MPs the big property winners

Housing affordability may be one of the biggest talking points so far this year, but it seems our Parliamentarians have no problem buying big when it comes to property.

With the Federal Budget just two weeks away, many Australians are expecting a push to make buying a home more affordable. Assistance for older Australians looking to downsize and the omnipresent rumour that super will become a vehicle for saving for a house deposit are just some of the measures being discussed in the media. However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull moved last week to quash expectations of future homebuyers, responding when asked about housing affordability being at the heart of the Budget 2017–18, “I’ve read that in the press, but I don’t think that’s a fair description,” he said on Friday.  “The focus of the budget is, and has to be, firstly driving continued strong economic growth. That is the tide that we have to ensure lifts all boats.”

Unfortunate news for those hoping for a lift onto the property ladder but something those in Canberra will hardly raise an eyebrow at, given the number of properties they hold collectively.

Based on the average Australian home price and the fact that there are 561 properties declared by politicians, it’s estimated that the country’s 225 politicians own $370 million worth of property between them. Now some of these homes are primary homes and some holiday homes, but others are second homes and investment properties. And of course, there may be some that have been ‘forgotten’ about.

Coalition MPs by far hold most of the properties, with 315 of the declared properties owned by just 105 MPs and their spouses. Labor MPs have declared 198 properties with minor party and independent MPs declaring 48 properties.

Of the Government’s 22 cabinet ministers, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton owns the most with seven properties, and at least 18 other cabinet ministers in total have declared more than one property. However, the numbers are similar in the Opposition, with 16 of the 22 shadow cabinet ministers owning more than one property, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon owns five.

While Bill Shorten has just one home, Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy have five, including the famed Point Piper mansion, thought to be worth an eight-figure sum.

When it comes to living in Canberra, 53 MPs or their spouses own homes and can (most do) charge taxpayers $273 per night to stay in those homes. This does not include the four MPs who call Canberra their permanent home.

Only 14 MPs have declared no property interest at all.

And of course, there are also properties that may be owned as part of a trust, self managed super fund or company. While details of such holdings must be declared, there is no obligation to detail what is held by the investments, such as property.


Opinion: How are we supposed to trust politicians?

I know this isn’t a new concept, but if our Federal Politicians have so much invested in the property market, how can we trust them to do what’s required to make housing more affordable?

Time and time again, we’re let down by politicians who use the system to their own advantage. While everyday Australians are being told that there’s no money to support welfare for those truly in need, our MPs are jet-setting around the country on the taxpayer’s dollar. And when we’re told that to buy a house you simply need to secure a good job and save, it’s more than a little galling to find out that affording not just one, but two or three properties is a breeze for our politicians. Especially when they have the luxury of a $273 per night Canberra allowance to help pay the mortgage.

We’re told by the Government that it will make no changes to negative gearing as those hit hardest will be everyday Australians. Well, that’s a little difficult to believe when only 10 per cent of average Australians hold an investment property, compared to 50 per cent of MPs. And of those MPs, it’s Coalition politicians and their spouses who are the biggest property owners.

With its proposals to tighten immigration and citizenship rules, the Coalition Government may have, according to the most recent Newspoll, seen a small rise in its popularity. However, failure to act on what is a critical issue for many Australians, whether first home-buyers or struggling age pensioners, while its own MPs enjoy the perks of property ownership, will see such popularity fade quickly.

What do you think? Is housing affordability really the issue? Or is it simply that MPs continue to use a flawed system to their advantage?


Related articles:
Housing affordability not an issue
Retirement, housing and Budget 2017
Negative gearing changes a no-go

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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