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DOORSTOP, FAIRFIELD WEST

Posted January 25, 2017

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks for coming. Well overnight, we’ve seen the latest version of the Turnbull Government’s housing affordability policy. First we had Joe Hockey say the answer on housing affordability was to get a better job. Then we had Malcolm Turnbull telling people to get rich parents and that rich parents should kick in for their children’s housing cost.

And overnight we’ve seen the Deputy Prime Minister – the second most senior member of the Australian Government – Barnaby Joyce, tell people that the answer is to move to the bush. He actually had the temerity to say of course housing is expensive if you can see the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from your window. It just shows just how out of touch not only this Deputy Prime Minister is, but this entire Government is. Barnaby Joyce doesn’t get it. Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t get it. This Government doesn’t get it.

As we saw with the release of Housing Affordability Index yesterday, Australian cities are amongst the most unaffordable in the world when it comes to housing. Sydney is the second most unaffordable city in the world when it comes to housing. Many of Australia’s major cities are on the list.

Now let’s be clear: Country life is a good life, it suits many people. Many people like to live in the country. Some people who grew up in the city like to move to the country. But it’s not an option for everyone. And it shouldn’t be this Government’s only answer when it comes to housing affordability. The fact of the matter is that Barnaby Joyce’s electorate has the highest unemployment rate in NSW. What does he propose when it comes to unemployment in his electorate other than lecturing young people in Sydney that they should be moving to Charlieville or to his electorate. It’s just unrealistic for many people.

Now it’s time for this Government to actually act. Instead of lecturing people, instead of telling people to get a better job or get rich parents or move to Charlieville, this Government should actually have a housing affordability policy. It should deal with negative gearing.

The Treasurer in the UK is looking at options for housing affordability. Well good on him. Why doesn’t he look at what the Cameron Conservative Government did which was to reform the tax concessions for property investment to give first home buyers a more level playing field when it comes to competing with investors for housing.

The Cameron Government got it in the United Kingdom. The Turnbull Government just doesn’t get it in Australia.

So this is the latest thought bubble from Barnaby Joyce. It comes after telling the people of South Australia they should move to where there is more water. That was his answer when it came to irrigation and water issues in South Australia.

Now his big answer to housing affordability is to move to the bush. Well Barnaby Joyce, take a good look at yourself – you’ve got this wrong, your Government’s got it wrong, you’re out of touch. It’s time to have a policy instead of lecturing people.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: What is wrong with encouraging people to move to regional areas though? Don't those towns need doctors and nurses and teachers?

BOWEN: Absolutely and capital cities need workers and if a capital city can't afford to house people, if there are people who provide services in capital cities who can't afford to live in that capital city then that is the sort of situation we are seeing in Sydney at the moment. Now as I said country life is a good life, it suits many people. There is nothing wrong with carefully calibrated policies on decentralisation. The previous Labor Government for example not in a rural area but in a regional area set up the National Disability Support scheme in Geelong creating employment opportunities for the people of Geelong. But simply saying well “Don’t line where you can see the Opera House you’ll be able to afford a house” shows how out of touch this Government is.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything wrong with a place like Tamworth, the example Mr Joyce used? Would you discourage people from moving there?

BOWEN: Not at all. Tamworth is a fine place, Armidale is a fine place, Charlievlle is a good place but to say that it's answer for everybody just to move there when people have families links have jobs and needs to live in Sydney or capital cities but simply can't afford to buy a house that shows how out of touch Barnaby Joyce is.

JOURNALIST: Is affordable housing that the Treasurer is looking at in The UK, would Labor support a similar scheme here?

BOWEN: We've been on the record saying that this very much needs to be something that’s looked at. Doug Cameron and it's also been examined by the COAG process in the past is nothing new here but it's not the only part of the solution. Any solution which doesn't involve proper reforms to negative gearing is going to fall short.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask another issue? How do you feel about the sale of Rio Tinto’s Australian coal assets to China and Yancoal?

BOWEN: Well first it's primarily a matter for Rio Tinto and then it's a matter for the Foreign Investment review board, they make a recommendation to the treasurer and I wouldn't provide a running commentary on the process. The Treasurer has that information available. I am urgent it will go through the normal processes, I'm sure it will and the right result will be reached.

JOURNALIST: How do you think the people in the community will feel? Do you think they have any reason to be concerned about this?

BOWEN: Well foreign investment is and always will be an important part of the Australian economy. Our national interest should always be protected and the foreign investment review board does that. That's their role in advising the Treasurer. I have no doubt that that will be the case in this instance.

JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says the federal Government is taking an Australia First policy when it comes to trade and foreign investment. Is that sensible given the approach that Donald Trump has taken?

BOWEN: Well in fairness to the Treasurer as I always try to be, my reading of his remarks was to say that being involved in a global trading system and supporting a global trading system is in Australia's interest. On that I agree with him.

JOURNALIST: And how do you feel about the date of Australia Day? Do you think it should be moved?

BOWEN: No.

JOURNALIST: Why is that?

BOWEN: I support Australia Day being tomorrow. It is a good day for many in the community. While I respect the views that are presented right across the board, it's a debate which I think comes up from time to time. It is a good day for many tomorrow to celebrate the achievements of our nation and I think it should remain so.

JOURNALIST: Do you understand why people (inaudible)?

BOWEN: Sure, I do. I respect all the views on balance. I don't think this is one which would meet community support.

All good, thanks very much.


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