The extensive property holdings of Australia’s elected members of parliament raises questions as to whether they can relate to Australians facing a cost of living crisis, experts say.
According to data collected from the Federal Register of Interests, there are 377 property interests in a parliament that seats 151 federal MPs.
It means that compared to 68 per cent of Australians, 92 per cent of federal MPs own a home. The Coalition owns nearly half of this total.
Real-estate portfolios also reveal a gap between MPs and Australian homeowners. While 4 per cent of homeowners own more than four properties, this figure rises to 15 per cent for parliamentarians.
Karen Andrews and Nola Marino, both Liberal Party MPs, own the most real estate in the lower house, with seven homes each on the register.
Andrew Charlton, the Labor member for Parramatta, has properties in Parramatta, Bellevue Hill and Woollahra – all listed as residential investments. Charlton purchased his Bellevue Hill home for $16.1 million in 2020.
The only Teal Independents with more than four properties are Allegra Spender and Sophie Scamps. These women represent affluent Sydney electorates: Wentworth in the Eastern Suburbs and Mackellar in the Northern Beaches.
Alan Morris, a housing scholar at the University of Technology, said there are grounds to limit excessive property ownership in parliament.
“There is a very strong possibility that extensive ownership of investment properties will encourage the MPs concerned to be far more prone to protect the interests of landlords,” Morris said.
Andrew Potts, the Federal Leader of the Affordable Housing Party, supports MPs owning a primary residence but maintains there should be a ban on owning investment properties.
“People who rent are terribly unrepresented at all levels of government, so the system delivers outcomes that favour property owners,” Potts said.
This system incentivises politicians to become property owners; Prime Minister Anthony Albanese bought a Canberra apartment in this way.
Morris said MPs with large property portfolios may be out of touch with the rental crisis from the perspective of renters, adding: “Renters would strongly welcome any policy that controls rent.”
However, Ashlee Smale, who identifies as a swing voter, believes a politician’s property portfolio proves their economic management skills.
“While I do agree it is not reflective of the broader population, a person has to be somewhat clued up to own multiple properties,” Smale said.
But Morris disagreed. “It does not take much skill to buy an investment property,” he said, adding that it is a person’s disposable income that matters.
This accords with the salaries of federal MPs, who belong to the highest taxed income group.
In July last year, all MPs received a 2.75 per cent pay rise. The Independent Remuneration Tribunal sets these salaries to entice and retain high-calibre representatives.
An MP’s base salary – not including their electorate allowance – is $217,060.
Cabinet ministers receive over $157,000 extra on top of their base salary and electorate allowance.
Brendan O’Conner, the Minister for Skills and Training, owns, with the added sum of his partner’s properties, the most real estate in the Labor ministry.
Tony Burke, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, also leads with six properties listed under his name.
As part of their salaries, federal MPs receive a travel allowance that covers accommodation costs for their days spent in Canberra.
Members can claim this allowance even if they own a Canberra residence outright.
The Prime Minister also gains two extra residences in office: the Lodge in Canberra and Kirribilli House in Sydney.
“These allowances are more per night than a job-seeker can survive on for a week,” Potts said. “It is completely legal to pay off the mortgage on a Canberra property with this money.”
“This system incentivises politicians to become property owners; Prime Minister Anthony Albanese bought a Canberra apartment in this way.”
Main image by Central News.