HomeBuilder stimulus pushed through without House vote

“Parliament should be having a say in the way in which stimulus is rolled out,” Mr Marles said on the ABC’s Insiders program. “This provides help, and so that’s good.”

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Asked if Labor would oppose it, Mr Marles said: “It’s not a matter of opposing and supporting it. It’s a matter of improving.”

Government sources said there was no need to take the package to Parliament because it could be put in place through other means including the Council of Australian Governments Reform Fund Act 2008.

Assistant Treasurer and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar is talking to state counterparts about the wording of national partnership agreements to oversee the HomeBuilder scheme.

“The Commonwealth is working with state and territory governments on the implementation of HomeBuilder grants through national partnership agreements to make the delivery of the program as seamless as possible,” said a spokesman for the minister.

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“The agreements will be designed to complement existing state and territory First Home Owner Grant programs, stamp duty concessions and other grant schemes, with similar integrity measures.”

Master Builders Australia chief Denita Wawn called over the weekend for faster work by banks and governments to make sure people could raise money and gain approval for renovations and new homes.

The scheme offers a $25,000 grant to projects on the condition the renovation costs more than $150,000 or the new home costs less than $750,000 including land.

Critics say the conditions are too strict for widespread adoption, given the shortage of house and land packages worth less than $750,000 in the major cities.

The St Vincent de Paul Society called for more spending on social housing, while the Urban Taskforce said the scheme appeared to be aimed at winning votes in Queanbeyan before the Eden-Monaro byelection on July 4.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia called for the $750,000 cap to be lifted because average lot prices were $469,000 in metropolitan Sydney and the typical cost of building a home ranged from $350,000 to $400,000.

The scheme also has a means test that excludes individuals with incomes above $125,000 and couples with combined incomes over $200,000 last financial year.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann urged people to apply for the scheme as soon as possible and defended the rules that restricted its use.

“If the means test was not there, more people would be able to access the scheme and the scheme would be significantly more expensive,” he said on Sky News.

“We have made a judgment about what is appropriate in the circumstances. We believe that about 27,000 projects will be supported through this, over the next six months or so.

“We are not proposing to extend it beyond the initial six-month and a couple of weeks’ period. This is a program that is in place until the end of December.”

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