Western Sydney is still home to most new public housing, despite calls to spread it more widely across the city.
IF THERE was a silver lining to coronavirus, it would be in the boost that’s occurring in the Whitsunday housing market as sales continue to boom.
Independent property advisor Herron Todd White released its national property clock, which identifies the latest movements and trends for property markets across Australia.
The September clock indicated the Whitsunday region was at the ‘start of recovery’ phase for house sales, while Mackay was identified as a ‘rising market’.
Ray White Whitsunday principal Mark Beale said this meant it was a great time for prospective buyers with their eye on the Whitsunday market.
He anticipated the solid number of sales over the past few months would continue and as supply decreases and demand increases, price growth will start to emerge.
This means Whitsunday homeowners will be able to attach higher price tags to their properties in the future.
Mr Beale said owners could also expect multiple offers on their properties, meaning both the date to market and the sell price percentage is quite low.
“Sellers don’t have to come down as low because buyers don’t want to miss out,” he said.
“This usually means supply will decrease and demand will increase, and that’s when you start to see some price growth.”
However, Mr Beale warned sellers this was not an indication they should bump up their sale prices just yet but predicted solid sales would continue.
Despite the pandemic, he said sales were the highest they’d been in a long time while the number of stock is the lowest it had been for 12 years.
“I think the key difference is not only JobKeeper but there’s other economies within the Whitsundays, like mining, that’s going very strong,” he said.
“Trades are also going strong and the restaurants in town are full.”
Lower interest rates were also a major factor as prospective buyers can borrow money at less than 2.5 per cent.
“If tenants and people can come up with a deposit they should, and they are buying,” Mr Beale said.
“Repayments on unit that costs $150,000 are half of what it costs to rent.”
People seeking a sea change have also led to a boost in land sales across the region and Mr Beale predicted an undersupply in land as buyers flock north.
“There’s people down south who have been wanting a sea change for a while but haven’t had a good reason other than wanting to do it,” Mr Beale said.
“COVID is a push that people wanted and needed.
“COVID’s has given a silver lining, not for tourism, but for people wanting to live here, absolutely.”
COVID-19 appears to have created a “short-term” fix for at least some Tasmanians facing housing stress.
The house in West Hoxton is about as far west as you can go from Sydney before you hit cow paddocks. It is further west than Parramatta and Lakemba, further than Liverpool. Just getting there without a car takes an hour-plus train ride, a 30-minute-plus bus trip and a 10-minute walk along a network of six-lane highways. Head another few kilometres west and the sheer cliff of urban sprawl dissolves into open fields.
A sign out front says the auction will be held in four weeks’ time as the flag of the real estate agent flaps in the breeze on this warm winter’s day. The house, in all honesty, is nothing special. Though it boasts two of everything and five separate bedrooms, at any other time, in any other place, you would drive right by without giving it another thought.
In fact, the house is significant for its sheer ordinariness, especially as the real estate agent, Glen Craigie, seems confident it will sell for $800,000.
There is no hesitation as he offers the expected sale price. The only qualification he adds is that the sale price could climb even higher. Average prices in the area regularly hit the $1 million mark, a figure at which I balk.
“Too rich for my blood,” I say.
The ABS statistics for the 2017–18 financial year found the proportion of those renting had grown to the highest level on record. Two decades ago, a quarter of all households were renting but that number has since grown to one in three. Meanwhile, those who own their home are solidly middle-income, middle-aged and middle class, while those who own multiple properties belonged to the highest incomes. Out of 1.86 million property owners recorded by the ABS, one in five owned a second or third property. Roughly one in five of these people belong to the highest income bracket and are more likely to live in New South Wales or Victoria.
The statistics paint the slow retreat of a shared Australian dream. All that home ownership was supposed to offer – a family, stability, independence, adulthood, prosperity – now feels strangely distant, a privilege that is slowly being concentrated among a few.
