30 October 2019

Why Andrew Barr doesn't mind being called the Mayor of Queanbeyan

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: “[Alistair Coe] can make all the assertions in the world but do a bit of fact-checking.” Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has launched a staunch defence of his Government’s tax and land policies, saying Opposition Leader Alistair Coe needs a fact-checker.

Mr Coe last week suggested Mr Barr may as well be the Mayor of Queanbeyan because the high price of land and rate rises were driving home buyers and businesses across the border.

Mr Barr said he didn’t have a problem with the region succeeding and much of his work had been with surrounding local government areas under the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.

“I’m proud of the fact that now nearly all of southern NSW, even north-east Victoria, wants to be aligned with Canberra more than Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

He said there was no evidence to support Mr Coe’s case that the ACT was losing population or that crossing the border was cheaper for households or businesses.

“He can make all the assertions in the world but do a bit of fact-checking on these specific assertions,” Mr Barr said.

He said the transaction costs of moving to NSW, whether as a household or a business were high, with rates in Googong double that of the ACT average and buyers having to fork out a “whopping great stamp duty to make that change”.

He said the ACT economy was strong, the population was growing, 3200 businesses had set up in the past four years and unemployment was the lowest in the country.

“You could accept [Mr Coe’s claims] if the population was tanking, Canberra’s economy was shrinking, the unemployment rate was incredibly high, businesses weren’t being established here,” Mr Barr said.

“The facts leave him a little barren in terms of that argument.”

Liberal Leader Alistair Coe

Liberal Leader Alistair Coe at the Press Club last week.

Mr Barr also rejected Mr Coe’s claim that there was not enough land available for single housing in the ACT, saying there were 600 blocks waiting on the shelf.

While he would not be drawn on whether the price of land was too high, Mr Barr warned the Liberals that a sharp drop in price would have economic consequences and that his Government was not about to open up land that was not suited for development, such as Kowen.

“What I won’t do is send people who have recently purchased homes into negative equity,” he said. “We can’t have a collapse in the housing market, that would be very bad for anyone who’s gone into the market in recent times. You need to be careful about the supply side.”

Mr Barr said the cost of servicing Kowen would be astronomical and it was too far from employment centres and the CBD.

The Government would continue to focus on Gungahlin, West Belconnen and Molonglo, and “what I won’t promise to do is willy nilly go and bulldoze those parts of the ACT that are just not suitable for housing”.

He ruled out development in water catchments, national parks, and in areas of ecological value.

On his Government being called vindictive and disrespectful, particularly of people who voted no in the same-sex marriage survey, Mr Barr said his team would not be distracted by name-calling, saying how the Opposition Leader wanted to campaign for next year’s poll was up to him.

He understood that people held a range of views on same-sex marriage but noted that his view aligned with the overwhelming majority of Canberrans who voted yes.

“I stand by my advocacy for a yes vote,” he said. “I would hope that over time there’s room for change for those people who did vote no, that they might in time see their concerns were proven to be unfounded.”

He praised Mr Coe for standing up for his conservative values, saying he was pleased the Opposition Leader had not contested the view that he was the most conservative leader the Canberra Liberals had ever had, and “on the spectrum of state and federal Liberal Party leaders sits out there on the right-wing”.

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It’s the Stamp Duty claim by Mr Barr that actually needs fact checking. My niece payed less in Stamp Duty for the Queanbeyan house they actually purchased, then they would have for the Narabundah house they were also interested in.

The Stamp Duty to Rates change that Mr Barr implemented hasn’t been close to his promise of revenue neutral. He’s taking money from both sides of the property fence.

michael quirk8:10 am 31 Oct 19

Mr Barr fails to acknowledge undersupplying detached blocks in the ACT reduces housing affordability in the ACT. His argument re stamp duty is a furphy as it is people currently renting who are most likely to seek cheaper land and housing in
areas such as Googong and Tralee. His policy is likely to result in overall increases in car based travel and consequent greenhouse emissions

HiddenDragon8:28 pm 30 Oct 19

“What I won’t do is send people who have recently purchased homes into negative equity,” he said. “We can’t have a collapse in the housing market, that would be very bad for anyone who’s gone into the market in recent times.”

Sounds very much like the fear argument run by the Liberals against federal Labor’s negative gearing and CGT discount proposals earlier this year.

So home prices in Canberra are sacrosanct – and this, apparently, is a “Labor” government.

By way of an interesting contrast, this excerpt from Gough Whitlam’s 1972 Policy Speech –

“We will make a massive attack on the problem of land and housing costs. The land is the basic property of the Australian people. It is the people’s land, and we will fight for the right of all Australian people to have access to it at fair prices.

We will give local government full access to the Loan Council and Grants Commission – not only because the burdens borne by taxpayers as rate-payers must be reduced, but because the inequalities between regions must be attacked by the national government acting with and through local government. Rates are Australia’s fastest growing form of taxation. Only the national government has the resources to retard the growth of this burden on Australian home-owners.”

Get with the program HD – growth/greed is good on a finite planet. The more CO2e the better, and the best way to achieve this is to import more people into the ACT. More people = more demand. More demand = higher prices. Higher prices = happy people*.

* Assumes the people in question are property owners with substantial equity.

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