News: Houses of Parliament: Politicians own an estimated $370m of property

Published in the SMH, 22 April 2017

Talk about skin in the game: Australia's 225 federal politicians have $370 million tied up in the property market.

And that's a conservative estimate based on the assumption that each of their 561 declared properties is worth the average Australian dwelling price of $656,800.

These 561 properties include primary and secondary homes, investment properties, holiday homes, commercial buildings and vacant undeveloped land owned by the MPs and their spouses. They also include a handful overseas.

Some - homes in remote areas, small holiday homes, modest units in Canberra - are likely to be worth a bit less. But a majority of MP's homes and investment properties are located in major capital cities, scores of them in the overheated Sydney and Melbourne markets and likely to fetch seven figures. Or in the case of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Point Piper mansion, eight figures.

Then there are those properties we don't know about: concealed through companies, trusts and self-managed super funds. Or kept out of the public gaze through the clever use of parliamentary rules. More on those later.

So let's say the true figure is somewhere between $370 million and $500 million - yes, half a billion dollars.

If politicians owned $370 million worth of shares in fossil fuel companies, no one would trust them to make sensible or impartial decisions on environmental or renewable energy policy. So on housing affordability - the great barbecue stopper of modern times - it makes sense to keep your expectations very low indeed.

Of course, politicians should, like all of us, be allowed to own and invest in property. But an exhaustive analysis by Fairfax Media of every federal MP's most recent pecuniary interest register (except for new senators Lucy Gichuhi and Peter Georgiou, who haven't completed theirs yet) highlights just how far removed they are from the experience of everyday Australian home buyers.

Read the full story here

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