The very idea of home ownership was so remote I never once thought about it. It was only after I started learning about debt that I felt I should travel to ground zero to see what all the fuss was about. Everything I had learned about Australian indebtedness tracked back in some way to real estate.
The basic mechanics are really quite simple. The culprit is rising house prices, a consequence of what the UN’s former special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Leilani Farha calls the “financialisation of housing”. In 2017 she described it as:
Structural changes in housing and financial markets and global investment whereby housing is treated as a commodity, a means of accumulating wealth and often as security for financial instruments that are traded and sold on global markets … It refers to the way housing and financial markets are oblivious to people and communities, and the role housing plays in their wellbeing.
In other words, exorbitant house prices are what happen when a real estate market is engineered not to get people into homes but to make money flipping houses.
Over the past decade, Australians have elevated real estate speculation to the level of a national sport. Taken as a whole, Australia is a nation of wannabe landlords where success in life has come to be measured in square footage. All told, almost two-thirds of the country’s wealth – $6.9 trillion – was locked up in residential housing in 2018. If three out of every four Australian households hold some kind of debt according to the ABS, their mortgage is the largest in size, followed next by the credit card.
Every message we get from news, media and the arts reinforces this shared understanding. The real estate lift-out remains the only section of any paper not to have thinned and yellowed over the past two decades. At the same time, one of the most successful television shows in living memory has been The Block, where five couples work to flip old apartments. Placed in proper context, cultural touchstones like the 1997 Australian film The Castle take on new subversive significance. The story of a family defending their home from planning authorities may have become an Australian national epic, yet the tale is one of resistance against the whole notion of home-as-capital.
If real estate and our relationship to it has become a cultural touchstone, it has also penetrated our politics. Seen through the lens of property ownership, the political power in Australia may be thought of being held by a landed gentry. When ABC reporters famously checked parliament’s registry of declared interests in 2017, they found just 10 politicians who did not own a home. A federal election may have seen the personalities change since, but the dominance of real estate remains. By my count, in 2019, there were 452 properties split between the country’s 226 elected representatives and a new prime minister who once spent six years as a lobbyist for the Property Council.
Inheriting debt, not wealth
Young Australians are not blind to this reality. Any time we crack a joke about the inability to get a mortgage, we are hinting at a collective recognition: the game has been rigged and the future looks less like The Castle and more like a Mad Max hellscape.
And there’s good reason for this. The Australian economic “miracle” may have seen real net wealth triple from $2.8tn in 1990 to $10.3tn in 2018, but all that value hasn’t been shared evenly – thanks to the housing market. According to the Grattan Institute, two-thirds of those aged 24–34 in 1980 who might be counted among the poorest of their generation could at least boast they owned their own home. Today that figure has fallen to one in five.
Instead, the vast majority of the financial gains made since the 1990s have, on average, been funnelled to homeowners aged 65 and up. These are people who bought their home before or around the 1980s, during a time of guaranteed employment, social housing, union militancy, free education and rising real wage growth. As they benefited from rising house prices, their children and grandchildren have instead been saddled with more debt than ever before.
Today everyone alive below the age of 64 holds double the debts of those the same age held in 2004. For those aged 55–64, things are even worse. People falling into this demographic have seen their debts triple in the same period – a fact that has social researchers worried. With more people taking on more debt near retirement, the chance they will pay it off before dying is slim to none. In turn, this is setting up a feedback loop that transfers debt between generations, rather than wealth.
If this is bad news for the next generation, it is also bad news for the country’s banking system. Over the past 10 years debt has functioned as a sorting mechanism, grouping different people of like incomes with similarly large debts into specific regions across metropolitan areas. As the average income in Australia’s largest city drops from $1,124 a week in inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills down to $536 in Liverpool, so too does the capacity to repay on mortgage loans. The further out you go, the more likely a mortgage is to eat up over 30% of a person’s income, meaning they meet the technical definition for living in mortgage stress.
