Australian economy – the reality of climate change is both an urgent challenge and an extraordinary opportunity – if we are bold enough to grasp it.
We are at base camp of one of the most significant transitions the country will ever undertake. The transformation to a clean energy economy, and if we work hard enough – a clean energy superpower.
The Government is working to make the most of the opportunity:
• taking action to reduce our emissions;
• investing in clean energy infrastructure; and
• putting Australia on a path to be a renewable energy superpower
And the housing sector is vital to that transformation.
Residential buildings are more than 10% of total carbon emissions in Australia.
But the good news is this: not only does the technology exist to replace those emissions, but the technology can save families money and make their homes more comfortable.
We know Australians are up for it.
We have led the world in rooftop solar. By population, there is more rooftop solar power generated in Australia than anywhere else in the world.
Almost a third of Australian homes have solar panels on their home.
Making upgrades to people’s homes to improve energy performance is the next step along that journey.
When I speak to people about what’s motivating them to make home upgrades, I get a variety of answers.
The most comprehensive was when I visited Gardening Australia’s Josh Byrnes’ house in WA – I think he was afraid I was going to move in.
Some are motivated by savings – they can’t afford not to do it like Manu and Kirsty in Marden Park.
Others by wanting to make their contribution to climate action and leaving a sustainable legacy to their kids.
And more than a fair few because they think the newest gadget is really cool – and we shouldn’t underestimate how important those early adopters are.
Transformation is an Opportunity
That is an opportunity for the housing industry, as it is for our broader economy.
As Jocelyn set out, HIA has been engaging with these opportunities for 24 years.
I am confident that those that adapt to the changes in consumer preferences for clean energy homes will reap the rewards.
Australian housing always changes and adapts. And fast movers can reap the benefits.
We’ve seen it happen with rooftop solar.
I am sure we will see it happen for those building new homes at and above the new National Construction Code energy efficiency standards.
I am sure we will see it for suppliers who take on the challenge of retrofitting Australian homes.
Challenge and Opportunity – Retrofits
Last time we were together, I spoke about how committed we were to action on climate in the built environment.
And, I’m pleased to say, there’s a lot of good work to update you on.
In the budget, the Government announced a substantial package to begin the mammoth task of retrofitting Australia’s homes:
• new funding to advance the work of residential disclosure and make home energy ratings a reality, and
• $1 billion of new money to the CEFC to deliver concessional loans
• $300 million from the Federal Government to upgrade social housing.
We are also making sure that local government community resources are also part of our renovation revolution – with $300 million to upgrade community facilities across the country.
I want to just take a moment to explain how the Government sees these policies interacting – to deliver:
2. Upfront costs
3. Supply chains
Which together we hope will kickstart a market that can deliver retrofits at scale in the long term.
Home Energy Ratings
Australians know more about the energy performance of their washing machines than they do their homes.
The average existing home in Australia has an estimated thermal shell rating of less than 3 out of 10 stars.
Improving a home from 3 to a 5-star rating could reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling by around 40%.
Funding to ensure home energy ratings is expanded to existing homes will empower people with this information.
It will mean that all homes, no matter when they were built, will be able to know what they can do to make their home more comfortable and cheaper to run.
But this reform benefits consumers in a less obvious way too.
By partnering with finance providers, knowledge of a home’s energy performance can make it easier for banks to understand risk and to lend at lower rates.
Delivering not just savings on energy bills but savings on home loans too – turbocharging the incentive.
Banks are already partnering with the CEFC to offer reduced mortgages on energy efficient homes and personal loans for home upgrades.
Our government’s $1 billion injection will make these products more widely available and expand to cover more of the upgrades that can help families realise savings.
Availability of finance is vital – because not everyone has the cash on hand. But even with repayments, the right upgrades can deliver savings from day one.
Our aim, over time, is to develop an ecosystem of finance and transparency that will make investing in a home upgrade both more attractive and much easier.
Social housing and supply chains
Those with access to finance will not be held back. And those without it will not be left behind.
Households who have the resources to upgrade their homes can be best supported with access to cheaper finance and removal of regulatory barriers.
Other Australians may need more targeted support.
Partnering with the states will see us upgrade homes across the country in disadvantaged communities. Delivering direct benefits to the tenants.
Retrofitting the housing stock is an enormous task, and prioritising public investment for those that can’t invest themselves is the right approach.
That investment will also guarantee a flow of work that will stimulate the supply chains and capabilities that will put the sector in a position to deliver retrofits at scale.
Built Environment Sector Plan
We know there is more to do to help the sector take advantage of the opportunity of a sustainable built environment.
In July, Minister Bowen announced that the Albanese Government will be working to develop sectoral decarbonisation plans.
That included a commitment to work on a decarbonisation plan for the built environment.
Residential housing will be a part of that plan.
The Government will be engaging in deep consultation as we take that work forward.
We are not a Government that pretends the biggest challenges of our time don’t exist.
And we are not a Government that pretends the biggest challenges of our time can be met with soundbite solutions.
We are a Government that does the hard work.
That means working with experts, industry, unions, and the community – to develop solutions that will work and will stick.
Much like the best of Australian housing – the best of Australian policy making borrows from the world.
But ultimately our policy works best when we find local, practical solutions – tailored to our place, our needs, and our community.
The Government is determined to engage with you and work with you as we tackle the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of ahead of us.