Exploiting ordinary Australians with onerous housing laws
The Queensland State Government has introduced yet another bill into the Queensland Parliament raising the requirements for private rental owners and social housing operators to treat harm symptoms after an ABC Four Corners program reported retirement village operators are exploiting vulnerable residents with unfair and over-complicated contracts.
Don’t get me wrong, the Four Corners report was distressing for some of the elderly residents. But the antidote for the fear poison created in the program was referenced by the Queensland Minister for Housing in his parliamentary speech when he committed the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill to the house.
The Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Bill 2017 introduces tougher regulations for a “prescribed minimum standard” on practically every feature and function of accommodation provided as private rentals, community service housing, retirement villages and movable dwellings under the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act, Residential Services (Accreditation) Act and the Housing Act 2003.
The bill also proposes changes to the Retirement Villages Act 1999 and Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003.
The proposed “prescribed minimum standards” cross the line of what ordinary citizens and professionals in the industry consider reasonable. Standards must be established, legislated and enforced. But this isn’t what is happening.
The government, the media and membership associations party to the government’s policy agenda are letting the Queensland team down by ignoring accountability and practice of self-regulation of decency and integrity.
Instead, the spirit of goodwill, good faith and the ethics of good governance is being negotiated out of the public interest test through the social lobby group economy.
Ethics and Integrity are dirty words
The Housing amendment bill has been referred to the Public Works and Utilities Parliamentary Committee for review. The committee report is due to be released on 28th September 2017. But these regulatory measures are unworkable and potentially damaging to property investors and tenants.
Instead, the Housing amendment bill should be referred to the Integrity Committee and the new Integrity Commissioner. An urgent review is needed of the entire framework of health, housing, social and justice legislation and the organisations that are party to their development in Queensland.
Over 80 percent of citizens already feel the state is over-regulated. More regulation is unjustified and the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 is one such excess. The Queensland Community Legal Centres reported that they have had to turn away 55,000 clients each year. One must ask, what is driving the demand for more legal services?
This government is grasping for the silver bullet approach to law production and enforcement to solve housing issues that could be better managed by existing administrative processes if the integrity of the regulations and culture of government bodies would act with genuine intent and effectiveness.
Apart from the additional cost burden, this bill will add no material benefit to private housing suppliers, consumers and tenants. In fact, it is fair to say all groups are likely to be worse off because the illusion of parliamentary powers has been watered down by judicial load management, expert opinion conflict and dependency, governance outsourcing, technology ignorance and whistleblower-phobia.
In the case of the elderly in retirement villages being ripped off by unscrupulous operators in Victoria, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said, “Residents and their families have struggled to take on the unfair fees charged by retirement village operators in courts and tribunals alone. Accessing justice has simply been too expensive and complex for most.”
So if existing laws are too expensive and complex, how can additional laws make the process of seeking justice less complex and less expensive? This then begs the next question, who are the entities and people really benefiting from these “nanny state” laws?
As an indication of the un-Australian rhetoric, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Mr. Peter Dutton pointed the finger directly at the membership-based Australia Lawyers Alliance and Lawyers for Human Rights.
Industry gatekeepers are compromised
Industry advocacy groups such as the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) and Community Legal Services have been reviewing housing legislation with the government as part of the government Ministerial working parties.
The responses from these bodies to the Housing amendment bill, although professional and well-intentioned, are inadequate and a demonstration of the nepotism that has infiltrated these bodies that have become more interested in the ideology of its boards and political lobbying than looking after the interests of their members and the general public.
Conventional wisdom assumes these bodies and associated institutions are critical players in membership representation, informing governments of their policies in the interest of their constituents. This wisdom is ingrained in the culture and spirit of the housing industry. It is built on the assumption of good faith and pseudo fiduciary obligation.
Well, no such obligation applies and therefore the burden of conscience and truth have flown the coop of government and non-government executives consideration of personal risk with respect to the damage such political culture is having on the real estate and property industry.
Leading and participating in discussions and, if necessary, demanding robust, rigorous and objective consultation, debate and pragmatic consideration of feasible ideas through consultancy, collaboration, demonstration and even dissent if necessary.