Of the 6,831 borrowing households living around West Hoxton that were surveyed by Digital Finance Analytics in July 2019, 3,058 people were in mortgage stress. These figures, however, were nearly double in neighbouring Liverpool, which recorded the highest numbers in New South Wales. Of the 14,037 households with mortgages surveyed, nearly half – some 6,905 people – reported they were having trouble making payments.
Go hard, go early, go to households
Since the global financial crisis, institutions like the Reserve Bank have been watching Sydney’s west for the first sign of a mass default, though this is rarely acknowledged publicly. The first person to recognise the danger, and say so for the television cameras, was Dr Ken Henry.
Henry began his path to influence in 1986 when he went to work for Paul Keating as a senior adviser. He would go on to head Treasury, where he advised both the Labor and Coalition governments. The institutional knowledge built up over time made him an oracle on economic matters and earned him a reputation as “the smartest guy in the room”. Even if you have never heard his name, his work since the 1990s has intimately shaped the trajectory of your life in more ways than you will ever know.
His moment, however, came during the GFC when Kevin Rudd called on Henry to advise on the biggest economic question of a generation. As the American financial system blew up in 2008, the lines of international credit that kept Australian banks afloat – and a debt dependent consumer economy moving – simply seized up. During a series of meetings about what should be done, Henry explained how he had watched the 1992 recession begin under Keating. Back then stimulus spending arrived all too late to stop mass lay-offs. Should trouble start, Henry advised with the benefit of hindsight, the government must act decisively.
“Go hard, go early and go to households,” he said.
Henry’s advice would be taken to heart as the government put together a $10.4bn stimulus package, at that time the largest bailout in Australian history, described as the Economic Security Strategy. Among the various initiatives was the first home owners boost (FHOB), which offered first-time buyers an additional $7,000 when buying a new home. Although other components of the stimulus package, such a handing one-time cash payments to people on social security, would be targeted for negative coverage, it was the FHOB program that was truly problematic. Treasury documents disclosed under freedom-of-information laws describe how it was introduced specifically to “prevent the collapse of the housing market”. Over the long haul, its continued operation would only serve to help inflate a real estate bubble.
If Treasury understood the real risk of a mass default on Australian home loans, the prospect of widespread foreclosures put the fear of God into the RBA. By 2010 the central bank was actively “war-gaming” what a recession might look like. Its chief conclusion was, should something happen, a crisis would begin somewhere like Sydney’s west before cascading through the entire Australian financial system.
In fact, things were so serious that the RBA concluded from one stress test in 2014 that the result of any mass default would be catastrophic:
All of the capital assigned to protect the major banks’ $1.25 trillion mortgage books would be wiped out by a ‘severe downturn’ in the housing market. The four majors were only able to pass APRA [Australian Prudential Regulation Authority] stress tests after drawing on extra capital allocated to other areas of their business and through profits generated in some years of the test.
Once the RBA recognised this, it never looked away. Today it maintains a dataset tracking the status of around 1.6 million securitised mortgages collectively worth $400bn that updates each month. The data is so granular it can drill down to the level of a single street. The idea is to carefully monitor financially stressed regions such as western Sydney in the hope of catching a problem before it spreads into a crisis.
The takeaway, according to Dr Shauna Ferris from Macquarie University’s Centre for Risk Analytics, is that this state of affairs happens when governments allow banks to turbocharge their profits.
“Think of debt as a product,” Ferris says. “The high level of Australian debt has been caused by banks and other lenders wanting to lend more money at high interest rates. The more they lend, the more money they make. They don’t care if this causes mortgage stress later, so long as it’s profitable now.”
This is an edited extract from Just Money by Royce Kurmelovs, published by UQP, available now.
A Melbourne public housing tenant says it’s disappointing to learn One Nation stubby holders were sent to his locked-down estate just after Pauline Hanson labelled residents “drug addicts” on TV.
