So Howard screwed up housing affordability too

At some point we will have to stop blaming John Winston Howard for every problem we face. For the moment, though, it does seem that whenever we lift the lid on some important issue we find something smelly whose cause was inaction or ineptitude on JHo’s watch.

Graph of ratio of real house prices to real wages

Yesterday it was how we’re stuck with the Super Hornets thanks to “a lack of sound, long-term… planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade”. Today let’s look at Chairman Rudd’s theme of the week, housing affordability.

It’s now more expensive to live in Sydney than in New York.

[P]roperty prices have jumped 400 per cent since 1986, while income has increased by only 120 per cent.

The mysterious but awesomely-brained Possum Comitatus explains how he ran the numbers, leading to this graph.

It’s worth reading the full analysis, but his conclusion is blunt:

[R]eal house prices remained virtually frozen over the period from 1990 through to 2000. It wasn’t until Howard started stuffing around with halving the capital gains rate and things like the first home buyers grant that real house prices started to accelerate…

It also highlights in real terms just how much the NSW market has dropped over the last couple of years.

Possum’s going to look at our policy options in part 2, coming soon. However The Australian‘s George Megalogenis has already started down that path — from the suitably cynical viewpoint of which options generate the most votes for whom.

Continue reading “So Howard screwed up housing affordability too”

Rediscovering the language of moderation

I’m a big fan of joined-up thinking. You know, not just looking at each individual piece, but looking at how they fit together (or not) and what that tells us about The Big Picture. But there doesn’t seem to be much joined-up thinking in contemporary Australian politics.

Take, for example, “economic management”. Senator Andrew Bartlett wrote about this very point yesterday:

The battle for bragging rights about which party is supposedly the best economic manager is faintly ludicrous, given that both sides at various times have made a point of emphasising how similar their basic tax and economic policies are to the other – with the partial exception of workplace relations. The posturing about supposedly conservative good economic management is even more absurd – and indeed somewhat alarming – when one realises that these almost identical economic policies are neither conservative nor even very coherent.

Yes. I don’t understand how these facts all fit into one coherent picture:

  • Lots of money coming in from big mining boom.
  • Schools, hospitals, roads, trains, ports all in need of “urgent” fixes.
  • Reserve Bank worried about inflationary measures.
  • $34 billion in tax cuts! Spend, spend, spend!

Bartlett quotes a piece from George Megalogenis in The Australian which ends:

The task for Australia’s political class is to rediscover the language of moderation. Leadership at this stage of a 17-year growth cycle means telling voters that they can’t have it all.

But how do you tell Howard’s Battlers, the Kath & Kims of Australia, they they can’t have it all, and that the world isn’t just about them repeating the mantra of “I want! I want!”? The answers, it seems, is that you don’t. You just stay in your state of denial and hope for the best.

The Coalition launches its re-election campaign today — yes, I know that the entire year so far therefore has not been a campaign, just some sort of cheese grater. So it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll propose a coherent plan for Australia’s future that actually addresses these core economic issues. My money is on the “No” vote for that one.