Yet again, ABC refuses to discuss population ponzi

By Leith van Onselen

I noted on Tuesday how the ABC has recently displayed shocking bias in the immigration debate.

In late March, ABC’s The Link aired a shockingly biased segment whereby presenter Stan Grant tried to bully Dick Smith on immigration, aggressively dismissing Smith’s arguments and replacing them with a whole bunch of myths and faulty logic in support of a ‘Big Australia’.

ABC Lateline then aired a half-hour segment on housing affordability, which failed to even mention mass immigration’s key role in driving up housing demand and prices in Sydney and Melbourne, despite me cutting a monologue on this exact issue for Lateline, which the ABC left on the cutting room flaw.

Earlier this month, ABC The Drum aired a shockingly biased segment spruiking benefits from immigration without acknowledging the various costs for the incumbent population, including for housing.

And over the weekend, the ABC badly misrepresented comments from former CBA CEO, Ralph Norris, who claimed that Australia’s housing woes were being caused by excessive demand from rapid population growth (immigration).

On Monday night, we got another dose of the ABC’s bias when Q&A refused to acknowledge or discuss the population ponzi following a reader’s question. Below is the transcript (video at 14.29):

Housing Ponzi:

A reversal of the two-speed economy now sees residential construction in the eastern states driving the nation’s prosperity. But some have likened the current housing boom in Sydney and Melbourne to a population Ponzi scheme, and housing affordability is a major problem. How long does the panel think that housing and population growth can continue to make up for mining and manufacturing? And is it time for a rethink of the generous tax concessions offered by negative gearing?

I’ll start with Penny Wong, because that is a specific policy of the Labor Party.

Well, I mean, we have a view, and I think, you know, a fair few people have backed it in, frankly, that you don’t have a serious housing affordability policy unless you tackle negative gearing and capital gains tax. We have some of the most generous tax incentives in the world for investors. We have a very small proportion of new owners…of housing being bought by first-home buyers. We’ve got very large numbers of proportion of investors in the market. Something’s got to give, and if we don’t tackle the tax incentives, which really don’t level… which skew the playing field towards investors, then you really don’t have a housing affordability policy. And the extraordinary thing is that we saw the Treasurer today giving a speech on housing affordability where the single biggest area which he needs to address was off the table for political reasons, not for policy reasons.

You mean negative gearing?

Negative gearing, yes. Because they want to be able to belt us about it rather than actually have a sensible discussion about the policy.

Just a very brief one. The Australian ran up the flag pole the idea that Morrison, the Treasurer, would talk in that speech about the idea of super funds for first-home buyers being able to be raided to pay for housing, or at least to give a deposit.

Well, this is the idea that Malcolm Turnbull himself has described as a thoroughly bad idea, and I agree with him, because if you’re saying to people, “Raid your retirement savings,” which is what it is, to purchase a house, it seems to me pretty bad economic policy.

OK. Mitch Fifield?

Thanks, Tony. Thanks, David. Negative gearing, ultimately, is a way of getting a tax deduction for an expense incurred in earning income. That’s what negative gearing is.

If you already own a house, to be precise.

Yeah, but that is…that’s part of our system of taxation. What we have great difficulty with is Labor presenting negative gearing as though it somehow magically solves the housing shortage and housing affordability. It wouldn’t. It’s something that people have made investment decisions based upon, so you don’t want to go changing these things lightly. Overwhelmingly, the single greatest contributor to the housing affordability issue is land supply, is a lack of land in the right places, is zoning restrictions that make it difficult to develop, is red tape that makes it difficult for housing estates. And also, importantly, having infrastructure, like transport in the right places. That’s… Those things together probably make the greatest contribution.

Mitch, I’ll come back to you. I will come back to you.

One point….

I will come back to you, but make your quick point.

Just a quick point. Ultimately, this is a shared endeavour between federal, state and local governments, which is why the Treasurer has indicated that, in the Budget, we will have measures where the Commonwealth can make a contribution to doing something about this issue.

Two very quick points. One, Mitch talks about retrospectivity. Our policy was no retrospectivity, so existing assets would be continued to be treated the same. What we wanted to do was restrict negative gearing to new housing to try and pull on supply. But the second point, the Government never answers – why should somebody buying their seventh house have a better…have more tax incentives than someone buying their first?


