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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 477

Housing Affordability


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:11): My question is to Senator Brandis, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Deputy Prime Minister, who on 25 January said in relation to housing affordability:

We believe that houses will always be incredibly expensive if you can see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, just accept that.

What advice does the government have for people wanting to buy a home in Lidcombe, in the electorate of Reid, which has no views of the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge and where the median house price is $1,108,000?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:12): My advice to that person is: don't vote Labor, because if the Labor Party were to be elected with the housing policy that it announced at the time of the 2016 election then housing prices would rise. The key to improving housing affordability, Senator Cameron, as many a study has shown, is increasing supply: more houses, more apartments and greater connectivity. Don't just take it from me; this is what the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, who again I have cause to quote, said to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics. This is what Dr Lowe said on 22 September last year:

The solution to that—and I am going to sound like a broken record here—is housing supply…

As he said in March of last year:

From a longer-term perspective, the challenge of providing an adequate supply of reasonably priced housing for an increasing population rests largely on the flexibility of land supply and, in particular, the supply of well-located land.

This is because high housing costs largely reflect high land prices…

Mr Fraser, the Secretary to the Treasury, made a similar observation. He said in October last year at Senate estimates:

I think housing affordability is a massive issue.

It is bound up with a wealth of other issues. They all seem to me to come back to other questions which are related to microeconomic reforms, issues of land supply, regulation, building costs and also infrastructure.

So, Senator Cameron, that is the solution, particularly in the Sydney basin, the most expensive housing market in Australia: greater supply and great release of land for housing development. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a supplementary question?



Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:14): I again refer to the Deputy Prime Minister, who said:

Houses are much cheaper in Tamworth, houses are much cheaper in Armidale, houses are much cheaper in Toowoomba.

How many of the millions of Australians locked out of the property market is the government expecting to move to Tamworth, Armidale or Toowoomba?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:14): Senator Cameron, I know you take an exclusively big city centric view of this problem, but what the Deputy Prime Minister said on that occasion is absolutely true. Housing prices in regional cities and towns are lower than housing prices in the big capital cities. And in making a contribution to the public discussion about housing prices, it was absolutely appropriate.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: My point of order is on relevance. There was one question here: how many of the millions of Australians locked out of the property market is the government expecting to move to Tamworth, Armidale and Toowoomba? That is what they are telling them to do. How many are going to move there?

The PRESIDENT: The minister was certainly being directly relevant to the question. He had not reached that particular figure. Whether he will or not is up to the minister. I will call the minister.

Senator BRANDIS: You know, Senator Cameron, I am old enough to remember the Whitlam government, to remember when there was a Labor government that actually had a regional development policy. It created the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Like everything else the Whitlam government put its hand to of course it made a mess of it, but at least it recognised that people have choices and among those is the choice to relocate. They are not bound to do that but that is among their choices, and that is what the Deputy Prime Minister was pointing out. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.







Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:16): I again refer to the Deputy Prime Minister, who says:

… if you've got the gumption in you and you decide to move to Charleville—you're going to have a very affordable house.

When is the Prime Minister going to have the gumption to reform negative gearing and capital gains tax instead of lecturing first home buyers about their need to leave their families and communities to buy a house?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Senator Cameron—through you, Mr President—once again what the Deputy Prime Minister said was absolutely true. He was calling attention to what is an undeniable fact: that in the regional cities and towns of Australia housing is more affordable than it is in big capital cities. I am not saying that is the answer, nor was the Deputy Prime Minister saying that was the answer. What he was pointing out is that the Sydney market in particular and the big capital city markets in general are not the only housing markets in this country, and that people have choices. In pointing that out as part of the discussion on housing affordability, it was absolutely appropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister to do so.