“Moral outrage” won’t fix Australia’s housing crisis


Think Tank CEO Ed Cavanough believes the Greens will hold the balance of power in the next federal parliament because of its strong advocacy for renters:

“Right now there’s a gaping emotional void in the housing debate that only the Greens are filling”, Cavanough wrote in The AFR.

“They have become the only party effectively expressing the moral outrage that struggling Australians feel about the cost of homes”.

“The housing crisis is not an abstract economic debate. It is shaping millions of Australian lives”.

“The federal Coalition’s asinine, debunked super-for-housing parlour games have abrogated the Liberals from a serious role in the housing debate. The real opposition on housing are now the Greens – and they’re gaining ground”.

“This all feels like a recipe for boosting the number of Greens in parliament and granting them the role of kingmaker”, Cavanough argues.

Bob Birrell and Katharine Betts articulated similar arguments in their latest survey of Australian voters for The Australian Population Research Institute:


“In Australia the main political beneficiaries from the cost-of-living and housing crises are the parties on the left, particularly the Greens”.

“The Greens’ popularity has surged ahead through its strenuous advocacy for Government intervention to deal with financial insecurity and the housing crisis”…

“In particular, those voters ‘finding it very difficult’ are strongly attracted to the Greens”…

“In this sense the Greens are outcompeting Labor, especially amongst the financially insecure”… 

“The Greens insist that there is no need to deal with the demand side of the housing crisis. They claim their build policy will also provide for a continued high intake of migrants”.

I agree with the above analysis. The Greens are playing an intelligent game politically by appealing to disenfranchised renters.

The problem for Australians is that none of the three main parties are serious about addressing the housing issue since they all support mass immigration.

Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather told ABC Insiders host David Speers in February that the party supports higher immigration levels, noting that “more people coming to this country is a good thing.”


“We just don’t think that migration is a major cause of the housing crisis,”  Chandler Mather claimed.

“We’d like to see a big increase in the number of refugees that this country is taking, but again, this is not the cause of the housing crisis”.

“In general, I think more people coming to this country is a good thing because we are desperately short of healthcare workers. We’re desperately short of construction workers. We’re desperately short of the people we need to make this country work,” Chandler Mather said.

Last month, Chandler-Mather addressed the National Press Club, where he was directly asked about immigration’s impact on the housing market and environment.


As usual, Chandler-Mather played the xenophobia card and refused to acknowledge any negative impact. He also suggested that talking about moderating net overseas migration to a historically high 300,000 a year represents a “race to the bottom”.

Why does Max Chandler-Mather believe Australia’s housing prices and rents have risen quickly in response to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) monetary tightening?

Australian dwelling values

Anyone with a shred of common sense can see that this is because the federal government increased net overseas migration to an all-time high of 549,000, resulting in a significant spike in housing demand.

Historical NOM

This spike in net overseas migration has driven rental inflation to the moon:

Advertised rents

This rapid population expansion is also a significant reason for Australia’s severe shortage of public housing, which Chandler-Mather claims to be concerned about:

Public housing shortage

The disparity between overall housing demand and supply will persist as long as Australia’s population growth dwarfs the rate of home building.

Australia’s population has already soared by 8.2 million people this century. And official projections have the population expanding by another 13.2 million people (more than 50%) by 2063:

Australian resident population growth

How will Australia build the 5.5 million homes (including demolitions) and the infrastructure required to accommodate such tremendous population growth? It is simply not possible.

And what about Australia’s natural environment? According to the most recent State of the Environment Report, one of the most significant environmental hazards is population growth:

SoE report

For a party that claims to be a champion of the environment and the impoverished, the Greens’ strong support for a Giant Australia beggars belief.

Someone should sue the Greens to get their name back.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.