I’ll let you respond to this question, you obviously want to, and then I’ll go to…

I just feel like this is one of the great political tragedies, housing affordability, of this generation. As a mother of four kids, I just despair that my children will ever be able to live in the same city as me. But then what I’m also noticing around me, in terms of my peers in their 40s, 50s, 60s, there a lot of people around me who are still renting, who have never been able to make that leap into the great Australian dream of owning their own plot or block, whatever it is. And I just think that’s so sad. We’re facing worlds of retrenchment, of jobs that aren’t secure anymore, of situations where pension funds… You know, we don’t have the super to pay into our pension funds. I just feel like this is a huge ticking time bomb and we don’t only need to talk about the younger generation, it’s the older generation as well, heading into their pension years and still renting.

I’ll come to you, I will, I just want to… The Great Britain has had a similar experience.

The Great Britain.

Yeah. We do, we do have.

The Great Britain, or Great Britain. I mean, the massive price inflation of housing in London has forced a huge number of people out of the city.

It’s right across the country, really. I think the average house price now is over eight times more than the median disposable income for the average family, average median income. And this has had a considerable knock-on effect. One of the reasons why is because people who no longer can make any money on savings, or rely on a pension, are buying houses to rent to people. I don’t know if they’re the second homes you’re talking about. Are they being bought to rent out or are they being bought to live in?

Mostly by investors to rent.

Yeah. We call it buy-to-rent. It’s the same sort of thing. And obviously, as a renter, you do get certain tax breaks and the people that you’re…renting the houses out don’t have a great deal of protection. This has become a very big issue. And as you said, we also have the situation where many of our key workers – our teachers, our firefighters, our nurses – are having to live outside of the cities where they’re working. It’s a considerable problem. 50% of the land that gets permission to be built on isn’t built on. The amount of affordable housing that’s built on there is dwindling all the time because of the huge profits to be made in selling up-market houses. It’s a real situation. We should be building more houses. And at the moment, the local councils are not allowed to build houses. Now the Government wants housing associations – and they’re the people that replaced the councils for building affordable housing – they’re going to compel housing associations to sell their houses on the free market. It’s ridiculous.

OK, Mitch Fifield, should this not be treated as a national emergency, and would you not get credit if you did that? A government often said to have little vision, a government going down in the polls, could actually make a huge…well, impact, by doing something like that, but it never happens.

Well, to the contrary, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have indicated that housing affordability is high priority for the Government. That’s why we’re going to have a plan in the Budget. And we’ve got to look at all elements because housing availability isn’t just about home ownership, it’s about rental affordability, it’s about social housing, it’s about homelessness. You need to have a comprehensive package that addresses all of those elements, but you also need the cooperation of the state governments and local governments. As I said before, it’s a shared endeavour of all levels of government, and it’s something that we’re going to have a lot more to say about in the Budget.

OK, it’s time to move along.

As you can see, not one panelist even mentioned the central part of the question pertaining to Melbourne and Sydney housing being a “population Ponzi scheme”, nor whether it is sustainable. Nor did Tony Jones do his usual thing and bring guests back onto the key point of the question.

Hopelessly biased ABC.

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Unconventional Economist
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    • drsmithyMEMBER

      They say “you are lucky to be born in AUS” and literally want Aussie living conditions to plummet!

      No they don’t.

  1. For some reason I watched Q&A on Monday, and when that audience member tacked on the negative gearing query at the end I let out a groan. It was such a gift to the panelists, knew they’d use that as a means not to mention the population ponzi. Pity the guy asking the question wasn’t aware enough of the way these people will avoid mentioning Big Australia by any means, and he gave them the means.

    • Mate, AUS needs a new political party like UKIP.

      Imran Khan created a new party in Pakistan and I think he is probably doing good. India has a new party too that is doing good and the establishment is afraid.

      • The Sustainable Australia Party has sound policies, but they’re rational so don’t have anyone making outrageous comments that get publicity.

    • SAP kept chopping and changing the party name.

