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Policies

 

Housing

 

The housing crisis needs to be tackled from the top down. House prices need to fall, housing exploitation needs to end - and the right policies can achieve both of these things. House prices are over 30% above the historic average in Australia (relative to earnings), and we should aim to lower them by 30% in high stress areas like greater Hobart. This does not have to happen in a single year, falls of around 8% a year would not be inappropriate.

 

The focus on bandaid measures at the bottom end of the market is only a recipe for continued housing stress, keeping people on the edge of ruin and creating a massive bureaucratic and charity burden. The free market approach to housing urgently needs to come to an end, which means the introduction of heavy regulations.

 

The housing crisis at the top end can be tackled by three major policies

 

1) Impose a massive stamp duty on existing home purchases by investor buyers, such as a 100% rate. The aim of this is to tax investors out of the market. If they still buy, the stamp duty can be used to build additional public housing. With investors out of the market, one of the biggest drivers of house price inflation will be removed.

 

2) Put a cap on rents. There is no doubt that gross price gouging is taking place, with landlords capitalising on the housing crisis by increasing rents by unjustified amounts. It needs to come to an end by imposition of a cap on rents at existing levels. The problem is so bad in some areas, that legislation to force rents down by about 25% in parts of Tasmania should be considered too.

 

3) Abandon the race to massively increase Tasmania's population. While immigration rates are a federal matter, the Tasmanian government is taking credit for Tasmania's rising population. The state government is directly encouraging mainlanders to move here, as many as possible, with a shockingly high population target of 650 000 by 2050. This is utter madness, pure neoliberalism, and the madness needs to come to an end. The state government should also lobby Canberra for an immigration cut in the 10s of percent, to further lessen the demand for housing nationally. This does not mean a cut to refugee intake.

 

At the acute, immediate, end of the problem there is FAR more Tasmania can do. We should:

 

1) Build, in a rapid timescale, cabin/caravan park style accomodation centers to house the homeless and soon-to-be homeless. If South Australia and Tesla can build a state of the art battery plant in months, initiated by a single tweet, then surely Tasmania can build basic cabins as a response to acute homelessness. If necessary sports grounds can be repurposed for this role.

 

2) Ban entire home holiday-rentals.This will immediately make thousands of houses across the state available to put on the market for locals to inhabit. Exceptions could be made for low-stress areas, but we should not err on the side of under-reaction. It's patently ridiculous that neither the government, nor the opposition took this to the 2018 election as an urgent policy

 

3) At the council level, scrap laws that prevent people from living in caravan's on their own land without an expensive permit.

 

 

Owner-builder red tape.

 

The red-tape for owner builders is immense, and needs to be seriously addressed. This will be a long and painful task but we have to start. We need to allow people to take responsibity for themselves and their own structures, especially in country areas, so long as they are not hurting anyone else in the process. While its possible some mistakes will be made, overall it's better than being homeless.

 

1 Review and cut red tape that complicates and delays basic construction of granny flats/tiny homes or basic single storey house extensions. This is a complicated exercise due to different tiers of government and residential zones. Examples of requirements that should be considered for scrapping include:

  • requirement to hire a qualified designer for basic single storey designs (this does not mean designs don't need to comply with other laws)
  • requirement for an energy efficiency review/inspection
  • requirement for full building plan for small structures in remote areas
  • requirement for licensed electrician to do trivial work
  • requirement for owner builder's to complete a course before starting work
  • requirement for soil testing report for level blocks
  • council fees for minor extension work
  • structural integrity report for minor single storey structures
  • septic tank plumbing report for remote areas

 

2) There should be a debate on abolishing local councils, at least from rural areas, or removing all development regulatory power from them.

 

Other housing policies

 

Once the above policies begin to bite, house price deflation (and rent deflation) will occur. There won't be any need for a first home buyers grant. This grant is inflationary anyway, and it also ignores the fact that some people's lives take a bad turn, and they need to start again after once owning a home in the past. The first home buyers grant essentially results in the government handing over public money to real estate investors.So, the first home buyers grant should be scrapped once other policy measures have been introduced.