- Senator Hanson controversially labelled public housing residents under lockdown as “drug addicts” and “alcoholics” on breakfast television
- Soon after, One Nation-branded stubby holders were sent to the towers
- The ABC understands that on advice from community leaders, a decision was made not to hand out the stubby holders in the towers
It’s been revealed Ms Hanson attempted to send the merchandise to residents of some of the towers after her appearance on breakfast television, in which she labelled them “drug addicts” and “alcoholics”.
At the height of the controversial hard lockdown of nine public housing towers in Melbourne, Senator Hanson made the comments on Channel Nine’s Today Show — which then cancelled her regular guest appearances.
Soon after, Ms Hanson posted residents of some of the towers a One Nation branded stubby holder, with the line “I’ve got the guts to say what you’re thinking” printed on the outside, along with a handwritten note saying, “No hard feelings”.
The 114 parcels were addressed “to the householder”, but never made it to the residents in the towers.
Tower resident Girmay Mengesha said it was a “disappointing” move by the Senator — but he was uncomfortable that an external party may have taken the decision to block the delivery.
“I don’t believe anyone would have read that stubby holder, or used that stubby holder. Personally I would have thrown it in the bin,” he said.
“It feels like salt in the wound, because it’s not an apology,” Mr Mengesha said.
“It was disappointing. It’s not what I expect from our politicians, especially during a crisis.”
The ABC contacted Senator Hanson’s office for comment, but was referred to a tweet where Ms Hanson labelled it “a storm in a stubby cooler”.
Complaint lodged with AFP over Pauline Hanson stubby holders
The Age newspaper has today printed parts of an email from Australia Post lawyer Nick Macdonald to City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney, sent on Saturday, July 11.
In it, Mr Macdonald raises concerns the parcels are “being withheld from the addressees”.
“We understand that the Parcels were properly delivered by Australia Post on Thursday morning, in accordance with the arrangements in place under lock down restrictions.
“Specifically, the Parcels were delivered to the Command Post Foyer at the building, after Australia Post staff received a clear assurance that the Parcels would then be promptly distributed by Command Post staff to the addressees.
“Please confirm by 4pm today that the Parcels have been distributed to the Addressees.
“If we do not receive confirmation, we will consider what further steps are necessary to deal with this situation — including whether it is appropriate to notify the Police or other relevant authorities.”
In a statement today, Australia Post said it delivered the parcels to the site control centre, which was being run by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the City of Melbourne, and raised the issue when they weren’t delivered.
“Upon subsequently being made aware that the items did not reach their ultimate destination, we raised it with the City of Melbourne and engaged with the sender in good faith to resolve the matter,” the statement said.
Mr Hanney said in a statement that the council consulted with Australia Post and lodged a complaint with the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether the generically addressed, identical parcels breached the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
Mr Hanney said that once the City of Melbourne stopped being responsible for deliveries to the estate it requested Australia Post collect the parcels, and withdrew its complaint to the AFP.
The ABC understands that on advice from community leaders a decision was made not to hand out the stubby holders in the towers.
It is understood the gift was viewed as culturally insensitive and would have inflamed an already volatile situation.
The ABC has been told that providing medical supplies, appropriate food and goods to support the residents during the lockdown was given priority.
GEORGE Christensen has lashed out at the State Government’s “handling” of the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant.
The Dawson MP called on Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert to fix the scheme before hopeful homeowners were “left bitterly disappointed”.
He said brokers, builders and home buyers were frustrated the grant was not being factored into home loans.
“The question all of these people want answered is ‘why can’t Queensland operate the Home Builder boost in the same way they operate their first homeowner grant?’,” he said.
“The issue is now critical.
“Contracts need to be signed and finance approved by December 31.”
But Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert and Treasurer Cameron Dick have hit back at Mr Christensen’s claims.
“If George checked the data he would see the home construction market in Queensland is going well,” Mr Dick said.
