12 October 2020

Campaign Trail: more support for first-home buyers and Chromebooks for kids

| Dominic Giannini
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Alistair Coe and Giulia Jones announced first home buyers could receive a $25,000 grant. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

On the Campaign Trail today, the Libs promise more support for first-home buyers, Labor backs elearning with more free Chromebooks for students and the Greens seek to cut ED wait times.

First-home buyers could save up to $33,000 on their first home under a new scheme to subsidise blocks of land released by the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) if the Liberals form government on Saturday.

Under the plan, a $25,000 grant will apply to all blocks sold by the SLA regardless of value or financial situation of first-home buyers throughout 2021. The current stamp duty concessions would also be applied, which would save first-home buyers an extra $8,000 on a $400,000 block.

The grant will extend the amount of assistance available to first-home buyers in the ACT after the Commonwealth’s HomeBuilder grant expires at the end fo the year, Liberal leader Alistair Coe said.

“Our plan will kick-start the construction sector by ensuring a secure pipeline of work to protect jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

“Our plan will also mean Canberrans looking for the opportunity to purchase a home can realise their dream sooner.”

READ MORE The trials and tribulations of a first-time ACT election

It is not known how many people will take up the scheme, but Mr Coe said costings would be based on a cohort of 400, pricing the package at $10 million.

The scheme was welcomed by the ACT Master Builders Association, which said the scheme would encourage first-home buyers to come back to the ACT.

“This is great news for the local construction industry and will extend past the expected end date of HomeBuilder,” Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said.

“In August 2020, 30.1 per cent of housing loan commitments in the ACT for owner-occupiers were for first-home buyers – the third-lowest jurisdiction in comparison to other states and territories.

“The scheme has the potential to bring home buyers back to the ACT, rather than building in the surrounding region.”

The Liberals have also pledged to remove stamp duty in line with the current government’s tax reform agenda but did not give a definite time limit or tapered amount when questioned today (12 October).

Free Chromebook extension for students

Every student in ACT public high school and colleges will get a new Chromebook if Labor is re-elected, while 275 households will have access to free internet under its new digital education scheme.

A new, dedicated eSafety expert would also be hired to complement the Federal eSafety Commissioner. The announcement comes just months after online safety issues in public schools hit the media when students were sent explicit material through their school email addresses.

The expert will help parents navigate their way through keeping their kids safe online, Education Minister Yvette Berry said.

The government has also spoken with schools to find which families could not afford home internet. Around 275 families were identified for support, but the program would not be capped if more families came forward, Ms Berry said.

The package will cost around $16 million and will come out of money allocated in the August budget update.

Yvette Berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry says Labor will expand its free Chromebook scheme. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Greens look to lower emergency department waiting times

A dedicated Psychiatric Alcohol and Non-prescriptions Drugs Assessment (PANDA) unit and a separate triage stream for seniors within the emergency department form part of a Greens’ plan to help reduce waiting times.

A further $600,000 for two years’ funding for two ‘Safe Haven Cafes’, which are staffed by peer workers and mental health professionals, will provide an alternative to busy and often triggering environments, the Greens said.

“Our new dedicated services will deal directly with some of the more frequent – but often complex – cases that may present to EDs,” Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said.

“For example, average treatment times in ED for co-occurring alcohol and drug and mental health patients can be quite long as mental health assessment cannot be done until the effects of drugs or alcohol wear off.”

School entry infrastructure fund

The Federation Party ACT says it will allocate $5 million over the next two years to fix the entrance and exit roads at three Tuggeranong schools that parents use on school grounds to pick up and drop off their children.

“McBryde Crescent in Wanniassa is a nightmare for parents, students and bus drivers,” Federation Party Candidate for Brindabella Jason Potter said.

“Photos and videos taken by parents show drivers moving to the wrong side of the road and driving into oncoming traffic to access side roads.

“Parents are often fighting their way through traffic for up to 30 minutes to pick up their children,” Mr Potter said.

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