 

Public housing should be, wherever possible, integrated into otherwise private housing areas. A concentration of economically stressed people into dedicated public housing suburbs has historically lead to high local crime, including arson which is the destruction of the very properties we need, and a decreased quality of life for residents. We should also learn from the other mistakes of past public housing suburbs including street layout, house design and orientation etc.

 

Housing estate development: all new housing estates must have a minimum percentage, at least 10%, of properties dedicated to public housing. The developers should bear some of the cost burden of this.

 

High and medium density housing should be developed in preferrence to urban sprawl. While high buildings are not always pretty, they are far less ugly than a housing estate spread out over a previously beautiful or fertile field. Other benefits of high density housing include lower travel times, less trafic congestion and road expenditure and higher flexibility for owners (no garden to maintain when away).

 

The development of Macquarie point should include a significant number of new homes (enough for at least 2000 people), in the form of high density housing. The site is 9.3 acres in size and high buildings in this location do not impact significantly on other residential areas, its an ideal place for some housing to be built. The idea the entire site should be dedicated to a tourism or 'cultural' purpose is a sick bourgeoisie fantasy. This is not to say that the entire area should be dedicated to housing, but some of it should be. This will give an excellent accommodation base for people who need to work in central Hobart. As outlined above, a set portion of these homes should be public housing.

 

There are opportunities for land grants in country areas, and this shouldn't be discounted, especially since there are people permanently camping in the bush to avoid high rents. This would require re-zoning of small areas of public land, and homes to be built would need to be energy and water independent. With the right plan and the right people, land grants could be a great success, and take some pressure off existing residential areas.

 

Federally, the commercial banks should be forced to apply interest rates on home loans at less than 0.5% above the federal reserve rate.

 

Both rent to buy and interest free loans provided by the government could assist low income earners, or those who may struggle to secure private credit, in owning their own home. Rent to buy and interest free loans are two sides of the same coin, with subtle differences. Rent to buy results in the gradual privatisation of otherwise public housing, but has some advantages in other areas such as the cost of construction. In some areas rent to buy should be enabled on existing properties to encourage ownership and caretaking of public housing stock where there have been historical problems. It's also already possible to buy public housing stock, but its done using private credit and therefore interest applies. Rent to buy could then be expanded into other housing stock on a selected basis, however not all public housing should be rent to buy.

 

On the other hand, interest free credit gives people more freedom in where they want to live, but also the burden of paying rates as the home is paid off. A state run credit union could be established to offer interest free loans to selected individuals for the purchase or construction of modest homes. This could be done in Tasmania, without federal government involvement. Such a scheme should be implemented only after a general correction in the property market has taken place, to avoid generating a toxic balance sheet.

 

Deposit requirement is a major problem for rent payers, who struggle to both pay rent and save for a deposit simultaneously. A solid rental history should serve as an indicator of the ability to meet a regular financial obligation. While deposit free loans should usually be avoided, to help Tasmanians escape the rental trap - a deposit free loan scheme for vetted individuals for moderate value properties only should be considered. However, it would be wise to initiate a correction of the market first.

 

Tenants, already giving away so much financially, should not also have to give up other freedoms that home owners may take for granted. Landlords should not be allowed to deny tenants the right to own pets, carry out basic modifications like establishing a garden bed, installing picture hooks or shelves, or to letting out a spare room as short stay accommodation. Prospective tenants should not be rejected because they previously did not receive a bond back. Allegations that some real estate agents are allowing rental bidding should be investigated.

 

 

Foreign Policy

 

Tasmania has opportunities to address Canberra's faults

 

Tasmania should establish an office of international law mandated to provide free and non-binding advice to Tasmanian members of the ADF. This advice will cover the legality of proposed overseas deployments being ordered or considered by Canberra. When not advising the ADF the office can work on matters of international law in relation to Tasmania or in assisting others internationally. The office would be small and consist, for example, of a senior legal expert with expertise in international law, a research assistant, and a secretary.

 

Tasmania has five members in the house of reprentatives and twelve in the senate. We need people in these positions who put pressure on Canberra to distance itself from the foreign policy of Washington and London. We also need more effort to hold to account the Howard government politicians who brought death and destruction to Iraq. We need members who put pressure on the military not to break international law, as the ADF did when it recently bombed Syria and helped ISIS in the process.

