Tell us we’re better off when houses are affordable
Lies, damn lies and statistics. Without denigrating the excellent, proactive work by the Herald Sun in commissioning NATSEM research showing Australian households are $23 better off per day than five years ago, this figure is a load of horse manure.
Every Australian knows it, not least Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, whose only common ground is the belief that Australians are doing it tougher than ever. Which we mostly are.
There is of course a legitimate line that many Australians delight in casting themselves as perennial battlers, even as they purchase ever bigger, flatter TVs and ever larger homes. Rampant consumerism can never be discounted in any measure of our material wellbeing. But as NATSEM’s figures show, it’s the essentials that are rising in cost, not the expendibles.
First, the good news. Sports equipment, toys, furniture, household goods, appliances, cars and clothes (especially women’s clothes) have all fallen in relative price terms over the last five years. So it’s hardly irresponsible behaviour if most of us have picked up an iContraption or two in recent times.
Wages, apparently, are also up, and taxes are down, which is why the bottom line appears so positive. Though just quietly, hands up who’s had a payrise which exceeded CPI in the last five years?
Now for the bad news. The cost of electricity is up. The cost of water is up. Restaurant and takeaway meals are both up, and who can argue that these have slipped into the realm of non-luxury goods in an age when most households have two breadwinners? Bear in mind that a takeaway BBQ chook is counted as a takeaway meal.
And while the milk price war has attracted headlines, most other food essentials, like bread, fruit and veg have risen in relative terms.
As we all know, the cost of petrol has also skyrocketed, though for some reason this is not mentioned in the report.
Then of course, there’s the biggie: housing. A recent plateauing of the housing market in most major cities is at last reflecting the great policy shame of leaders of both political persuasions - namely their inability to stop average Australians being mortgaged to the eyeballs.
Many people’s mortgage repayments now suck up 80 per cent of their monthly take home pay. That’s why households need two breadwinners. Remember when they used to say housing should cost no more than 33 per cent of your net income? That’s how the Baby Boomers had it.
So really, until someone comes along and shows that Australians with decent jobs can buy a decent house without being a rate rise away from ruin, NATSEM can throw its bloody computer models in the bottom of Lake Burley Griffin for all they’re worth, even if both Treasury and the ABS back them up, as the Herald Sun states.
Oh, and the Feds might do whatever it takes to keep a lid on property prices, like urging the states to release more land, or build more medium density dwellings, or gently nudge their “independent” friends at the RBA to reduce interest rates to the near-zero levels of most other western nations.
Because it’s not a dollar extra here or there on a loaf of bread that makes Australians feel like they’re doing it tough. It’s the price of a roof over their head.
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