These processes of fair and balanced representative democracy have been the cornerstone of good policy formation and legislative application for decades. But these bodies are letting down their constituents and the cohort of operators and property investors in the real estate, property and housing industries.
The gatekeepers of fairness and reason are allowing the foxes into the chicken coop.
Downfall of truth in media
The property investors supplying housing and accommodation in Australia and particularly Queensland have come under attack by neo-socialist agendas within governments and anti-industry lobby groups.
The lobbyist, media and opportunist political groups have been swooping on the real estate and property industry over the past few years.
Yet the real estate and property membership association representatives are not confronting the bad political and anti-property industry lobbyists head-on, letting down the property owners, agents and consumers.
Yes, they are directing opposition to the Greens for ridiculous changes to tenant rights, but when faced with the creep of extreme progressive policy into mainstream government the rhetoric is inconsistent and ambiguous.
The media, both scrupulous listing databases and biased journalism, have been pitching “fake stories” and ripping advertising and subscription costs upon ordinary Australian investors because they are “too wealthy”.
It is an absolute disgrace what the conglomerate media has caused in the distress of property owners, agents and investors in the Townsville and regional Queensland marketplace, and across the entire nation.
Hypocrisy in Action
What does representation mean when the REIQ’s submission in its press release says the Housing amendment bill will impact too heavily on costs and rigidity to property owners from the introduction of the “prescribed minimum standards”.
However in the same press release, the membership association for real estate agents suggests the same costs and overburden of getting a licensed builder to do a health and safety report and supplying copies to tenants is a less costly approach and would offer flexibility.
The cost of having a licensed builder do a report, in any case, is a significant cost to many owners. But the REIQ suggested a transparent health and safety report anyway and a copy should be given to the tenant. Instead, the cost of rectifying the non-compliant properties when they get inspected was the focus of the REIQ response.
But it was about appeasing the government and acquitting themselves from giving clear direction and advocacy to their constituents, the agents and their clients.
Somehow, the REIQ thought more flexibility for owners would be achieved when the costs of rectification of any non-compliant housing feature could be delayed. They obviously believe a delay of pain would solve the problem created by the “prescribed minimum standards” inspection and that tenants would be lenient and patient with landlords.
I can see it now. Maintenance requests streaming into the property manager or landlord’s inbox followed by a 7-day notice to remedy breach followed by a notice to leave on the grounds of “prescribed minimum standards” not compliant in accordance with health and safety builder’s report. Sure its flexibility but its also ridiculous chaos.
Of course, the landlord must rectify the non-compliance before advertising for a new tenant or the property stays vacant, loosing cashflow. Landlords would be flooding the market with sales stock, and buyers again have the upper hand in negotiations forcing the property owner to reduce the sale prices or rectify the non-conformances.
We have seen the devastating impact on homeowners and investors in the Townsville market with distressed sales occurring due to the dry up of cash flows and an equity drought caused by valuation contractions. Where were governments with compassionate regulations then? Where were the legal and industry advocacy groups and self-confessed proponents of social justice and support? They were lost in the idea of equality and discrimination by association.
It is a ridiculous scenario for property investors, especially the most vulnerable first-time investor, elderly and regional owners.
Lobbyists impact on the bottom line
The anti-everything brigade of socialists and anti-business campaigners have leveraged excessive climate change costs such as insurance, environmental sustainability assessments and the associated corrective actions onto the property and real estate industries.
Bleeding hearts have demanded new pool fencing and hard-wired fire safety installations, all of which must be certified by licensed builders or electricians.
Still, the Royal Lifesaving Society reports that backyard yard pool deaths statistics have not fallen with 44 deaths or 15% of total drowning deaths recorded, while the total drowning deaths have increased by 9 percent compared to last year. Critically, deaths of children aged between 0-4 years have increased by 4 percent to 29 deaths, which is higher than the 10-year national average.
Meanwhile, external combustible cladding certified by the building industry on residential buildings presents the greatest fire risk to the country.
