There is a need to limit the number of new dwellings purchased by foreign investors. In Australia there is no limit on the number of new dwellings which can be purchased by foreign investors. There is no way of knowing how many residential properties are owned by foreign investors. We do know that foreign investors are seeking to buy new dwellings in ever-increasing numbers, because each year more and more approvals are sought by the Foreign Investment Review Board. Let me just explain: in 2012-13 it was 4,499; in 2015-16 it was 26,052. In a four-year period, from 2012 to 2016, foreign investors were given approval to purchase 62,440 properties. A fee of $5,000 is paid for each approval, making it very likely that these approval numbers do represent properties purchased. In 2014-15, foreign investors were given approval to purchase 17.5 per cent of all new property in New South Wales, and over 15 per cent in Victoria. It is not unreasonable to suggest that in areas of Sydney and Melbourne the percentage of new dwellings being bought by foreign investors is likely to be 30 to 40 per cent, displacing many Australians wanting to buy in these areas.
I have asked the Treasury about the policy intent that underpins the unlimited sale of new residential property to foreign investors. They tell me that allowing foreign investors to buy as many new homes as they like increases the supply of new homes and creates jobs in the construction industry. Well, these are bureaucrats gone absolutely mad. These people who live in Canberra can probably have their homes. They have no relevance to people in Sydney or Melbourne who cannot buy homes in their own cities, where they have grown up as children and where they wish to be around family and friends. This is nonsensical, and it is ridiculous. Yes, I support the building industry, by all means, but not at the expense of Australians owning their own homes.
We know that the government no longer believes that story, because the government announced in the budget an annual vacancy charge. This charge will apply when a property is not occupied or genuinely available on the rental market for at least six months each year. The charge is to be equal to the application fee at the time the property was acquired, which is currently $5,000. It is unclear how the new annual vacancy charge will operate. How will the government identify properties which are vacant for six months or more? How will the government maintain a current address for each foreign investor? And, if they do manage to have a current address, how will the government collect the penalty in a cost-effective way in foreign jurisdictions? My opinion of this, of what has been put before us, is that it is unworkable. It is not going to work out. The government will be chasing their tail. Of course, they will set up another administration and put on another 50 or 100 people at total cost to the taxpayer.
But I do agree with the government’s plan to cap at 50 per cent the number of new dwellings a developer can sell to foreign investors. At least they are doing something about it, but under Labor in 2009 and I believe it was Minister Chris Bowen who said at the time: ‘Oh, no, it will be all foreign investors. We’ll allow you to build all these units, but you can sell the whole lot to foreign investors.’ So now we have a situation, mainly in Melbourne, where you have these complexes that have been built and are totally foreign-owned. No-one lives in them, so it has just done Australians out of the opportunity of owning their own homes.
It is common knowledge that the housing shortage in Australia results from an imbalance between supply and demand. There is too much demand for housing due in part to foreign investors, as well as too little supply in areas where people need to live. So people have to move out of the place where they grew up. They need to work there and need family assistance when they have children and they want to be around friends. But these are the people who are being forced out their places because of foreign investors driving up the prices of housing. So they have been told to move out further. They are moving away from the places that they have grown up in, close to the work, and it is costing them more and more.
The government wants to increase the supply of new housing, but this plan avoids the need to deal with the underlying problem. Very few people are talking about the demand side of the housing problem, but I am going to. As a community, we do have the ability to reduce demand by slowing the rate of immigration into this country, and this is something I have advocated for a long time. A reduction in the number of migrants, together with changes in the ability of foreign investors to buy residential housing, would make a genuine difference to the lives of so many who would dearly love to buy a new or existing home.
The present rate of immigration is too high, at 190,000 annually. The figure should be reduced to around 100,000 until we can rebalance housing, jobs and infrastructure. We cannot provide sufficient quality housing at a price ordinary people can afford. This is evidenced in the alarming increase of homeless people on the streets and the number of families and children sleeping in cars in hospital car parks or where they feel safe.
The advocates of unlimited immigration through the humanitarian program or the points system show remarkably little interest in the Australians who already live here and are struggling. The Australian Greens want to open up our borders to anyone, but they always want others to pay. My suggestion to the Australian Greens is that they and their supporters take up sponsorship of the new settlers—take them into your homes, pay all their outgoings and do not burden other Australians.
The shortage of housing in Australia is a government-made problem and can be solved by government. The buck-passing between the federal government and the states needs to stop. What stops the government reducing the number of new migrants, refugees, 457 visa holders and those buying their way into this country? Their answer is: while our productivity remains low, the only way to grow the economy is to increase the size of the population. Well, they are wrong. Big businesses are the ones that will profit from this. They are the ones making money out of it, while Australians are queuing for housing, health, nursing homes and everything else that was available to them, even jobs. The federal government needs to be honest with the people of Australia and tell them the truth. The truth is that poor decision making by successive governments has led to a less productive economy than we might otherwise have had.
One Nation believes the shortage of housing for Australians would be improved by limiting foreign investors to one new property and making it illegal to sell an established home to a foreign investor. What we are advocating is that at point of sale, when you are wanting to buy an established house, you must present identification that you are a permanent resident or an Australian citizen entitled to buy an established house. You must sign on the contract, and that must match the name. That is then sent to the Foreign Investment Review Board and also sent to the immigration department. I do not believe that foreign students should be able to buy houses in Australia. They are entitled to, but a lot them do not sell the houses when they leave the country. The Australian dream is to own your own home, and I will continue my fight to give that opportunity to every Australian.
Chamber Senate on 14/06/2017 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Speaker: Hanson, Sen Pauline / Parliment of Australia Website Copyright: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/au Transcript used for Reporting News.