He said Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this week showed Queensland housing approvals in July were up 17.2 compared to NSW’s 14 per cent and the national average of 8 per cent.
“Queensland was the first east coast state to have its approvals process up and running, and joined the online HomeBuilder portal at the same time as all other states,” Mr Dick said.
“Along with New South Wales and Victoria, Queensland is working with the Australian Banking Association to address issues with the design of the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder scheme that are hindering the payment being used as part of a home deposit.”
Mrs Gilbert said Mr Christensen’s comments were “very cheeky” and “really stretching the truth”.
“It was his government that set out the rules that the homeowner had to apply for the loan themselves.
“He’s asking state government to change the federal government rules.”
But she did agree with the Dawson MP that being able to use the HomeBuilders Grant towards a home deposit would help families trapped in the rent cycle.
“Our rents have been absolutely horrendous,” Mrs Gilbert said.
“Having these grants means the difference from being forever stuck in that rental cycle and going to banks and societies and being able to build that home.”
This would have flow-on effects for apprentices, tradesmen and hardware stores, she said.
The Housing Industry Forecasting Group has estimated dwelling commencements in Western Australia to rise to 17,000 in 2020-21 on the back of government housing stimulus packages.
SHUT DOWN between March and May, the housing market has roared back to life. Nationwide, a lender, reckons prices hit a record high in August. Pent-up demand and a temporary cut in stamp duty have helped propel interest, but a bigger factor, according to estate agents, is that people are reassessing their housing needs. Spending weeks trapped indoors gave them a chance to think hard about their living quarters, while the rise in working from home is already having an impact. Richard Donnell, the research director of Zoopla, a property website, thinks that Britain has undergone a “once in a lifetime re-evaluation of housing requirements”.
People want more space. Price rises are positively correlated to size (see chart) and the value of one-bed flats has slipped since the market reopened. According to Zoopla, the time taken between the listing of a home and its receiving an accepted offer has fallen across the board but the larger the property, the bigger the fall. Five-bedroom houses, which in 2019 took an average of 48 days to attract an offer, are now being snapped up in 32 days, faster than one-bedroom flats. Three-bedroom houses, the category most in demand, are going in just 24 days. Renters as well as buyers are becoming less keen on flats. Apartments have fallen out of the top five categories searched for by potential tenants on Rightmove, another property website, in favour of smaller houses. Access to a garden or a nearby park are much more highly prized than a year ago.
Rightmove is advising estate agents who advertise on its website to emphasise different factors these days. Whereas in the past proximity to a train or tube station was much in demand, that “isn’t going to be such an important selling point for those buyers expecting to work from home more”, according to Miles Shipside of Rightmove. It is now, he explains, “all about showcasing a spare room in the best way”. He advises sellers to buy some cheap office furniture and put it in smaller bedrooms to demonstrate their potential as home offices.
The decline in the appeal of flats is a challenge for London. While flats represent only around a fifth of Britain’s housing stock, they make up just over half of London’s. According to Rightmove, after the lockdown, 54% of property searches by London residents have been for areas outside the capital, compared to 45% a year ago—the biggest fall in interest in any city. But the turn away from flats is a problem elsewhere, too. Flats make up about two-fifths of new properties built over the past decade, and housebuilders worry that the stereotypical block of converted flats in a former warehouse in London’s East End, Manchester’s Northern Quarter or Newcastle’s Quayside will see a permanent fall in value. “If you’re a prosperous two-earner couple in your late 20s you might now decide to skip the two-bed flat that used to be the first rung on the ladder and go straight to the three-bed semi in the suburbs,” says a housing boss.
