Tax Inquiries or Comedians?

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The enews of Prosper & Earthsharing Australia
January  2016

NSW Privatisation of Land & Property Information

Concern is mounting over New South Wales Premier Mike Baird’s desire to privatise the New South Wales Land and Property Information services. He is aiming for a multi-million dollar sale to support the building of sport stadiums. This is ironic as in the past there have been discussions to use value capture for such financing.

However now Baird seems to be heading in the other direction just as the role of big data offers so much potential for the public interest in terms of the geospatial analysis that groups like AURIN engage in. We need more transparency on property transactions at a cheaper cost. Instead, privatisation will deliver an added burden to those seeking to defend the public interest. In saying that, we must note the NSW government has delivered on an election pledge to make residential sales history free to the public.

Despite this, many public interest groups have aired their concern, including the Public Services Association of NSW:

“Currently, the Government provides insurance and security of property titles. But if LPI is sold to a private operator, individual owners may have to take out insurance to guard against unscrupulous property developers acquiring their land.”

The PSA lists a handy 13 shortfalls for any such privatisation. This policy perjogative is obviously an international trend with the UK narrowly avoiding the privatisation of its property titles office recently. However, the trend is sweeping though Canada’s states. It was also floated as an election-eve policy by the outgoing Liberal government here in Victoria (2014).

David Collyer wrote a prominent blog piece on the topic:

Accurately registering who owns which parcel of land matters – for individual financial security, for borrowing, even for finding the owners of lost dogs. Under our Torrens title system, government guarantees title against fraud and abuse without limitation.

This is a key reason why it is a core government function: “Each state and territory has a central register of all land in the state which shows the owner of the land. The land title is the official record.”

Comedian Cut Through

The eighth Speculative Vacancies report prior to Christmas led to significant media interest. Comedian Friendly Jordie offered to make a video promoting the the fact that 82,724 properties were found to be empty in Melbourne, with vacancy rates up 28%. His Youtube clip was launched on December 23 and now has over 130,000 views across multiple platforms. Make sure you watch and share with your friends, it’s quite a laugh. Be warned – this is a radical tangent to past outreach approaches, but the difficult-to-reach Gen Y must understand this story. With decades of tax inquiries supporting our work, but the average punter preferring to believe whatever Murdoch tells them, this raises the possibility of new means to educate, to cut-through.

On the housing affordable affordability front, make sure you read EJ Craigie award winner Matt Ellis’s Real Estate Myths are being destroyed. He has a superb Real Estate Myths Cheat Sheet taking you step by step through some of the many ‘expert opinion’ standard one-liners we see on the nightly news ie ‘property prices always go up’. He then answers from a variety of perspectives.

Global economic foundations

A rocky sharemarket early in 2016 reflects the shaky foundations the global economy has built itself on: cheap money, home building (rather than value-added exports) and property speculation. With QE3 finishing 14 months ago, the effects of less easy money are filtering through a global economy weakened by land-related debts. Australia has just moved to top place in the debt-to-GDP ratios. Falling oil prices are about the only good news as sanctions against Iran are lifted.

With house prices already under downward pressure, we draw these policy options to your attention. Get ready to shout down these possible bailout policies:

  • a national first home owners grant reintroduced?
  • superannuation access for first homeowner deposits?
  • immigration increases to provide a demand filip for housing?
  • The most likely is a cut in interest rates.

Any such move will act to push land prices up. In an election year anything is possible! Bulls may be relieved to hear of the Chinese Investment Intentions for 2016 which found international real estate investment is set to more than quadruple. Rezoning tricks of the trade will no doubt be another hot item to watch for, thanks to Cameron Murray’s good work. The move away from US-dollar hegemony in international trade is surely to be another big trend for the year, as outlined by Michael Hudson.

Stay posted for a fresh new report soon. Our North Melbourne office is looking good!

Karl Fitzgerald and the office team

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