The Housing Minister, The Hon. Mr de Brenni said the situation was “emblematic of a systemic failure in Australia’s building regulation system. Queensland will make sure there is comprehensive reform to the building code system, including the Australian Building Codes Board, the National Construction Code and building standards,” he reported to the Brisbane Times.
The list of negative political causes impacting on the property and real estate industry is derived from the political value-bias and the market value-extraction economy in the name of social benefit not necessarily the social good.
Encouraging Australians to invest in property and real estate is a good social policy. It also makes good economic sense in a low-interest environment, in the context of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority recent direction on interest-only loan risks.
Yet the social benefit is what drives the embedded political agenda of socialist groups, not the social good or balanced value-add that ordinary Australian investors contribute to the economy.
Why direct private and social housing investment away from hardworking Australians towards foreign investors? Could it be the desire for unfettered power and control or a simple misunderstanding of the inequality of benefits-based policy instead of a policy based on the greater good of society being pushed by socialist equality campaigners?
Free trade and globalisation have earned the praise of federal Treasury and the Reserve Bank by awarding a prize to a University of Queensland student for the 2017 best economic academic essay.
The power of lobbyists, corporate sponsors and the media scaremongering is having significant impacts on political and industry brands and the associated funding that drive its economy. It is an economy based on fear and exploitation. Powerless property investors are acceptable costs of social progress in this neo-socialist paradigm.
Talk about the negative socialist progressive policy such as the health and safety-focus “zero harm” agenda in the Housing amendment bill, and the dissenting voice gets hung and quartered in the town square. The hypocrisy of social justice in the context of free trade and globalisation is palpable, and as more people are adversely impacted, more opposition is expected to arise.
The question is, how far will the government, lobbyists connected to academia and government funding, bureaucrats and the media go to suppress free speech and spread its own propaganda in the name of free trade while pushing down wages and small business returns?
The Queensland Housing amendment bill is the Monalisa that paints the irony of free trade favouring foreign investors and the stupid regulations hog tying of ordinary Australians, especially those investors innocently caught up in the regulatory tightening of collateral from the capital city boom.
Fox in charge of the chicken coop
Greater retirement village contract flexibility, consumer advocacy groups generalising and bullying owners of private rentals accused of price gouging in capitals cities and regions, industry spruikers tearing investors lives apart in dodgy loan and construction contracts while politicians do disgraceful deals with minority political groups demanding pay dirt for preference deals at the ballot box.
Hard working property investors, and although some are tenants today and aspiring first home buyers tomorrow, are they better off under these housing policies and strategies of the State government?
Even the Queensland Treasurer has been caught lying to first home buyers about property values and misleading Townsville investors about the Queensland Investment Corporation’s (QIC) decision to buy into the retail shopping centre in Townsville at Domain Central. QIC is owned 100% by the Treasurer and Premier.
The Palaszczuk government’s neo-socialist modus operandi is corrupt and most small to medium size property investors are fed up with the paralysis of socialist governance policy.
The membership associations are inept and lazy, taking the easy road of kowtowing to preferences of supply and manoverouring for favour in the executive roundabout of privilege and the innovative sector of immoral subterfuge and legal discrimination.
The execution of unethical conduct, the active prevention of detection and its facilitation of escape has been checked all the way to the cohort membership groups charged with the pseudo fiduciary responsibility to it members.
The Housing amendment bill is the “anti-Australian and anti-real estate investor fingerprint left at the scene of the greatest theft of property equity and cash flows in regional Queensland. Social housing is essential and a plan is critical. But dismissing the strategic role that private investors and landlords play is a serious omission in the government’s policy framework.
White collar crime is increasing as is daylight robbery from the banks, politicians and now industry groups conscripted into the web of strangling small capitalist property investors while waving the white flag to multi-national corporate and foreign investment set to consign the Australian citizen to mediocrity and perpetual slavery.
The government encourages capitalist from foreign lands because their capital serves the power base of election campaigning. Look at the political donations scandal.
Although legislation is appropriate and must be rigorous, the main aim must be to ensure the entire framework of legal, governance and practice measures are fit for purpose and effective in its implementation and operation to serve the overwhelming majority. It must not disadvantage the Australian citizen, especially against foreign capital! The Housing amendment bill crosses the line of the fair and reasonable test.
