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Housing affordability ‘one of the biggest policy issues’: Dutton

The rising cost of housing in Australia is “one of the biggest policy issues we need to get right,” the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton has said.

Speaking at the COSBOA Summit in Sydney on Wednesday (3 April), the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton MP highlighted that the cost of housing was a key issue impacting Australians.

During a Q&A session following his keynote speech at the COSBOA National Small Business Summit at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, Dutton revealed that the rising cost of housing was, however, a double-edged sword.

He told the 200 delegates that he had worked part-time after school in a butcher’s shop and “saved like crazy” when he was a child, which meant he could buy his first house when he was “19 or 20”.


He added: “It kills me today that the same kid in that circumstance would have no prospect of buying a house in this modern market and it’s one of the biggest policy issues we need to get right,” later stating that the government’s policies and inability to bring online more supply were making housing prices worse.

Dutton noted, however, that rising prices were bolstering many small businesses navigating the high-cost environment.

Noting the level of insolvencies was at a record high (approximately 1,000 businesses close every day in Australia, according to the ABS), Dutton said: “Certainly, I think there’s a story behind each of those business failures, it’s not just a statistic that the ABS puts out. There are people that in many cases will have their home as security with the bank and, probably, rising prices in the modern market has saved some of those people from being sold up more quickly.”

However, he added that too many people had “lost their dream” and gone through a “life-changing event” of insolvency, particularly noting the issues facing the construction industry.

In his keynote speech, Dutton said: “Right now, the main priorities for government should be to get inflation down. Inflation is running at 3.9 per cent – well above the 2–3 per cent target range – and it’s sticky.

“Our core inflation is higher than most other comparable economies in the world and, as the Reserve Bank Governor has pointed out, Australia’s inflation is homegrown.

“So many small businesses are struggling because inflation is causing every input cost to soar. Be it their raw materials, their rents, wages, utilities and equipment. Prices have increased by 8.3 per cent under this government’s watch,” suggesting that the Labor government’s two previous budgets have “been characterised by inflationary spending”.

“The Reserve Bank has not lowered interest rates once through this term, as we know … The Government has lacked the fiscal discipline to ease inflationary pressures. How could the Reserve Bank be expected to reduce rates in that environment?”

Dutton later told delegates that a Coalition government would instead look to adopt a “back-to-basics economic agenda”; would “rein in inflationary spending”; “have a policy for lower, simpler and fairer taxes”; and would look to “remove regulatory roadblocks” and “wipe out excessive government intervention, which is holding back our economy”.

He suggested that the key factor to supporting small businesses was through “the reduction of regulation and the compliance cost”; removal of the duplication and complexity in laws that cross Commonwealth, state, and local governments; and easing inflationary costs.

“Small businesses are the engine room of our economy, the lifeblood of our communities and the entrepreneurial spirit of our nation,” he said, professing that the “Albanese Government was pursuing an agenda which is hurting everyday Australian families and businesses, harming our economy and hindering long-term national interests.”

To support the Coalition’s small business and home ownership agenda, Dutton recently appointed a new shadow assistant treasurer and shadow minister for financial services who had previously run a family business (Luke Howarth MP) and named senator Andrew Bragg as the new shadow assistant minister for home ownership.

[Related: New shadow assistant treasurer and financial services minister announced]

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