 

Australia needs to change; or the wars, refugees and gross military expenditure will never end.

 

The military aggressions of the USA show no sign of reducing, even under the Presidency of Donald Trump who promised to reduce US interventionism. Australia must evict the US intelligence services from Pine Gap, evict the thousands of US marines from Darwin and ban all NATO military from Australian shores, waters and airspace. The Australian outback must not be the training ground for the next generation of war criminals and Australian harbours should not be home to the holocaust juggernaughts that go by such names as Carl Vinson, John C Stennis and Harry S Truman. Australia must be a nation that stands for peace and independence, not war and imperialism.

 

In the region, Australia must have a compassionate policy for climate refugees from island nations. Australia should develop an accommodating policy for accepting climate refugees from small pacific nations – in consultation with those nations. New Zealand has raised the possibility of creating a special climate change refugee visa and Australia should ultimately have a similar scheme if the pacific nations themselves agree to it. The people of West Papua should have the right to self determination, which should proceed by a free and fair vote by those born in West Papua. The result should override the sham vote that was previously held in 1969.

 

The age of giving support, whether 'moral', political or material, to fascist opposition forces in countries that the US and NATO states oppose, such as we have seen recently in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, should continue no more. Attempts by the US and European states to use these fascist groups needs to be seen for what it is - a violation of the UN charter and a blatant attempt to sow death and destruction within countries that dare to be independent of Washington, Paris and London. In addition to the domestic suffering within the victim countries, these agressions and proxy wars create huge numbers of refugees and constantly threaten to drag in Australian forces.

 

 

Drugs and Prisons

 

To say that drug law reform is overdue would be a major understatement. Tasmania should legalise cannabis posession and use both recreationally and medicinally. This will prevent over 1400 arrests annually in Tasmania. There should be a debate on the merits of state versus private cannabis production.

Tasmania should legalise possession and use of other drugs. Prosecuting people for their addictions only makes it harder for them to rehabilitate. This is not an endorsement of drug use, but a change of approach from the 'war on drugs' disaster that has only brought more misery to people's lives and still failed to stop the drug problem.

The state government should direct funds, which have been saved by legalisation, towards rehabilitating drug addicts back into society rather than in arresting, prosecuting and punishing them.

Tasmania should cancel plans to build a new prison (estimated to cost over $300M) in northern Tasmania, analyse why the prison population is increasing, and seek to reduce prisoner numbers.

 

 

Energy

 

Tasmania has spectacularly failed, over the last 20 years, to not only capitalise on its enormous renewable energy potential, but even to satisfy its own modest energy needs. In other places around the world, often with less advantages than Tasmania, new energy projects have progressed in leaps and bounds.

 

 

The private market has failed miserably

 

Instead of actively developing its own energy resources, Tasmania has left it to the private market. This has lead to a painfully slow development of wind energy in the state, and to revenues from wind energy generation heading overseas. The lack of new generation in recent years lead to hundreds of millions of dollars lost from the state when the privately operated Basslink cable failed.

 

Abrogation of state responsibility for new energy generation has prevented Tasmania from achieving its energy potential. Tasmania, with assistance from Canberra, should pursue a nationalised energy generation, storage and transmission sector. Tasmania should:

 

  • Take ownership of Basslink
  • Develop and maintain ownership of new windfarms and other renewable generators
  • Maintain ownership of TasNetworks
  • Develop pumped hydro to take up excess renewable generation during high wind periods
  • Look into feasibility of electrochemical energy storage for fast raise requirements

 

A new energy export industry

 

Tasmania should aim to become a renewable energy giant, with sustained exports of 1000 MW across two interconnectors. This would create a fluorishing renewable energy industry in the state, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year, allow Victoria to reduce generation from coal and set a world leading example as to what is possible with the troika of pumped hydro, renewable generators and high power transmission capability.

 

While this may seem like a high goal, especially in a state of naysayers, we should ask ouselves what has been the goal for the recent past? There simply hasn't been one. There hasn't been a vision. And the results have been embarrassing and disastrous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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