      And their election symbol is “Lower immigration” on a holey dollar. So then why is the party not called LIP?

      And why does their Wiki page have no photo of Mr Bourke?

      Do they have bumper stickers?

      Have they held a fundraising sausage sizzle?

      Maybe Mr Bourke should ditch the necktie. The Mayor of London does not wear a tie I think.

      • The reason SAP is not called something like LIP is that they have a broad range of policies, not all to do with unsustainable population growth (though that does affect a high proportion of issues), so didn’t want to be known as a single issue party. Whether this is a good idea remains to be seen.

        And they do have bumper stickers, I have one on my car. I’m sure they’d send you one if you emailed them.

      • HadronCollision

        Andrew I would love to support them but no way would I put a Sustainable AP sticker on my car, sullying the quality of my newly installed 1996 vintage reflective Demons sticker.?


        It’s a dead set sh$t name and sounds like a loony fringe dwelling party

      • blacktwin997MEMBER

        You need to get some attention for SAP, it’s a reasonable name but as many here have noted, most Australians have at best a nodding acquaintance with actual reason.

        So let’s find them a more eye catching name! For example:

        Australia First
        Australian Patriots
        Australia for Australians

        Sure they sound like crypto right wing fascist organisations but seriously SAP need a higher profile. If that comes through attracting fire from the likes of Penny Fucking Wong, Michael ‘Cock’ Sukkar, ‘Steady’ Ed Husic and Shanghai Sam Dastyari then so be it. You’ll know you’re making headway when these cnuts start complaining about you.

      • I have been told that the SAP is a Glen Drurey fake party, like the Renewable Energy party and Outdoor party.
        Don’t know if it is true but my source is a political insider.
        The name changes, lack of photo would support this theory.

      • So let’s find them a more eye catching name! For example:

        Australia First
        Australian Patriots
        Australia for Australians

        How about ‘Reclaim Australia’?

      • Whatever people think of Sustainable Australia’s name, they are the ONLY commonsense party dealing with the issues that Leith, to his credit, almost constantly writes about. Instead of being armchair moaners, take a look at the policies, sport a bumper sticker and think about becoming a member. The party is only as strong as its membership.

    • Yeah, but their election symbol, as I said, is a holey dollar with “Lower immigration” written on it.

      UKIP is basically a single issue party and it became the 3rd biggest party in Britain and I bet AUS had way more immigration than Britain over the last 10 years.

      Imran Khan’s party is called Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) and was established in 1996. And in 1 state they have 60 seats out of 124. Not bad for a 17 year old party.

      It took Nigel Farage 20 years to get what he wanted (Brexit).

      Wikipedia says Imran Khan’s party is into environmentalism, welfare for the poor, meritocracy, justice! And they have a Chief Minister in 1 state of Pakistan. So basically his policies are what the Greens policies were!

  2. If we cannot solve the supply side of things – that is – for whatever reason the land bankers and the likes are not willing to let up land – then the only quick solution is the demand side. Cut back demand to reflect supply. You cannot keep running and economy where demand keeps outstripping supply – something will have to give.

  3. The q&a question asks about the economic impact of population growth and the second part asks directly about negative gearing. While the panel didn’t really cover the first part in the discussion I think it is a bit of a stretch to call this “ABC’s bias”.

    • Rubbish. Tony Jones should have made the panelists address that central part of the question. He chose not to deliberately and even tried to shift the discussion to super, which wasn’t even part of the question.

      • HadronCollision

        Agree, he’s flipped the switch from sorta trying to phoning it in

        It’s like Weekend at Bernie’s to be honest. You’ve got all manner of leery BCA (and their acolytes) puppet masters controlling him as in reality he’s somewhere in the Maldives cackling maniacally.

  4. FiftiesFibroShack

    Even with of all this the ABC has still be far better than the other large news sources when it comes to reporting on housing affordability, largely due to a few reporters, but still, they were addressing housing affordability when the other majors were busy ignoring it or outright spruiking.

    • Exactly!

      MB has become OBSESSED with immigration to the exclusion of all else. 50% of the articles are either bashing the “Left” or the ABC.

      Can’t believe I wasted my money subscribing to this right wing bullshit.

