Housing criticism a distraction: Shorten

Australia

The federal government’s campaign against Labor’s proposed changes to the negative gearing tax break is aimed at distracting Australians from its own shortcomings, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.

Mr Shorten says the government is trying to hide that the economy is not working in the interests of everyday Australians.

“The current government is pulling a sort of pea and thimble trick, where they want you to look over here at Labor’s future policies so as to take your attention from the fact that under the current government this economy is not working properly,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

Labor wants to retain negative gearing only for newly-built homes – with the policy grandfathered so the changes won’t apply to existing investors – and make changes to capital gains tax.

The coalition says the move would be “bad policy” that would reduce the value of people’s homes and raise rental costs.

But Mr Shorten says it’s simply a “fairness measure”.

“I haven’t heard anyone explain to me how it is fair that a property investor can get their taxpayers to subsidise that person for their seventh house, but a first home buyer, well, they get no help at all,” he said.

Labor is yet to decide when it would enact the changes if it wins this year’s election, likely to be held in May.

That comes as house prices in Australia’s big cities are tipped to continue declining in 2019.

Dwelling prices dropped by 4.8 per cent nationally in 2018, according to CoreLogic data.

The opposition leader has also hit back at media stories accusing him of being “anti-business” and inciting “class warfare” in comments he made on Thursday.

Mr Shorten suggested Australian seafarers losing their jobs because BHP is “foreign flagging” ships – meaning registering them overseas – is evidence not everything is fine in Australia.

“For me, this is not a matter of class war,” he said.

“It’s a matter of being an independent nation, controlling our transport costs, making sure that we protect our environment, and making sure that as an island nation we have ships.”

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