Tuesday, 29 May 2018
Matters of Public Importance
It was very pleasing to hear the member for Fenner's contribution during this debate, talking about Robert Menzies's 'The Forgotten People' speech. I hope the member for Fenner reads that and studies it. He may learn something so that he can make a valuable contribution to this House rather than some of the rants that we hear.
When we talk about housing affordability—and I would like to congratulate the member for Denison for moving this motion, because, honourable member, you are correct: we do have an issue in this country with housing affordability and housing. You're absolutely right. We only have to look at some of the recent numbers. The median house price in Sydney is currently over $1 million. The median price is $1,180,000 in Sydney. In Melbourne, the median price is over $900,000. Now, if we make some comparisons to the USA, we look at places like San Antonio in Texas. The equivalent median house price there is $357,000—and that's Australian dollars. That's one-third of the median price in Sydney. In Austin, Texas, it's the equivalent of A$446,000. In Houston, Texas, it's the equivalent of A$399,000. In Dallas-Fort Worth, it's the equivalent of A$485,000. We can see how the cost of housing in this country has got out of control for the average Australian.
We ask why. The simple reason is that it goes back to those old equations of supply and demand. During the Howard years we had an average rate of migration of around 100,000, 110,000 or 120,000. Even then, we were struggling to keep up the supply of housing for that rate of migration. I'm not saying migration should be higher or lower; all I'm saying is that, whatever rate we have, we have to make sure that we match that with the housing starts.
But in 2007, during the first years of the Labor government we saw that, instead of the 100,000 we'd been used for the 10 years before, we had a net migration rate that was kicked up to 244,000; in 2008, it was kicked up to 315,700; and in 2009 we still had 264,000. So, in the first three years of the previous Labor government we had a net migration rate of 806,000 people. I am not saying that's good or bad. The problem is that we didn't build the houses to house those people. You cannot have a net migration rate of 800,000 people over three years without that number of housing starts. That is what has happened, and we have seen prices explode across the nation. For the average Australian, it is a false economy to think that your house has gone up in price, because all it means is that the gap is bigger if you want to upgrade. So, for most Australians, the increase we have seen in housing costs has benefitted only a small number of people.
We hear the policy prescriptions. The coalition, as the minister at the table said, is working on a suite of policies to tackle this housing affordability issue. But what do we hear from the Labor Party—the old chestnut they dig up, the class warfare rhetoric? They want to tackle the so-called problems of negative gearing. We saw exactly what happened when Labor tried this policy before. Remember when Paul Keating did it—we had to tackle negative gearing, this horrible thing. And what happened? The price of rents in Sydney went through the roof. Where demand was tight and you got rid of negative gearing all that happened was that people didn't invest in investment housing that was needed for people who were renting, and chose to rent, and that put rents through the roof. Again, a typical Labor policy that causes more harm than good. That is exactly what the Labor policy would cause.
In contrast, I'm glad to see that we are doing many things, and I'm especially glad that we are doing something with superannuation. When I first started to work, superannuation was only three per cent and I was able to put some income away for a deposit on a house, rather than the government tell me what I had to do with it—to put it into some compulsory account where people would take fees and charges out. We are enabling young Australians to put $15,000 a year—a $30,000 maximum—into their super to use for housing. We need more of this and we need to work on this issue in a bipartisan way. (Time expired)