Federal election 2022: Battle lines drawn over Australian housing crisis

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Peter LawThe West Australian
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed party faithful at the Liberal Party election campaign launch in Brisbane.
Camera IconAustralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed party faithful at the Liberal Party election campaign launch in Brisbane. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Scott Morrison has set up a battle with Labor over housing affordability in the final week of the election, using the Coalition’s campaign launch to target the “aspirations” of younger voters.

Amid a negative campaign that has attacked the character of both party leaders for the past five weeks, the Prime Minister did not mention Anthony Albanese by name once in his 50-minute speech.

Instead, Mr Morrison began his address to the party faithful in Brisbane on Sunday by reinforcing his Government’s response to COVID when the nation had been “gripped by fear and uncertainty”.

“We stood on the edge of an abyss. And as we stared into it, Josh (Frydenberg) and I were confident of one fundamental truth - if we backed Australians, Australians would prevail,” he said.

His pitch for a “second term” with less than a week until polling day focused on the future as he attempted to convince voters better days are ahead - “one where fear doesn’t dominate, but aspiration”.

“I also know Australians, they’re tired of politics. It’s been an exhausting time and they’ve certainly had enough of governments telling them how to live their lives - and I agree,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the Liberal Party election campaign in Brisbane, proposing a plan to help address the difficulties young homebuyers face.
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison launched the Liberal Party election campaign in Brisbane, proposing a plan to help address the difficulties young homebuyers face. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

“Now we must focus on the choice that you are making at this election, as it will have very real consequences for you and your family.

“If re-elected, you will see me as your Prime Minister, our government and our nation hit that extra gear needed to secure our nation’s future for those better days. To make things truly better, to step beyond where we are today and put this pandemic behind us.”

An announcement that a re-elected Coalition government would allow first-home buyers to use a portion of superannuation towards a deposit sets up a contest of ideas over housing.

The election promise was welcomed by the property sector but criticised by super industry groups that warned it would deplete retirement funds and drive-up house prices.

Under the Super Home Buyer Scheme, an individual could invest up to 40 per cent of their superannuation balance, up to a maximum of $50,000, towards buying their first home. Couples could access up to $100,000.

Eligibility would be restricted to first homebuyers who must have separately saved five per cent of the deposit, but there would be no income or property caps. The scheme would start by July 2023.

The scheme would apply to new and existing homes, with the invested amount to be returned to superannuation funds when the house is sold, including a share of any capital gain.

“This will be a game-changer for thousands of Australian families who sit and look at that money on their balance and go, ‘If only I had that to help me now’,” Mr Morrison said.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attended the Liberal Party election campaign launch in Brisbane.
Camera IconFormer Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attended the Liberal Party election campaign launch in Brisbane. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Real Estate Institute of WA president Damian Collins said the scheme struck the right balance in helping people save for a home and banking retirement savings .

“While it will add to demand, we don’t anticipate it will impact prices significantly as WA is the most affordable market in the country of any major capital city,” he said.

Industry Super Australia said its analysis suggested the scheme could increase the Perth median house price by 14 per cent.

“Super is meant to be for people’s retirement, not supercharging house prices and pushing the home ownership dream further away,” ISA chief executive Bernie Dean said.

Labor, which used its launch in Perth two weeks ago to unveil a shared equity Help to Buy scheme for up to 10,000 households a year, indicated it would oppose the Liberal policy.

“They want you to solve the problem, your savings to solve the problem, not for them to help you or any ordinary Australians to buy their own home. And it’s a disgrace,” said WA-based Labor MP Madeleine King.

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