The foreigners aren’t helping. They mostly buy newly built flats and, except in Hong Kong, where a change in the status of British Overseas National Passport holders is resulting in some interest, international demand for flats in Britain is slack, as investors wait to see where rental yields settle. But the big question is domestic: is homeworking for ever, not just for covid?■
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Flatlining”
“IDEALLY,” WROTE George Orwell in “The Road to Wigan Pier”, his account of pre-war poverty, “the worst type of slum landlord is a fat wicked man, preferably a bishop, who is drawing an immense income from extortionate rents. Actually, it is a poor old woman who has invested her life’s savings in three slum houses, inhabits one of them, and tries to live on the rent of the other two—never, in consequence, having any money for repairs.”
When Orwell was writing, almost 60% of Britons rented their homes from private landlords. After the second world war the private rental sector (PRS) shrank to insignificance, thanks to the rise of social housing and the subsequent liberalisation of mortgage lending. But rising house prices and the need for a substantial deposit have reversed the trend (see chart).
As renting has grown, renters have changed. Back in the mid-1990s around one in 20 families with children lived in the PRS. Now more than one in five do. More than half of all private renters are now over 35. A form of tenure once confined to urban centres and university cities has spread to the suburbs and small towns. Some of the fastest growth in the five years to 2017, the most recent period with reliable data, came in places such as Purbeck and Hertsmere.
That presents the Conservative Party with a problem. Since Lord Salisbury espoused “villa Toryism” in the 1880s, it has been the party of home-ownership. Margaret Thatcher gave this purpose new vim by selling off social housing. The notion that home ownership makes people conservative, by giving them a stake in the social order, is embedded deep in the Tory soul. But economics and politics both argue for measures that favour renting. A large rental sector encourages mobility and thus helps promote growth. At the same time, today’s renters are the kind of people whose votes the government wants.
That long-term conundrum is overshadowed by the acute problem that the crisis has created. Housing charities estimate that some 200,000 private tenants have slipped into rent arrears over the past six months. In the early days of the pandemic, the government put in place a temporary ban on evictions from rental properties that was due to expire on August 24th. Three days beforehand, it extended the moratorium for another four weeks.
This hand-to-mouth decision-making suggests that the government is struggling to deal with the problem. That’s partly because Britain has not only a lot of tenants nowadays but also a lot of landlords. While one in five English households rents privately, more than one in ten households own more than one property. Most landlords let fewer than five properties. For most, their rental property is a substitute for a pension or a supplement to one. They tend to be the older, better-off voters who make up the bedrock of Boris Johnson’s political coalition—the contemporary equivalent of Orwell’s old ladies.
But landlords are outnumbered by tenants, many of them families, whom British housing policy has taken little trouble to accommodate. Labour governments have focused on social housing, Conservative ones on home-ownership. Renting is treated as a waiting room in which future homeowners spend some of their 20s before knowing the joys of being responsible for their own boiler. Tenants’ groups complain of a host of issues—repairs badly or tardily done, the common ban on keeping pets—that make it hard for renters to treat their accommodation as a home. With money cheap, the cost of a buying has fallen compared to renting (see chart), but rising deposit requirements put a purchase beyond most renters’ means.
The big issue is security of tenure. The norm in England—the issue is devolved, so Scotland and Wales have gone their own ways—is a 12-month lease with no obligation to renew. Most continental European countries offer much more security. Germany, for instance, gives tenants who behave themselves an indefinite right to remain in their homes.
Opponents of greater security for tenants argue that it would decrease the supply of properties as landlords would worry about not being able to get them back. Proponents argue that the opposite would happen: longer leases would attract families seeking security and give institutions the security they seek, thus encouraging investment in the sector. There are few such investors in Britain, which is why the market remains dominated by Orwell’s old ladies. Countries with the largest rental sectors tend to be those which also offer greater security of tenure.
England’s near-neighbours are moving in a continental direction. Tenancies were made more secure in Wales in 2016, Scotland went for German-style open-ended tenancies in 2017 and Ireland substantially extended eviction notice periods in 2019. In England, the government has pledged to remove “section 21” evictions, under which a landlord can evict a tenant without giving a reason, but has done nothing about it. Even if it does, rolling year-long leases would remain the norm.
