ANDREW CARSWELL: Jim Chalmers finally admits lowering migration would help Aussies enter the housing market

Andrew Carswell
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Treasurer Jim Chalmers speaks to David Speers on Insiders.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers speaks to David Speers on Insiders. Credit: ABC Insiders

You could actually see the very moment that Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ carefully crafted warm persona finally cracked.

That sharp little moment, under the glare of the TV studio lights, when the self-assured smirk suddenly became strained.

It was by about, say, the 12th question posed to him in the Treasurer’s traditional post-Budget Sunday interview on ABC’s politico talkfest, Insiders.

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The twelfth straight question about something not only completely unrelated to his Federal Budget and the various goodies he was spraying around the country that would make a drunken sailor blush. But about something Opposition Leader Peter Dutton mentioned a few days later when few people were looking.

So here was the Treasurer, dressed in his Sunday best, ready for his all-important Budget sell job, only to be usurped by a lowly Opposition Leader.

Instead of raving about the measures in his Budget, detailing the benefits of his cost-of-living policies or talking up his plan to build more stuff in Australia, he was forced to talk about Dutton’s grand vision for the country, not Jim’s utopian dream.

Forced to repeatedly defend the indefensibility of the Government’s record high migration intake during what is a national housing crisis. Not his own Budget agenda.

And finally, in full squirm mode, the Treasurer was forced to admit what most would see as the bleeding obvious, that lowering migration would actually help more Australians buy a home. Not that the Treasurer would admit we were in a housing “crisis”. Merely just a housing “situation”.

Storylines done for another day, once again, points are awarded to Dutton.

When Dutton stood at the despatch box last Thursday night, to give his third budget-in-reply speech as Opposition Leader, media commentators weren’t expecting much in the way of content.

Traditionally, budget-in-reply speeches are mere farts in the wind; a brief moment to throw a few punches at the government, trial run a few political lines from your focus groups, and maybe drop out one or two policy ideas to show people you stand for something.

By the following morning, the world has moved on. Or didn’t care in the first place.

But this one was different. Dutton tapped into something deep and fermenting within the Australian mood; something that had been threatening to escape from the confines of political correctness for years.

Dutton’s promise to the Australian people was simple: he would bring down migration to a more sustainable level, in order to free up more housing for Australians either battling to get into their first home or living in tents, cars or under bridges because social housing is jammed and cheap rents are fully booked.

No dog whistling. No racial undertones. Just a simple proposition: how is it possible for Australia to address its severe housing crisis when migration rates are at dizzying heights? When a million people come in, at a time when only 250,000 houses are built?

Dutton’s plan dominated the media cycle for days. It consigned Labor’s Federal Budget to the sidelines, instantly overlooked by something that actually resonated with the general public, that scratched where everyone was itching but were perhaps too careful to openly articulate, lest the woke police move in, batons at the ready. You have to be careful talking common sense these days. It is frowned upon by some elites.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 15: Opposition Leader Peter Dutton arrives and walks behind Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese during post budget media interviews at Parliament House on May 15, 2024 in Canberra, Australia. Australia's Labor government is grappling with a slowing economy, weaker commodity prices, soaring housing costs and a softening labor market. It unveiled its federal budget on May 14. The budget is seen as a key opportunity for the Labor government to deliver broad economic support that analysts say is fundamental to re-election chances next year. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Credit: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

This is fundamentally dangerous territory for the Albanese Government, on both the policy and the politics.

Because this concern is more than just a passing lament from a few aggrieved Australians. It’s viral, and it is beginning to animate usually sedate voters who see home ownership, either for themselves or their kids, as a pipedream.

They know the problem is getting worse, not better. Excessive migration and a succession of futile housing policies are to blame.

To underplay this genuine concern, or to ridicule your way out of the argument, is to invite electoral retribution.

So how did Treasurer Chalmers describe a plan to pull back on record levels of migration and give young Australians a fighting chance of one day, God willing, they could actually buy their own home?

He said Dutton’s plan was “dark and divisive”.

How dare Dutton give hope to Australians who increasingly see the dream of home ownership as simply unattainable; those countless young people who watch helplessly as the trajectory of their savings fails to keep pace with the unabating rise of property values.

What an unthinkable thing to do, throwing a bone to desperate people who were resigned to renting for the rest of their lives.

We have seen this movie before, where the quiet views of the majority were openly ridiculed by a government and elites who wrongly thought those views were contained to the minority. The unwashed fringe of society, relics of the past.

Those voting No in last year’s Voice referendum were labelled racists, uneducated, misinformed, ignorant, and un-Australian by those inside the Government and the campaigners they empowered.

A reheat of that incendiary language in what looms as an important policy debate on what levels of migration are appropriate and sustainable will cause Labor immense damage.

Why?

Because once again, like the Voice, it is the strong prevailing view of quiet Australians.

Are you really going to poke them in the eye again?

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