      Change the name to One Nation Lite and be done with it. Or if that offends the sensibilities, perhaps Breitbart News 2.0

      • Wow, that’s an overreaction of Abbottesque proportions! If you lived in Melbourne (Sydney too I guess) and had kids, you’d understand why this (the MSM refusing to discuss it) is such an important issue.

      • FiftiesFibroShack

        They’re a business and they’ve gone with what is pulling in the members at the moment, and in doing so provide a good example of why the ABC is essential. Meh.

      • @Andrew, I live in Sydney mate, immigration is but one facet of this entire ponzi scheme called neoliberalism. I’m pissed because they provide next to no critical coverage on murdoch media, which dominates viewership. Instead, focusing on the ABC, which has a comparatively minuscule audience and was calling the housing bubble long before other media.

      • @50sfibroshack, you’re probably right mate. Jumping on the populist bandwagon with everyone else.

      • That post lacks self aware introspection and if you read back to yourself what you’ve written the post displays clear projection.

      • @Brenton, maybe it’s because we expect more of the ABC, the Murdoch rags are mostly beyond contempt as an IPA cheer squad. This site does get stuck into neo-liberalism, there were numerous articles on absurdity of Trumble’s trickle down 50 billion tax cut pointing out the main beneficiaries were foreign shareholders at the expense of government revenue, and I think similarly they rail against negative gearing on existing residential property, the pay polluters Direct (in)Action, and other neo-liberal “anti the forgotten people” ideas.

      • Maddie: “That post lacks self aware introspection and if you read back to yourself what you’ve written the post displays clear projection.”

        Ironic, I’ve read your sentence multiple times and still can’t figure out what your point is.

        “…self aware introspection…” is what we call a tautology; it makes you look like you’re trying hard to be something you’re not, which is educated.

      • True, Andrew, but that contemptible bunch of rags has FAR more influence on Australian opinion. As such, despite their blatant low brow content, they should receive more criticism, not a free pass.

        Anyway, I’ve had my vent. I just got a wee bit pissed off when reading yet another attack dog article on the ABC.

      • They’re a business and they’ve gone with what is pulling in the members at the moment,

        Also, especially for the population pieces where more than half the content is identical every time, they’re very cheap and easy to write.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        How long have you been reading ?

        MB have certainly gone a bit tunnel-vision on immigration the last month or two, and the white nationalist voices in the comments have gotten a lot louder for the last 6 months or so, but on the whole they regularly get stuck into neoliberalism and its cancerous influence that has brought us to this point.

      • Can’t believe I wasted my money subscribing to this right wing bullshit.
        What I can’t believe is that having expressed those views, you continue to visit and comment!
        With due respect to your paid membership of this site, Brenton, you are an out-and-out nong. Keep up the good work comrade! Smash the Fash!

      • Brenton,

        MB is full of right wing bullshit ?

        If only !

        Folks around here are so desperate for some ‘RWNJ’ flesh that anything right of Lee Rhiannon is branded ‘neoliberal’ before breakfast.

        With 3d1k and many others in the sin bin UptownFunk is clocking up heaps of overtime!

        What places/sites do you consider sufficiently left wing?

      • left wing, right wing, who cares. I have subscribed to MB because the failing newspapers now just market real estate by stealth to survive, and the ABC / Greens are too busy trying to be politically correct to state the obvious. And thank goodness MB keeps on message and highlight the actual facts and numbers because so many vested interests will not let the facts get in the way of a good story. And by the way Australia is busy trying to cherrypick skilled immigrants who leave their own country where their skills are no doubt desperately needed but nobody worries about that.

  5. mild colonialMEMBER

    Patricia Karvelis also dodged mentioning immigration in the sessions I have heard when she discusses housing affordability. But then in almost twenty years I’ve never heard a single journalist ask ‘why don’t we quit the convention?’ re refugees and for that matter you will never hear a discussion on the problems with cows milk on the ABC. They have their taboos.

  6. Q&A is a useless show and so are most of the panels they get. They usually have misinformed or just plain idiot politicians who stick to party propaganda and provide no insight whatsoever. Have no idea what’s the purpose of that show.