Offering tenants more security would put the Conservative Party at odds with its property-owning supporters, and also with its worldview. As the 2019 manifesto said, home ownership is “one of the most fundamental Conservative values”. The Tories’ answer is to increase the supply of homes—or “build, build, build”, as Mr Johnson’s new slogan puts it—to allow more people to buy. Previous Conservative governments have tried that, and been frustrated by their nimby supporters.
The Tories’ blinkered vision of housing tenure offers Labour an opportunity. In 2019 Labour embraced Scottish-style open-ended tenancies but combined that with rent controls which, history shows, destroy rental markets. The political space for a sensible offer to tenants in England lies open. In these uncertain times, the promise of more security to a fifth of the country could win Labour plenty of friends.■
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Generation rent grows up”
Australia’s economic response to Covid-19 has failed to address insecure work, privatised services such as aged care, low housing supply and climate change.
That is the conclusion of Australian National University Menzies Centre for Health Governance report, released on Thursday, praising the federal government for temporary support scheme including jobkeeper and free childcare, but charging it with failing to make long-term change to improve equity and health.
The report adds to a growing push to extend free childcare, with advocates including thinktank the Australia Institute, small and family business ombudsman, Kate Carnell, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The Menzies centre said that Australia’s economic response to the Covid-19 recession – with 156 separate measures at state and federal level – has been “impressive and to be commended”. But it warned Australia’s policies must “not return to conditions that will keep people in poverty”.
“To prevent an accumulation of disadvantage and health inequities throughout the life course, the temporary supports for childcare should continue and enable access to free childcare for, at the very least, socially disadvantaged households,” it said.
The Menzies centre was most critical of the housing stimulus, warning that “none of the housing-related measures that were introduced address the medium and long-term housing precariousness that is prevalent in Australia”.
It noted that main beneficiaries of homebuilder – which provides grants of $25,000 for new builds or renovations of at least $150,000 in value – “are people who can already afford major renovations”.
State and territory grants for tenants who have lost work are “insufficient” and investment in public housing “modest”.
It proposed “investment in social (public and community) housing could help bridge the gap in housing investment, job creation and income growth and at the same time reduce homelessness” – echoing Labor’s proposals for social housing investment.
The report praised jobkeeper wage subsidies for providing “immediate financial relief and security to businesses and workers” but noted they are accompanied by industrial relations changes that allow employers to cut workers’ hours.
“Job insecurity and precariousness … is not good for health and is more common in low paid, and youth and female dominated sectors,” it said, calling on the government to address “longer-term systemic issues of poor employment arrangements and working conditions”.
The Menzies centre said the government should keep “in place the positive changes to income support schemes that occurred due to Covid-19”, including doubling jobseeker with the $550 fortnightly coronavirus supplement, which is set to be cut to $250.
The Menzies centre concluded that Australia’s economic supports did not “challenge the status quo” but rather maintained “business as usual”.
It cited the aged care response – which provides “additional money to keep staff employed” rather than provide “long-term investment in publicly funded and run frontline services”. “The privatised model and its inadequate regulatory framework is harmful.”
The profit-motive and inadequate government funding of aged care has been targeted by the Greens, Labor and even Liberal MP Russell Broadbent.
The Menzies centre also cited “silence on climate change in Australian policy” as an example of a “missed opportunity” in the effort to “bounce back better” from Covid-19.
“Unless something significant changes, climate change will continue to exacerbate existing health inequities,” it said. “Fundamentally, we need climate change mitigation.”
In May, Guardian Australia revealed the then-National Covid-19 Coordination Commission’s plan for economic recovery centred on taxpayers funding a massive expansion of the domestic gas industry including helping open new fields and building hundreds of kilometres of pipelines.
The head of the commission, Nev Power, has said although business leaders have called for the government to use the recovery to lock in low-emissions energy, his organisation is not recommending “a green recovery per se”.