Canberra’s 226 MPs and senators own 524 properties between them – an average of 2.4 each – analysis by the ABC has found.
Only 10 federal politicians don’t own property, meaning 96% of the total do, compared to the national average of just above 50%.
And while the government remains strongly opposed to changes to negative gearing, the Coalition’s 105 MPs and senators collectively own 290 properties and nearly half of them, 139, are investments.
Trawling through registers of interests politicians are required to fill out – the failure to do so has led embarrassing moments for some, including employment minister Michaelia Cash and Labor’s David Feeney – the ABC concluded the Canberra’s elected representatives own 228 investment properties between them.
Earlier this year, former health minister Sussan Ley, resigned over a parliamentary travel expenses scandal in which she bought an $800,000 investment apartment on the Gold Coast, while on a taxpayer-funded trip. Another Coalition MP, the late Don Randall, paid back $5259 in expenses to “alleviate any ambiguity” following a 2012 trip to far north Queensland, with his wife on “electorate business”, during which the couple took possession of an investment property in Cairns.
The ABC included agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential properties, as well as properties jointly owned with spouses or family members or in trusts or companies where the parliamentarian is a beneficiary and they have declared their interest.
The ABC says “quite a few politicians have declared property investment companies or trusts but not the properties owned, so the real number of properties owned could be higher”.
Here is the ABC’s breakdown of who owns what, based on political affiliations:
Then there’s the issue of owning property in the national capital while claiming a $273 per night “travel allowance” from taxpayers to cover the costs of staying there, which led to accusations that politicians are “double dipping”. Nearly 40 MPs or their spouses own property in Canberra, including senior government ministers.
Former treasurer Joe Hockey’s wife owned a house she bought for $320,000 in 1997, which her husband used when in town. It sold last year for $1.5 million. During his time in parliament, it’s estimated that Hockey claimed around $184,000 in travel allowances over 18 years to stay there.
The $273 allowance is not counted as income. The ATO handed down a ruling saying MPs renting in Canberra from a spouse or family member are allowed to essentially negatively gear the property and claim income tax deductions on a range of costs, including mortgage interest, rates and power, on a second property. Even better, it’s capital gains tax free when sold.
Among the data analysed by the ABC, it revealed that 226 politicians owned 264 homes they listed as “residential”. Those second residential properties are based in Canberra.
Finance minister Mathias Cormann, who owns two residential and three investment properties.
A Queensland LNP senator, Barry O’Sullivan, a former police detective, grazier, and property developer, topped the list, with 33 properties, although that figure is well down on 2014’s 50 properties a year after he’d replaced the now Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce in the Senate.
O’Sullivan’s portfolio includes 11 agricultural, two residential, eight investment and seven commercial and five industrial investments properties.
NSW Nationals MP David Gillespie, the assistant minister for health, who took former independent Rob Oakeshott’s seat in 2013 is second with 18 places, including 10 commercial investment properties in Port Macquarie and six investment units in the same town.
Liberal Karen Andrews has 10 properties, including 9 investment properties in three states.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s portfolio is a modest four, including his home in Sydney’s Point Piper, a Canberra apartment, the Hunter Valley farm he inherited from his late father, and a commercial investment in Sydney’s Potts Point.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten only has his home in Moonee Ponds in Melbourne.
The ABC had compiled a full list of who owns what here.
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