Increasing regulations and the cost of compliance is tantamount to applying sanctions on our products and services. In a free trade context, its signing the death certificate of small business and private investors.
Taking a zero harm policy and unrealistic stretch target strategy like the health and safety-centric agenda of the Labor government and applying this lunacy to an industry that requires fluidity, flexibility, diversity, dynamics and inherent equality, such extreme measures squeeze out the nimble and caring Australians that supply over 60 percent of the housing market in Australia today.
What is the government’s solution? Leave Australians behind and push them off the playing field and force them to sell out. For those that put up a struggle, restrain them with draconian regulations while giving more freedom to private capital from banks through overseas investors and fund managers.
What sense is there in shutting down Australian wealth aspirations by creating rules that benefit foreign and multi-nationals? It’s not in the interests of the country and it’s certainly not in the interests of tenants, agents and landlords. With less domestic competition, the property market will be less robust not more.
Regional Australia Discrimination
While macroeconomic issues are impacting the housing and property market more broadly across Australia with the highest weightings placed on capital city matrix, regional economies like Townsville North Queensland are experiencing polar opposite conditions of affordability and security for consumers.
Growth in the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane markets is easing because the global free traders aren’t willing to pay their taxes after the federal government’s budget placed a levy on vacant properties. So they are retreating.
Also, direction of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority to mortgage suppliers have applied tougher lending terms on interest-only loans.
In the North Queensland city, the property market is in an over-supply cycle. Median rental prices are steady and favourable for consumers while property sales prices have fallen dramatically.
Yet we have a State government for the first time implementing a housing strategy in alignment with its nemesis federal liberal powerbrokers.
The Turnbull and Palaszczuk governments are normally at each other’s throats on public and economic policy, demonstrated in the energy sector and infrastructure, etc. But why has housing suddenly become bi-partisan policy? The distribution of GST revenues and conditional funding arrangements to the states is a significant factor.
An eerie silence is upon the governments around health, social and housing policy. The alignment of the left Liberal government of Malcolm Turnbull and the centre-left of the State Labor government has struck a cord. However, ordinary Australians feel they are burdened by too many regulations.
Executives and politicians get high remunerations and foreign investors get guaranteed government bonds and Saudi Arabian billionaires get government handouts, an unimpeded pathway to free wealth.
Yet when it comes to making life better for the ordinary Australian taxpayer, most of whom own at least one investment property, we have every player from governments to professional institutions advocating for more regulations to restrict the freedoms of a healthy society and limit the liability of criminals including multinational tax cheats.
Have the foxes taken over the chicken coop? You bet they have.
The Queensland State government has committed to delivering 4500 social houses, 137 of which are planned in Townsville, and another 1034 affordable homes are planned for construction over 10 years. Much of the social housing for the homeless and most vulnerable are welcomed.
But nowhere in the State government’s housing strategy has Queensland’s landlords and housing investors been acknowledged apart being bundled with the inconspicuous “private sector”.
Once again, the regions and Townsville are facing a perfect storm of federal fiscal tightening from the regulars, politicians are adding more regulatory compliance costs, scarcity economics has free trade and globalisation disadvantaging domestic capital, socialist lobbyists are stifling free market growth in mining and manufacturing, capital city growth is threatening monetary tightening with forecast interest rate increases, and industry advocacy groups are seeking more flexibility in the timing of minimum building compliance and setting up greater stress and conflict between tenants and landlords. Where are the market and regulatory flexibility for private investors?
The plastering of socialist domestic policies and the unfettered capitalist free trade paradigm has created an environment of extraordinary discrimination and inequality on regional Queensland and the all-important private investor that is more inclined to support regional areas with their capital.
The Queensland Housing Amendment bill encapsulates this discrimination and must be sanctioned as such by the Public Works and Utilities Parliamentary Committee’s report being released tomorrow.
And, TREN has more to report on the home truths of a dangerous health and social ecosystem taking the value out of our own backyard, and sweeping the bread off the table of ordinary Australians. It must stop for goodness sake!
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