Subjects; NRL, housing affordability, Record Store Day.
LUKE GRANT: Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development joins me on the line and as I say good afternoon to you Anthony of course, we do have South Sydney tonight minus Adam Reynolds. You’d be shattered wouldn’t you?
ALBANESE: I am absolutely. I think that Cody Walker has had a great couple of seasons but I’m not sure he played halfback before and in terms of at that level, and John Sutton’s playing five-eight. So he thought well, we’ll wait and see but we’ve got Damien Cook is a bit of an extra half the way that he plays as hooker so I think maybe you’ll see Farah and Cook on the field for longer than usual.
GRANT: Gee, you sound like you’re clutching at straws.
ALBANESE: Mate, I’m a Souths supporter.
GRANT: I know you are.
ALBANESE: I’ve been clutching at straws every year except for 2014 since 1971. I went out for the Doggies game last Friday and sat in the middle of The Kennel with some friends.
GRANT: What the hell did you do that to yourself for?
ALBANESE: I have some mates who are Doggies supporters. It was a pretty good game. Adam Reynolds, I assume that’s where he got hurt, when Josh Reynolds made that try-saving tackle. It was the difference in the game.
GRANT: It was indeed. Hey, let’s break down what the ALP’s doing about housing affordability. First off, can I put this to you? I saw Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access speaking about housing affordability at the Press Club a week back and he did make the point that governments really can’t do much. I’m sure you’d argue that that’s not the case. There’s no one thing you can do, is there, which is why you’ve gone with a multi-faceted approach, if you will?
ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. We’ve gone with seven proposals, each of which by themselves is not going to overnight change housing affordability, but together they will make a big difference.
One of the things is that we’re not making the changes retrospective, and we made that very clear with regard to the changes we’ve been advocating now for some time about capital gains tax and negative gearing for investment properties.
Similarly, for self-managed super funds rules for people who have made investments under the current rules. They wouldn’t be affected by any changes because we don’t support retrospectivity where people have made investments in good faith.
But there are some practical measures where the government can make a difference. I mean, for goodness sake, when you’ve got vacant properties sitting around this great city of ours, because investors basically can afford to buy a property and have it just sit there, then when we have housing affordability issues, and there’s an issue of supply, surely that’s not good enough.
With regard to foreign buyers facing placing pressure on supply, surely we can do something about that as well. The big thing that we have already announced of course is the issue of negative gearing.
I continue to hear from constituents and people who are competing investors and they simply can’t compete. Investors get a tax break that they can’t because they’re owner occupiers.
Other issues include support for social housing. It is very counterproductive, that fact that the Federal Government has cut back on its support for social housing and that of course limits supply as well. So there’s not a single solution but government can do better than just throw their hands in the air. Scott Morrison did say this would be the centre-piece of the Budget and they’re walking away from it.
GRANT: We’ll it appears like the Prime Minister has once again introduced him to a bus route and it looks like he is likely to throw him under which is unbelievable. I mean politics, just quickly, before I go back to the substance of the issue, they are hopeless; they are dead set hopeless at presenting a new idea presenting a policy, implementing something, selling something. I mean this is a golden time to be in Opposition because this mob they are hopeless aren’t they?
ALBANESE: I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They said there were excesses in the system.
GRANT: They did.
ALBANESE: They said something should happen about it and then they walked away from it. Then they raised an increase in the GST and then they walked away from it. Then they raised having state income taxes and then they walked away from it. All of these issues they keep raising it, they go out there, they raise some expectations and then they rule them out.
ALBANESE: And what we need in this country is a bit of positive policy. I got asked earlier today, someone said to me – a journalist said – well why is Labor doing this? Why aren’t you just sitting back and waiting for the Government to introduce it at the Budget. Well I think for goodness sake, someone’s got to lead and it is clear that the Government aren’t doing which is why I think we are getting some credit for it.
We are not pretending that we’ve got the magic solution that will change things overnight; we’re not suggesting that at all. But what we are suggesting is that Government has got to put their shoulder to the wheel, work with the community, work with what people are telling us. That’s what I think that Doug Cameron in particular our Shadow Housing Minister, has done – so much work on this package that we adopted as a shadow ministry a few weeks ago – and we are putting it out there.
GRANT: And the polls are giving you the typical response from many Australians. I want to get back to this crackdown on foreign investors. Now I read a piece from a year ago where one or two cities in China they realised that the price of housing was becoming an issue so what they said was if you are not a Chinese national you can buy an apartment but you can only buy it to live in it. You can’t buy it as an investment. And they even said to their own people, they made restrictions on I think you could have a house and an apartment.
So in our case, if you are not an Australian national you can just walk in here and turn up to an auction with a fistful of dollars and bid everyone into oblivion and end up with the place, and it can stay vacant as you mentioned earlier for some time.
Why the hell do we not say; listen, if you are an Australian, if you are a citizen, you can go ahead and buy. But if you are a foreigner, and you buy a place, you better be living in it. There’s an approach. What’s wrong with that?
ALBANESE: What we are saying today is that if you buy a place, if you are a foreign citizen or someone else for that matter, and you’ve got a vacant property then we will tax you for it. We will tax you for it and we will support that money being put back into social housing. We believe that that can make a substantial difference.
It’s a policy that isn’t plucked out of thin air; the Victorian Government are doing it and they have raised tens of millions of dollars already through such a measure and it is a practical measure, surely. We should make sure that we maximise the use of housing that is there.
