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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 487

Housing Affordability


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:49): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the Treasurer, who yesterday accused Labor of supporting, 'higher house prices'. I also refer to the Prime Minister who claims, 'Bill Shorten's policy is calculated to reduce the value of your home'. Who is correct, the Treasurer or the Prime Minister?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:49): Senator Singh, welcome back. It is very nice to see you back from the United Nations. It is good to see you, Senator Singh, having returned from New York, back in the bosom of your own party—unlike Senator Bernardi, your bench mate at the United Nations General Assembly. Nevertheless, I am sure you had a very good time.

Senator Singh, you asked me about housing affordability. My advice, as I said to Senator Cameron in my answer to his question earlier on, is the one thing people who want to get into the housing market ought to make sure they never do is vote Labor, because the Labor Party has presided over policies which have, not only in the Sydney market but particularly in the Sydney market, driven up house prices.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, on a point of order.

Senator Cameron: I raise a point of order on relevance. It was a clear question, an unequivocal question: who is right, the Prime Minister or the Treasurer? The Attorney-General has not gone near that question. He should address the question.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the Attorney-General of the question. The Attorney-General will have one minute and one second in which to respond.

Senator BRANDIS: As I said in my answer to Senator Cameron's question, the real issue, which economists have recognised across the board in relation to housing affordability, is primarily the issue of supply. That is an issue about which both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have commented on many times. Senator Singh, you do not need to listen to the voices of political leaders when you can listen to the observations of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, which I quoted in answer to your colleague Senator Cameron. Or you can listen to the observations of the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr Fraser, who I also quoted in response to your colleague Senator Cameron. In the Sydney market, for all of those long years of Labor government, particularly under the 10 lost years when Mr Bob Carr was the Premier, there was virtually no land released in Sydney for— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Singh, a supplementary question.







Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:52): I refer the minister to the member for Bennelong, Mr Alexander, who last year said that 'owner-occupiers ought to be put in front of investors, but at the moment there is no restraint on how many properties investors can buy, which means they are dominating the market.' Why has the government failed to heed the member for Bennelong's advice and act to help those aspiring to homeownership?


Senator BRANDIS ( Queensland Attorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate ) ( 14:53 ): I am not aware of those specific remarks but I am aware of the general observations that Mr Alexander, the member for Bennelong, has made in this discussion. Unlike those on your side of the chamber, Senator Singh, we on the Liberal side of the chamber actually enjoy a vigorous discussion—a vigorous discussion about public policy in the course of which different options are canvassed. That is one of the glories of the Liberal Party and the National Party—we are hospitable to different points of view. Mr John Alexander has a point of view in relation to negative gearing, and his contribution is welcomed. But it is not a point of view shared by the government, because the distortions of the housing market which would be introduced were the Labor Party's policy on negative gearing taken to the 2016 election given effect to would have a devastating effect on the market. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Singh, a final supplementary question.



Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:54): I refer to the government controlled House of Representatives Economics Committee report on its 20-month homeownership inquiry, which laughably contains not one recommendation to address housing affordability. Is it not clear that this government is so divided and out of touch that it cannot act to ensure that homeownership is within reach for working and middle class Australians?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:54): What we are not going to do is embark on a policy which will distort the market, force up rents and attack the value of the largest asset class held by Australians. Senator Singh quoted some observations about the issue by Mr John Alexander. This is what Mr Wayne Swan, when Treasurer in the Rudd and Gillard governments, had to say about the matter—he said it would be 'economically disastrous to do anything on negative gearing.' That is what Mr Wayne Swan had to say. So, just as there is a variety of views on my side the chamber there has been a variety of views on yours. Unfortunately, Mr Swan today is saying the opposite of what he said when he was Treasurer and in a position to do something about it. (Time expired)