I am not sure federal Treasurer Joe Hockey really thought through his “get a good job that pays well” solution to the Sydney housing crisis. After all, as our treasurer teaches us in his Book of Joe, the poor don't drive, so how are they going to get to the job interviews?
By the bus, maybe? Has Hockey ever tried using a Sydney bus to get anywhere on time? Sydney's bus timetable can be so random it makes a Barnaby Joyce press conference sound coherent.
Hockey makes Marie Antoinette's alleged “Let them eat cake” response to French peasants without bread seem almost sensitive and in touch with people's needs. After all, it was probably easier for a starving peasant in 18th century France to find cake than for a low-income worker in Sydney to find an affordable home.
Other government members defended Hockey on grounds he spoke the truth. And he did. You need a high-paying job to buy a home in Sydney.
But what if your job doesn't pay well enough? Like, say if you are a nurse or a teacher, or maybe even a cleaner like the underpaid Parliament House cleaners striking on June 15 for $1.80 more an hour to reach a grand total of $22.90 an hour for the task of cleaning up Hockey and his colleagues’ crap each week?
Hockey failed to point to any oasis of better paid jobs amid growing unemployment.
Or should such people stay and fight for better wages, like the Parliament House cleaners, or the public servants who have begun a wave of strikes?
But the government is actively seeking to restrain wages, slash penalty rates, cut the minimum wage and weaken unions.
Just be rich
No answers, there is just the bald statement: if you want a home, then be rich. You know, like Hockey, who nonetheless claimed on ABC Radio: “I've seen over the years how challenging it can be for people to get into housing”.
He didn't say when, but perhaps he meant the challenge he and his wife, former investment banker Melissa Babbage, faced when they bought their house on Sydney's north shore that's now worth $5.4 million.
Or maybe it was when they bought the holiday home in his wife's name on the NSW south coast. Or maybe Hockey saw how tough the battlers were doing it, property-wise, when they sold off 40 hectares of their Queensland cattle station last year, with the remainder now on sale for $1.5 million.
It certainly can't be Hockey's experience of renting in Canberra, because the tab for the $270-a-night rent paid to stay in a house he and his wife own near Parliament House is paid for by the taxpayer.
You might think someone involved in this well-publicised rort might want to avoid lectures that amount to shouting: “You useless peasants! How dare you even think about owning a home unless you are willing to get off your arse and become an investment banker and/or a government cabinet member whose rent paid to himself is paid for by you!”
But no. These bastards seem to love rubbing their privilege over our faces while uttering smug, condescending rubbish as though the problem is we are just too plain thick to grasp the inherent brilliance of their system.
This is a system that says housing – widely considered a human right – should be left to the mercy of rich investors, encouraged by negative gearing laws, so as to speculate and profiteer, driving up prices.
This affects more than potential home buyers. With fewer people able to buy, the demand for rental properties keeps growing, driving up rents and increasing the risk of homelessness.
It is now so bad that a Sydney Morning Herald study found there were only five suburbs in Sydney – or 0.1% of Sydney’s suburbs - where a minimum wage worker could afford to live.
Whether prices are out of control depends on who you ask. For instance, Reserve Bank boss Glenn Stevens called Sydney's house prices “crazy”, but ANC chief executive Mike Smith “doesn’t believe Sydney is in bubble territory yet”.
It is strange, isn't it. Those at the centre of every speculation bubble, those dragging in huge profits on the basis of over-inflated prices, always insist there is no bubble – right up until the thing explodes and crashes down over the rest of us, who are then expected to pick up the pieces lest some “too big to fail” institution topples on us too.
“Not in bubble territory yet.” Presumably, if Mike Smith's home ever catches fire, he'll just walk around as the flames climb higher and walls start collapsing, loudly declaring: “Is it just me or it getting a bit warm in here? Honestly, any hotter and I might actually have to take off this heavy overcoat!”
His justification was revealing: “I was speaking to an investor the other day who was saying: ‘Oh, house prices are getting higher in Sydney, but compared to Hong Kong and compared to New York, Sydney’s quite good value’.”
Oh well fine then! Neither you nor anyone you know can afford a home, but some big investor thinks Sydney property prices are still a pretty decent deal, compared to other markets, for them to speculate in.
That's the key thing when you think of housing. Not “how can we have guaranteed decent housing”, but what does some rich prick in an overpriced suit out for a quick buck think.
The government's defence of Hockey's “get a good job” comment was arguably even worse than the comment itself – starting with Hockey, who defended himself by insisting Sydney housing must be affordable because there are people buying it. Yes, Joe, rich bastards like you!
But even Hockey struggled to top the master at the idiotically offensive. Prime Minister Tony Abbott not only claimed to have struggled with mortgage stress himself while on a six-figure ministerial salary (the heart bleeds), but pointed to the fact his daughter bought a property in Canberra as proof young people could buy homes.
Leaving aside allegations Louise Abbott only got her plum foreign affairs job due to her political connections, news.com.au explained she “appears to have benefited from a Canberra housing market wilting after widespread public service job cuts”.
It would be ridiculous to suggest Abbott sacked thousands of public servants to let his daughter buy a house – our prime minister has never needed an excuse to screw workers – but it does prove that it can't be said Abbott has done nothing to lower housing prices.
So don't fear Sydney – sooner or later the government's relentless war on our living standards must cause the bubble to burst and prices to drop, even if we'll be too poor to notice.