Page 176 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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Duties (First Home Owner Exemption) Amendment Bill 2008

Mr Seselja, pursuant to notice, presented the bill.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Housing affordability is one of the most pressing concerns facing Canberrans. One of the biggest inhibitors to home ownership has been the government itself. In a town where the government has an extraordinary ability to set and control housing affordability parameters, the Stanhope-Gallagher government has taken scant action of any substance to address the problem. Yes, we had a paper with an endless raft of rhetoric and a whole dictionary of weasel words. We have land rent. The great Australian dream is to own a home, but not the land it sits on! We have mandated affordable homes, if you will put up with their choice of suburb, their choice of block, their size of home. The bottom line is: the biggest hurdle is how much money a first homebuyer has to stump up to this government and how restrictive this government has been in releasing land.

After Mr Stanhope denied there was a problem on the record several times this year in media releases and in debates, we have seen the debate shift. Recently there have been reports that the housing affordability crisis was lessening, using the same old indicators that lump existing homeowners in with those trying to get over the Stanhope-Gallagher hurdles to get into the market in the first place. And we see this government belatedly try to paper over the problem with their favourite tactic: blurring.

Mr Stanhope has played selective statistics when it comes to housing affordability all year. He refuses to acknowledge data which looks at the costs for first homebuyers in Canberra, such as reports published by the ABS, the Housing Industry Association and the Commonwealth Bank. Mr Stanhope plays games of picking his statistics selectively, only ever quoting from one report by the REIA which lumps in all homeowners, including older and wealthier Canberrans who have almost paid off their mortgages. The Australian Social Trends publication issued by the Bureau of Stats shows that, on average, first homebuyers in the ACT committed “substantially larger than the average amount” committed by some of their interstate counterparts. Part of the reason for this is the outrageous levels of stamp duty paid by first homebuyers.

We have seen recent reports from the Housing Institute of Australia revealing that Canberra had slipped behind only Brisbane as the most unaffordable city in Australia. In this indicator, there had been a massive decline in affordability over the last seven years, with a drop of 59 per cent under the watch of Stanhope Labor. Affordability in the ACT slipped another 16 per cent in the March quarter, more than any other Australian capital city, according to the HIA report.

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