A construction union has launched a national campaign for a “super profits” tax on Australia’s richest companies to build more affordable homes.
CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said the economy-wide tax could raise $290 billion over the next decade, comfortably funding the investment required to close the social and affordable housing gap.
“Given the importance of this problem, we are being way too timid,” he told the National Press Club.
“Not only is a super profits tax the best way to generate the funding we need, whilst causing minimal harm, a super profits tax is a positive thing in and of itself.”
The union boss said the tax would only apply to 0.3 per cent of companies in Australia, which were earning more than $100 million.
“The money exists, the wealth exists but it doesn’t exist in ordinary Australian households,” he said.
“It exists in the profit columns of a very small and very elite group of corporations.”
Research by Oxford Economics Australia, which was commissioned by the union, identified a gap of 190,000 social dwellings and 559,000 affordable ones across the country.
The research firm found the shortfall would be comfortably covered by the union’s proposed tax.
The CFMEU will take the super profits tax proposal to Labor’s national conference next month.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave a one-word response when asked whether he supported the tax: “No”.
His government plans to build 30,000 affordable homes through a Housing Australia Future Fund, which is held up in the Senate.
The Greens have called for further support to help renters, calling for a rent freeze.
The party’s housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather welcomed the union proposal.
“The housing crisis will get worse under Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund unless they invest far more in public and affordable housing, which is exactly what everyone from the Greens to the CFMEU are now pushing for,” he said.
Mr Smith said while there would be pushback on the tax, the government should be prepared to stare down critics.
“Obviously the shadow of the mining tax debate probably looms over their head,” he said. “Yes, there are tough politics and there is also tough politics in not doing the sorts of initiatives we are proposing.” -AAP