The Coalition government is being pushed by real estate agents to create a ‘property services’ role in the cabinet ministry. The aim is to draw the multi-billion dollar property and property development industry under more direct government supervision.
The proposal, issued in a submission from REIA (Real Estate Institute of Australia), has been heavily scrutinised by critics who cited there was not a clear benefit for Australians.
This scheme would create a new position at the federal or even state level that would manage all policy issues surrounding property. This would include issues of taxation, law, property affordability and the supervision of real estate agents.
In the current Australian law, real estate agents are governed by fair trading legislation. Other issues relating to property are spread out amongst different arms of the government.
Malcolm Gunning, the REIA president, said to the media that bringing policy relating to property under one umbrella would be “better” for Australians. He went on to say that it was important not to look at property issues “in isolation” but to keep policy collected in one place.
Mr Gunning stated that property and real estate should be given the “importance and administration” that it needs.
The submission made by REIA acknowledged that property was one of the biggest sectors in Australia’s economy and was a significant driver for economic growth following the end of the mining boom.
The submission said that the property sector would remain a “major source of employment and investment” for several decades.
Professor at the UTS Institute of Public Policy and Governance, Alan Morris, was doubtful about who the dedicated minister for property would be serving. He suggested that a property minister would potentially only serve the interests of the real estate industry and not necessarily the best interests of Australians.
Despite his doubts, Morris admitted that there was room for a housing minister in the Australian government, citing that countries like the UK, USA and New Zealand had housing or urban development positions.
Morris said that it was a “real failing of government” that the issues of housing affordability in Australia have not been properly addressed.
Gunning proposed that the REIA submission provided a solution that would fill the gap in government and that there had been discussions with National Shelter, an advocacy group for Australian housing.
The executive officer for National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski confirmed that there had been talks with REIA and that they had agreed that there needed to be some form of housing minister.
Australia has not had a federal portfolio for housing since 2013 when the position was merged with the Department of Social Services.