Running on empty
The PM’s one big policy announcement is a dud
Assume brace position. The IPA is right on this one: the Coalition’s belated policy to help first home buyers get their deposits together is a terrible idea. It won’t help first home buyers, because by effectively allowing them to borrow more it will get them in over their heads. And it will push up prices – some comfort, perhaps, to the older voters who own property already. “Sceptics might say this is just bailing out the baby boomers and generation X who don’t want to see property prices fall too far,” said AMP economist Shane Oliver today. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the ABC’s AM this morning that a similar scheme in New Zealand was working well, but in conceding that there is no modelling on the impacts of the scheme, he showed that the government had not done its homework. Why on earth Labor decided to jump in and match such a poor policy is a mystery, but now we’re all stuck with it.
In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Shane Wright writes that Labor has obviously given up on policy purity – its sole focus is on winning Saturday’s election. Wright observes that the Coalition’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme “effectively means the government of the day has an equity share in the private mortgages of home owners”. In that respect it would be a bit like the shared home equity scheme proposed in a 2002 paper for Liberal think tank the Menzies Research Centre when it was chaired by Malcolm Turnbull, then heading up a prime ministerial task force on home ownership and preparing to challenge for preselection in Wentworth. Treasurer Peter Costello panned the idea as unacceptable to most Australians.
The first home buyers announcement has been roundly criticised. The ABC’s Ian Verrender writes that the real beneficiaries would “overwhelmingly … be those trying to sell property, not those looking to buy”. Crikey’s Bernard Keane writes [$] today that Scott Morrison knows “perfectly well” that higher prices will be the impact of the new scheme, and contrasts it with the PM’s blandishments during last week’s debate on subsidies for the wages of child-care workers: “every time you subsidise something, it always pushes the price up”, he said. The best hope is that the scheme, capped at 10,000 loans and $500 million, will be too small to make very much difference to prices. Labor has a much better plan to help younger buyers get into their first property, which is to abolish negative gearing for existing homes bought from 2020 onwards, and to limit capital gains tax exemptions for housing. Freedom of information documents obtained by the ABC suggest that Morrison himself, when he was federal treasurer, supported exploring similar reforms. He has today denied taking any housing tax proposal to cabinet.
With Labor matching the policy, which was the centrepiece of yesterday’s underwhelming official Coalition campaign launch, and the prime minister effectively ruling out much more in the way of big-ticket announcements, it would seem all cards are on the table. Today’s latest 51–49 Newspoll, which also shows an improvement in Bill Shorten’s personal popularity, undercuts somewhat all those weekend pieces – from Sharri Markson to Miranda Devine to Dennis Shanahan – outlining why Labor was falling short, and talking up the PM’s path to victory. Unless something dramatic happens in the final days, the campaign will finish up where it began: Labor the favourite, ahead on policy, ahead on stability.
“How he gets up and looks fresh as a daisy every day is lost on me. He stays calm and keeps at it. Determination, resilience, authenticity and civility are very important traits for leaders. Morrison is well equipped.”
The primary swing against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in his Kooyong electorate, according to an Environmental Research+Counsel poll for the Greens, which shows his first preference vote dropping to 41 per cent, down from 58 per cent in 2016.
“A Morrison Government will pay $4 billion towards the $7 billion [East West Link] project, with the remainder of the money coming from an arrangement with the private sector through tolls … The 6km [Link] … is expected to be used by between 80,000 and 100,000 cars per day, bypassing 23 sets of traffic lights and cutting travel time from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink by 20 minutes.”
“Day after day, on three hours’ sleep, Kilani would walk the nightmarish halls of the hospital, consoling the families and the victims. His training as a disaster recovery chaplain was centred on providing relief to people who had survived bushfires. But this situation was nothing like that. It was like being in combat.”
“Years ago, a friend who used to have an addiction told me that the problem with driving and taking amphetamines was that no matter how fast you were going, you were always sitting still. That sounds something like this election campaign, which has been invigorated only by an attack on Bill Shorten via his mother.”
“‘There is a long-term problem for the Nationals,’ says ABC’s electoral analyst, Antony Green, ‘which is that those seats are no longer rural … They are like outer-suburban seats. The social milieu, the political history of those electorates is being wiped out by the arrival of people who have no long-term connection with the party.’”
“Scott Morrison, in his own telling, is so often a mere observer. When reckless and false accusations have been made, it turns out Morrison has only presented the facts as presented to him; when offensive comments have been made, he has been only the dutiful messenger of the sentiments of others ... Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. If you are Scott Morrison, it is even possible to become prime minister without any agency on your part.”
Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
Assume brace position. The IPA is right on this one: the Coalition’s belated policy to help first home buyers get their deposits together is a terrible idea. It won’t help first home buyers, because by effectively allowing them to borrow more it will get them in over their heads. And it will push up prices – some comfort, perhaps, to the older voters who own property already. “Sceptics might say this is just bailing out the baby boomers and generation X who don’t want to see property prices fall too far,” said AMP economist Shane Oliver today. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg...