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Yet again, ABC refuses to discuss population ponzi - by Leith van Onselen

Unconventional Economist, Leith van Onselen again takes the ABC to task over its shocking bias in reporting and discussing the impacts of Australia's population growth. In this case he exposes the failure of political guests and the moderator on Q&A to respond to the core of an importance audience question about Australia's population ponzi and housing unaffordability. Article first published on Macrobusiness on April 13, 2017 at

I noted on Tuesday how the ABC has recently displayed shocking bias in the immigration debate.

In late March, ABC’s The Link aired a shockingly biased segment whereby presenter Stan Grant tried to bully Dick Smith on immigration, aggressively dismissing Smith’s arguments and replacing them with a whole bunch of myths and faulty logic in support of a ‘Big Australia’.

ABC Lateline then aired a half-hour segment on housing affordability, which failed to even mention mass immigration’s key role in driving up housing demand and prices in Sydney and Melbourne, despite me cutting a monologue on this exact issue for Lateline, which the ABC left on the cutting room flaw.

Earlier this month, ABC The Drum aired a shockingly biased segment spruiking benefits from immigration without acknowledging the various costs for the incumbent population, including for housing.

And over the weekend, the ABC badly misrepresented comments from former CBA CEO, Ralph Norris, who claimed that Australia’s housing woes were being caused by excessive demand from rapid population growth (immigration).

On Monday night, we got another dose of the ABC’s bias when Q&A refused to acknowledge or discuss the population ponzi following a reader’s question. Below is the transcript (video at 14.29):

Housing Ponzi:


A reversal of the two-speed economy now sees residential construction in the eastern states driving the nation’s prosperity. But some have likened the current housing boom in Sydney and Melbourne to a population Ponzi scheme, and housing affordability is a major problem. How long does the panel think that housing and population growth can continue to make up for mining and manufacturing? And is it time for a rethink of the generous tax concessions offered by negative gearing?


I’ll start with Penny Wong, because that is a specific policy of the Labor Party.


Well, I mean, we have a view, and I think, you know, a fair few people have backed it in, frankly, that you don’t have a serious housing affordability policy unless you tackle negative gearing and capital gains tax. We have some of the most generous tax incentives in the world for investors. We have a very small proportion of new owners…of housing being bought by first-home buyers. We’ve got very large numbers of proportion of investors in the market. Something’s got to give, and if we don’t tackle the tax incentives, which really don’t level… which skew the playing field towards investors, then you really don’t have a housing affordability policy. And the extraordinary thing is that we saw the Treasurer today giving a speech on housing affordability where the single biggest area which he needs to address was off the table for political reasons, not for policy reasons.


You mean negative gearing?


Negative gearing, yes. Because they want to be able to belt us about it rather than actually have a sensible discussion about the policy.


Just a very brief one. The Australian ran up the flag pole the idea that Morrison, the Treasurer, would talk in that speech about the idea of super funds for first-home buyers being able to be raided to pay for housing, or at least to give a deposit.


Well, this is the idea that Malcolm Turnbull himself has described as a thoroughly bad idea, and I agree with him, because if you’re saying to people, “Raid your retirement savings,” which is what it is, to purchase a house, it seems to me pretty bad economic policy.


OK. Mitch Fifield?


Thanks, Tony. Thanks, David. Negative gearing, ultimately, is a way of getting a tax deduction for an expense incurred in earning income. That’s what negative gearing is.


If you already own a house, to be precise.


Yeah, but that is…that’s part of our system of taxation. What we have great difficulty with is Labor presenting negative gearing as though it somehow magically solves the housing shortage and housing affordability. It wouldn’t. It’s something that people have made investment decisions based upon, so you don’t want to go changing these things lightly. Overwhelmingly, the single greatest contributor to the housing affordability issue is land supply, is a lack of land in the right places, is zoning restrictions that make it difficult to develop, is red tape that makes it difficult for housing estates. And also, importantly, having infrastructure, like transport in the right places. That’s… Those things together probably make the greatest contribution.


Mitch, I’ll come back to you. I will come back to you.


One point….


I will come back to you, but make your quick point.


Just a quick point. Ultimately, this is a shared endeavour between federal, state and local governments, which is why the Treasurer has indicated that, in the Budget, we will have measures where the Commonwealth can make a contribution to doing something about this issue.


Two very quick points. One, Mitch talks about retrospectivity. Our policy was no retrospectivity, so existing assets would be continued to be treated the same. What we wanted to do was restrict negative gearing to new housing to try and pull on supply. But the second point, the Government never answers – why should somebody buying their seventh house have a better…have more tax incentives than someone buying their first?



I’ll let you respond to this question, you obviously want to, and then I’ll go to…


I just feel like this is one of the great political tragedies, housing affordability, of this generation. As a mother of four kids, I just despair that my children will ever be able to live in the same city as me. But then what I’m also noticing around me, in terms of my peers in their 40s, 50s, 60s, there a lot of people around me who are still renting, who have never been able to make that leap into the great Australian dream of owning their own plot or block, whatever it is. And I just think that’s so sad. We’re facing worlds of retrenchment, of jobs that aren’t secure anymore, of situations where pension funds… You know, we don’t have the super to pay into our pension funds. I just feel like this is a huge ticking time bomb and we don’t only need to talk about the younger generation, it’s the older generation as well, heading into their pension years and still renting.


I’ll come to you, I will, I just want to… The Great Britain has had a similar experience.


The Great Britain.


Yeah. We do, we do have.


The Great Britain, or Great Britain. I mean, the massive price inflation of housing in London has forced a huge number of people out of the city.


It’s right across the country, really. I think the average house price now is over eight times more than the median disposable income for the average family, average median income. And this has had a considerable knock-on effect. One of the reasons why is because people who no longer can make any money on savings, or rely on a pension, are buying houses to rent to people. I don’t know if they’re the second homes you’re talking about. Are they being bought to rent out or are they being bought to live in?


Mostly by investors to rent.


Yeah. We call it buy-to-rent. It’s the same sort of thing. And obviously, as a renter, you do get certain tax breaks and the people that you’re…renting the houses out don’t have a great deal of protection. This has become a very big issue. And as you said, we also have the situation where many of our key workers – our teachers, our firefighters, our nurses – are having to live outside of the cities where they’re working. It’s a considerable problem. 50% of the land that gets permission to be built on isn’t built on. The amount of affordable housing that’s built on there is dwindling all the time because of the huge profits to be made in selling up-market houses. It’s a real situation. We should be building more houses. And at the moment, the local councils are not allowed to build houses. Now the Government wants housing associations – and they’re the people that replaced the councils for building affordable housing – they’re going to compel housing associations to sell their houses on the free market. It’s ridiculous.


OK, Mitch Fifield, should this not be treated as a national emergency, and would you not get credit if you did that? A government often said to have little vision, a government going down in the polls, could actually make a huge…well, impact, by doing something like that, but it never happens.


Well, to the contrary, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have indicated that housing affordability is high priority for the Government. That’s why we’re going to have a plan in the Budget. And we’ve got to look at all elements because housing availability isn’t just about home ownership, it’s about rental affordability, it’s about social housing, it’s about homelessness. You need to have a comprehensive package that addresses all of those elements, but you also need the cooperation of the state governments and local governments. As I said before, it’s a shared endeavour of all levels of government, and it’s something that we’re going to have a lot more to say about in the Budget.


OK, it’s time to move along.

As you can see, not one panelist even mentioned the central part of the question pertaining to Melbourne and Sydney housing being a “population Ponzi scheme”, nor whether it is sustainable. Nor did Tony Jones do his usual thing and bring guests back onto the key point of the question.

Hopelessly biased ABC.

By Leith van Onselen

Image icon collapsing-ponzi-scheme.jpg3.18 KB


Always getting ignored........

"What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephants coming with sunglasses on"? He didn't say anything because he didn't recognise them!

Which sums up the attitude of the Australian political parties at all levels, of all persuasions and the mainstream media when it comes to our overpopulation crisis!!

I notice this when a lot of issues are discussed. The political class doesn't have that ability to follow a particular train of thought and enquiry. It's just about moving from talking point to talking point.

Labor are beginning to push NG reform as part of their platform, so they will just use any opportunity to push their platform. The LNP the same. Nothing ever gets fixed because there is no will to even EXAMINE the problem, let alone solve it.

None have decided that attacking the ponzi is part of their brand, so I guess they figure why discuss it?

I really am beginning to think democracy just doesn't work. If the issue isn't one parties have on their program, they'll refuse to discuss it because it doesn't promote their campaign.

This article was published in 2013, but you wonder what has changed. My guess is nothing. It seems obvious that Australia's government institutions are increasingly thumbing their noses at all notion of patriotism, security, fairness and due process.

Non-existent man granted leave to buy $598,000 house
Mar 27, 2013 by Chris Vedelago

Rules governing foreign ownership of Australian real estate have been proved a farce after authorities granted a fictional person leave to buy a $598,000 Melbourne house.

It took less than one business day for the Foreign Investment Review Board to sign off on a pending purchase in Vermont South by “Chodley Wontok”, a non-existent Russian national with a non-existent Australian visa.

“You can imagine my surprise when the email showed up saying I was allowed to buy the property,” said the applicant behind the stunt, who asked for his real name to be withheld. “The system is a joke.”

The stunt has exposed a potentially serious breach in the review board’s online application system, OREN, which was introduced in 2011 and is designed to streamline the process and lower compliance costs for the government.

“I used a fake name, fake address [in Russia], fake passport number and just copied the visa subclass I needed directly off [the board’s] website,” the applicant said. “They didn’t check a single detail. It’s an utter sham. It’s a fraud.”

The applicant said he decided to test the system because he had concerns that the property market was being “gamed” to the detriment of young Australian buyers and that the review board was a “regulatory black hole”.

Under rules introduced in April 2010, temporary residents are permitted to buy existing homes in Australia but must receive prior approval from the board and sell the property before their departure. Permanent residents are exempt.

As part of the new regime, the government also announced it would create a national data-matching compliance monitoring program that would cross-reference applications and immigration and land title records in a bid to catch out cheats.

“Frankly, whatever the rules have been in the past we haven’t had a sufficiently tough compliance and checking program to ensure whatever rules we had were actually enforced,” then assistant federal treasurer Nick Sherry said.

“The compliance regime being announced today is very tough. It’s far tougher than Australia has ever had.”

The Chodley Wontok application was submitted: Read more here:

ABC currently has a listener survey running. Consider taking the opportunity to complain about their appalling bias re reporting and 'educating' on population growth. Perhaps ask them to stop promoting commercially invested people like Bernard Salt and the Property Council of Australia or State Ministers to justify population growth as if they were scientific. They need to allow ordinary people to say what they think of the problem and they need to link the on-the-ground effects of population growth to the policy, since people often fail to realise what is driving all the traffic etc.
Go to and look for the yellow “Your Space” box in the right margin.

There are two open questions near the end: "What would you like to hear more of on [whatever stations you've said you listen to]" and the next question asks what you'd like to hear less of.