There’s no doubting News Corp’s Simon Benson is excellent at writing up a drop from within the Liberal Party. These days at the Oz, Benson might have been miffed that Scott Morrison’s speech today on social housing wasn’t given exclusively to him — Fairfax journalists got it as well, as part of that tiresome habit of politicians these days to deliver their speeches via the morning papers. But Benson was excited about something bigger: a “broader housing package” that the government was working on that would be “cradle to the grave” and “the most comprehensive intervention by a federal government into the life cycle of home ownership”. While we wonder if “cradle to the grave” means the government will be ordering cemeteries turned into housing, what Benson described actually looked more like a set of half-arsed measures resulting from a “round up the usual suspects” call to the public service (the presence of the hoary old “encourage migrants to go to the regions” idea shows that). But things went awry when Benson was given a separate column to do some policy analysis. First, he constructed a bizarre straw man that some unidentified critics thought the federal government was being politically unwise to address housing — “on the ­surface to be an act of political ­insanity” — when, um, everyone in the country is crying out for it.

Benson then goes on to claim that the whole housing problem is one of too much regulation. Nowhere, of course, does he acknowledge what RBA governor Philip Lowe repeated last week, that taxation arrangements are a major part of the problem, or even that Morrison himself referred to the “excesses” of negative gearing last year, or the now widespread view even within the property sector that the capital gains tax concession, and maybe negative gearing, have to change. Benson also reckons people should be allowed to use their super to buy property instead of “being ripped off by union-run super funds”. Unions don’t run super funds — they’re jointly run by unions and employer groups. And it’s the big bank-owned retail funds that rip people off via high fees and poorer performance. And funny he didn’t mention that even Mathias Cormann thinks allowing super to be used for housing will lead to the obvious consequence: higher house prices. Our advice to Simon the Stenographer — stick to what you’re good at, writing up drops, and leave policy to grown-ups.

Peter Fray

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