I find it abhorrent that at a time when we have so many people looking for appropriate housing to live in, that you have, and many of these properties are vacant of course in newly developed areas, they are new developments in the inner rings of suburbs where people would love to be able to live there and at the moment that isn’t the case.
We’re not anti-foreign investment, full stop. I think that would be going too far. But a vacant property tax is being used in Victoria right now. It’s been used in Canada and it is something that is a bit of a common sense solution. We want to work with the states and territories in a co-operative way.
We recognise that states and territories are critical in terms of delivering social and community housing and we want to work together in the national interest. That is what we are doing today in putting up this constructive solution.
If the Government comes on board with some of these ideas then you beauty. And the idea that somehow because Labor puts up an idea it can’t be adopted by the Government, I actually think they would get credit if they said well that’s a good idea, we’re going to do it.
GRANT: Yep. I think you are right. Will this cost the Budget? I’m not trying to trick you but in terms of the impact on the Budget, already in a hell of a mess – much of it the current Government’s doing I might add. But in terms of the impact of the Budget, will this end up costing the Budget? Every time three has been a significant policy put forward by Mr Shorten or others there’s been a quick by the way this won’t cost anything because we’ve got a saving here, a saving there. What about this?
ALBANESE: Well some of the measures of course, in terms of Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing measures, they’ll produce more revenue to the Government. In terms of this vacant property tax we believe that will produce revenue in this term to the state governments that can then be used for public housing investment.
With regard to the foreign buyers that won’t cost revenue to the government. These measures are common sense measures. With regard to the self-managed super changes that are being made in the future, that certainly won’t hurt the Budget either. So in terms of the measures that we are putting forward, they are responsible measures. They are not retrospective and they hopefully will be the sort of ideas that should be taken up frankly by the Government when it has its Budget next month.
GRANT: Now let’s get down to the important issue which is world Record Store Day. I remember going to, I think the place was called Spinner Disc at Bondi Junction, and at the front they had all their 45s and they had a number in front of them as to where they were in the charts, and there was this little section for predicted hits, that were a bit cheaper. It used to be a great thing the record store but is it now a thing of the past, or are there still good stores out there?
ALBANESE: Well it’s coming back, and that’s what tomorrow is about really, a celebration. It is the 10th international Record Store Day, and I guess a bit more than 10 years ago people would have been sitting around and predicting the demise of record stores, thinking that people would get their music by downloading individual tracks off their computer and that would be it.
But people, we are social beings, people want to go into their local record store, they want to pick up the album, read the liner note, see who wrote the song, read the lyrics and engage as well, just like people engage at local coffee shops or the pub.
A local record store, I was just down at RPM Records in Marrickville, in my electorate. People were gathered there in anticipation of tomorrow. They were talking about what bands they’ve seen, the first time they heard a particular album or a particular song.
It stands for records, posters and memorabilia and they were talking about all of that and engaging in a way, because part of our memories as human beings is cultural activities; when we first heard a record, when we first read a book, when we first followed out footy team, it’s all about our sense of belonging and who we are, and that’s why tomorrow will be a really good day.
I will be at The Record Store in Darlinghurst, at 11 o’clock tomorrow, but right around the country in more than 180 indie record stores there will be bands playing, there will be DJs, there will be special releases.
Elton John has a special release, as have a number of other artists, and it is just a chance for us to celebrate that these institutions have indeed survived and that there are more opening now than there are closing, which is a very good thing.
GRANT: I’m hearing the country’s most popular Labor politician, I said that deliberately, turning into almost a modern day Molly Meldrum. This is inspiring.
ALBANESE: Well, it is a good bit of fun.
GRANT: It is. That’s what it is.
ALBANESE: When I was at school and first at uni, I used to go to a place called Phantom Records in Pitt St and bands like the Sunnyboys, and Flaming Hands, and The Cockroaches, who became a little band called The Wiggles.
GRANT: The Wiggles, that’s right.
ALBANESE: Later on. That was where they got their first break, and that’s where you heard them for the first time, and I think the Australian cultural experience, where people think about what it means to be an Aussie as well. I saw Midnight Oil play last Thursday at Selina’s at Coogee Bay.
GRANT: Oh fair dinkum.
ALBANESE: I didn’t feel old because everyone was my age and the bands of course were all older. It was a fantastic experience and they of course sang, including an instrumental, Wedding Cake Island, the little island off Coogee Beach, and they sang about what it was like to be an Australian, as did so many bands, so I think tomorrow is important and it is also a bit of fun.
But also these are small businesses. Your local record store isn’t run by people who make a lot of money. Chances are they are musos, or ex-musos who just really like the business. They do it out of the love for it. Walk in and engage with them and it’s a great thing right around the country. Billy Bragg is playing a gig at a record store in Melbourne, tomorrow there will be DJs and there is a band playing across the road from The Record Store, Posse, and it will be a good bit of fun.
GRANT: Good stuff, good stuff. And very quickly, did a former colleague on stage at the Midnight Oil gig say g’day?
ALBANESE: I texted him, Peter Garrett of course, on Friday, well I texted him very late Thursday night when it finished in the early hours of the morning and said it was a great gig, and he did text me back to say yeah, two and a half hours – what were we thinking?
ALBANESE: But we were all young again for a very short period of time.
GRANT: So true, thank you so much for your time. Great to talk to you again
ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Luke.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.