10 June 2015
Transcript - #2015146, 2015

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC News Radio

MARIUS BENSON:

Joe Hockey you want to talk about policy on housing affordability, can I ask you about that because housing affordability through the policies of this government, the previous government, in fact for more than a decade, has been declining. It’s been harder and harder for first home buyers specifically. Is there any prospect of the talk resulting in an easier affordability situation for first home buyers?

TREASURER:

Well Marius we are working with the States to address the supply shortage in Australia. Fundamentally we’ve got to increase supply of housing in Australia and particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. There are other parts of Australia where there’s been excess supply, such as South-East Queensland. So, what we’ve got to do is make sure that we have the policy responses at a state level. We’re happy to help them with that. Our infrastructure spending is significantly focused on public transport through the asset recycling program, and importantly, we’ve got a state task force headed up by the Victorian State Labor Treasurer that is working on supply-side issues and we’re happy to provide all the assistance we can.

MARIUS BENSON:

With all that, can you look a first home buyer in the eye and say housing will become more affordable?

TREASURER:

Well the starting point is we’ve got to help to create more jobs and better paying jobs, and that’s exactly why we had a $5.5 billion jobs and small business package in the last Budget. We are very focused on creating more jobs and better paying jobs right across the economy, specifically in small business. If you do that, you can get more money into people’s pockets - that’s why we got rid of the carbon tax and that’s why we’re seeing the benefits of very low interest rates flow through. Then that - putting more money in people’s pockets, that act alone is going to help to provide better access. Having said that, as housing prices continue to rise, the best policy response is to increase supply and there is not enough supply at the moment in Australia, which is primarily a state issue but we are going to work with the States to address that.

MARIUS BENSON:

You created a distraction from those policy issues you just mentioned yesterday in your choice of words. You said people should, if they want to buy a house, get a good job that pays well, pays good money, and you said it’s not unaffordable even Sydney housing because if it was nobody would be buying it. Do you regret those choice of words?

TREASURER:

Look, I understand exactly where people are coming from. But we should not get caught into the trap of lending too much money to people who are unable to repay that money. That’s why APRA has macroprudential initiatives in place, and that was what brought down the financial system during the global financial crisis. The second…

MARIUS BENSON:

Can I take you from macroprudential considerations and back to the words you chose yesterday, were they ill-chosen?

TREASURER:

Well, you can play the man, everyone in politics…

MARIUS BENSON:

The man’s important, he’s the Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Well, I can say to you I absolutely understand the challenges people are facing trying to buy their first home. The best response is to increase supply of housing in Sydney and Melbourne to a lesser degree. In some other places as I said there is excess supply so this is not a uniform national issue. But the second point is, make sure that there are more opportunities for people to get a job, and to get better paying jobs. That’s exactly why we have a jobs package that helps to lift the Australian economy.

MARIUS BENSON:

You’re being pilloried in the papers this morning as a man in a five or six million dollar house, completely out of touch with an average income of maybe $75,000. Looking at in the case of Sydney prices hitting, median prices hitting $1 million. Are you out of touch?

TREASURER:

Well, again, you can play the man Marius that’s your call. From my perspective, you know, I’ve seen over the years how challenging it can be for people to get into housing. Interest rates were much higher when I bought my first home, which was a unit. They were much higher interest rates and at that time prices seemed extraordinarily high. But what we’ve got to do is help people to get into better paying jobs no matter what they’re doing. If we can help them to get into better paying jobs with more opportunities to get ahead and increase the supply of housing then that will help to address their concerns.

MARIUS BENSON:

This remark yesterday is being tied by many people to previous remarks by you when you said poor people don’t drive cars or they don’t drive far, so they’re not affected by fuel tax increases. After those remarks you apologised, should you apologise after yesterday’s remarks? Will you apologise?

TREASURER:

Well, again Marius you’re playing the man…

MARIUS BENSON:

I’m talking to the man. We’ve talked policy as well, we’ve talked policy…

TREASURER:

Well Marius, you can play whatever Labor Party, Greens games…

MARIUS BENSON:

The Treasurer’s choice of words are very important and previously you apologised for your choice of words, will you on this occasion?

TREASURER:

I’d just say to you Marius, it is an old Labor tactic to play the motivation card. Right, that’s what they do, the Labor Party and the Greens play that motivation card, but particularly the Labor Party. I am interested in policy outcomes that improve the quality of life for everyday Australians and that’s why we have a Budget that’s focused on jobs, on small business, on innovation. When it comes to housing, increase the supply but importantly, if people have more money in their pockets they’ve got greater opportunity to get into their first home.

MARIUS BENSON:

Joe Hockey, thank you very much.

TREASURER:

Thanks Marius.