Malcolm Turnbull had a 'get a good job' moment on housing affordability

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Dean Lewins/ Getty Images.

Malcolm Turnbull had a Joe Hockey moment on ABC radio yesterday and it was a silly misstep for a prime minister preparing to face voters worried about the cost of housing.

Last June, the hapless former treasurer turned US ambassador riled voters when he offered advice that “The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money” .

Today, on 774 in Melbourne, the prime minister was talking to morning presenter Jon Faine about Tuesday night’s favourably received budget.

With the political debate over negative gearing and housing affordability set to continue in the lead up to a July 2 election, Faine asked Turnbull whether he’d “backed the wrong horse just not economically but politically” with negative gearing, saying the issue was creating family conflict with children accusing Boomers of “locking us out” of housing.

“Are your kids locked out of the housing market?” Turnbull asked.

“Yes,” Fain replied.

Turnbull was no doubt being jocular and teasing Faine slightly with his response, knowing the former lawyer and 20-year broadcasting veteran is one of the ABC’s best paid figures, but his subsequent response sounds a bit like Hockey’s advice to “get a good job”.

The prime minister told Faine: “Well you should shell out for them; you should support them, a wealthy man like you”.

“That’s what they say,” Faine responded.

But Turnbull kept digging: “Exactly, well there you go, you see you’ve got the solution in your own hands. You can provide a bit of inter-generational equity in the Faine family.”

The PM’s comment doesn’t stray too far from last week’s announcement that his government won’t mess with negative gearing, but the couple he chose as the backdrop for his media conference appeared to reinforce the concerns of voters rather than Turnbull’s view. The first property Julian and Kim Mignacca bought was a flat in Sydney’s south that they rent out while living with parents. They negatively gear and don’t own their own home.

And that’s why Turnbull needs to tread carefully around the issue, even with high earners like Faine.

The idea that parents will need to shell out if they want their kids to move out and stand on their own two feet is a suggestion that struggles to pass the pub test. And with an election now just two months away, the prime minister should keep in mind what happened to Joe Hockey after he handed out free advice to voters on how to deal with housing affordability.

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