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Speech: Real causes of housing crisis

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 16 Jun 2017

Wednesday 14 June

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (16:59): It is a time-honoured tactic of conservatives to scapegoat foreigners and blame them for social problems. If anyone has so far doubted that One Nation are part of the establishment, witness the xenophobia in this matter of public importance. Truly, this gives One Nation the credentials to be willing and able conservative government partners.

The problems in housing are real. But, as with our problems in employment, climate and infrastructure, they are not caused by so-called 'foreigners'. Blaming them is a tired and true tactic to distract from the real causes of the problem. Blaming foreigners is a characteristic of fascism. We know what the real causes of the housing crisis are. I am not for a minute deluded enough to think that facts matter to the conservative establishment. But I say to One Nation supporters, to all decent people who really want to fix these problems: do not be fooled. The facts show that the villains in housing are wealthy developers, property speculators, corrupt political decision makers and the big banks. And these villains are right here in Australia. Those that are causing these problems are in fact the constituency of conservative politicians. The only problem they are interested in solving is the perception that they do not care. They are not interested in actually providing affordable, secure homes for everyone. The evidence is in this matter of public importance. Limiting the number of new dwellings which can be purchased by foreign nonresidents will do almost nothing for the availability of affordable stable housing.

Of all the housing problems to pick, One Nation chooses the one that will make the least amount of difference. They could have tackled unfair tax breaks, underfunded homelessness services or underinvestment in public and community housing. But, no, they want to go for the dog-whistle option. One Nation chooses the one that makes the least amount of difference. The facts bear this out. In March, claims were made that more than one in 10 properties sold in New South Wales were bought by foreigners. However, an analysis of the data in the Australian Financial Review showed that only two per cent of buyers were in fact foreign tax residents. The rest of the one in 10 were in fact dual citizens, visa holders or people with long-term connections to Australia. As a reporter argued: if we mean what we say about being a country that gives migrants equal rights, there is no reason to treat them any differently. The only reason to treat them differently is if you are trying to scapegoat them to create a cowardly political distraction. So it is only two per cent of buyers in New South Wales, and this figure is almost certainly lower nationwide.

One might claim that foreign buyers are still pushing up prices or using up supply that could be housing people living in Australia. A 2016 Treasury report looked into this. They analysed high-demand areas in Sydney and Melbourne. They found that foreign investment added to the supply of housing. When it comes to prices, they found foreign investment only increased prices by between $80 and $122 each quarter. Compare that to the median prices of between $800,000 and $900,000. That is about 0.013 per cent. But, again, facts matter little when you want to drum up xenophobia. One Nation ignores the fact that it is wealthy domestic investors that are buying multiple properties at the expense of people seeking to buy their own home. It is mostly domestic investors that are leaving properties vacant and relying on sky-high capital gains to make money. One Nation deliberately ignores that it is their mates on the Liberal-National benches that allow and encourage wealthy domestic investors to game the system for private gain. The real problems lie not with so-called foreigners but with politicians making decisions in favour of a wealthy few.

The Greens want to abolish the capital gains tax discount, reform negative gearing and swap stamp duty for a fairer land tax. These measures would put those seeking a home on a more even footing with investors. We want to increase investment in public and community housing. We want to urgently give much needed funds to struggling homelessness services. We want to strengthen rights for people who rent to ensure they enjoy affordable, stable homes for life if they choose not to buy. (Time expired)

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