26 Oct, 2022 More than half of NSW politicians own multiple properties
More than half of NSW MPs own two properties or more, parliamentary documents reveal, and one member owns 12.
More than 60 per cent of those owners declared rental income on their investment properties in the 2021-2022 financial year.
There are half a dozen politicians who own six properties or more.
The figure compares to a general population where about one in five – or 21 per cent – of Australian households owned a residential property other than their home in 2019-20, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
The real estate interests of members of parliament were self-reported in the annual disclosure register for the past financial year.
Roy Butler, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers member for Barwon, owns the most properties. His dozen-strong portfolio is held mostly in NSW but two are in Queensland.
He was followed by Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Minister for Women, Regional Health and Mental Health Bronwyn Taylor, who declared an interest in 11 properties, nine of them commercial farms held by trusts in her husband’s name, the minister’s office clarified.
The Liberal Member for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton and the Liberal Member for Castle Hill Ray Williams declared six properties each, with Williams selling one during the reporting period.
“A lot of people start with not much and work hard, which is how my situation came about. I think that’s a good thing,” Upton said.
Sydney is facing a rental crisis with rents breaking records again, up 14 per cent in the past year to September, on Domain data.
The rest of the state is not far behind, with house rents up 10.6 per cent in the same period in light of the pandemic’s tree-change phenomenon.
While some experts have raised concerns about whether NSW parliament’s rate of property ownership is representative of the broader population, others say it is merely a symptom of a system that encourages high-income earners to invest in real estate.
“In representative democracies, parliaments should be representative of the population. These figures reveal that NSW parliamentarians are far more likely to own multiple properties, to earn income from rentals, and they are far less likely to rent,” said Dr Richard Denniss, executive director of The Australian Institute.
“This is a problem as politicians make laws around incentives to own rental properties and laws that protect tenants. They are less likely to understand the challenges faced by renters and first home buyers.”
Denniss said tenant protections in Australia were particularly weak compared to other countries and many states, including NSW, continue to have no grounds evictions where landlords can kick tenants out for no reason.
“This makes it very difficult for renters to gain any benefit from other rights they may have, like protections from unreasonable rental increases,” he said.
Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson said high-income earning politicians cannot be blamed for investing their money rationally.
“They way we have set incentives and tax concessions, once you’re earning a certain amount of money, the rational place to put it is in property,” Dawson said.
“We’ve encouraged people to be landlords due to our taxes and regulatory environment. The problem is the market and the rules we’ve set up.
“I wouldn’t chastise individual politicians for doing the rational thing of investing their excess money. But the fact is they preside over the rules that creates unequal access in the first place.
“Is there a growing divide between the high proportion of people who rent for life and those in parliament? Yes. That divide is due to income and wealth.
“We don’t tax wealth properly, and we don’t distribute wealth properly. The logical place to put it is in the property market and that’s the problem we’ve created.”
Greens MP Jenny Leong, who has introduced a bill in state parliament to end no-grounds evictions to help protect renters, challenged her parliamentary colleagues to vote for the piece of legislation.
“I would urge them to vote in favour of stopping people being booted out of their rental property for no reason,” Leong said.
“Successive governments have failed to put the security and interests of renters above those landlords.
“It demonstrates how out of touch NSW parliament and decision makers are from people’s day-to-day struggles and their inability to pay their rent each week because of the rise of cost of living.”