Albo backs landlord tax break

Prime Minister
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has shut down suggestions Labor will change its policies on tax concessions for investors. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Anthony Albanese has hosed down suggestions Labor will curtail tax breaks for Australians who own investment properties — at least before the next election.

The Prime Minister attempted to shut down debate within the party over its housing policies on Tuesday, saying the government’s position on housing tax concessions hadn’t changed from the policy platform Labor took to the election last May.

He made the remarks after Nine newspapers reported Labor is facing an internal push to come up with more ambitious housing policies, including revisiting negative gearing in an effort to prevent distortion of the property market.

Mr Albanese, who owns three properties, including his home in Sydney’s Marrickville and an investment property in nearby Dulwich Hill, downplayed the report.

“It says there will be a policy debate at the ALP national conference. Ho-hum. There are policy debates about everything,” he said.

“The government’s position is very clear and it’s a position for which we received a mandate at the 2022 election and I’m someone who honours the commitments that we made.”

Mr Albanese rattled off a number of Labor’s policies aimed at increasing housing affordability and supply, including its plans to create the $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund investment vehicle.

Prime Minister
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended negative gearing, at least for now. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

The HAFF’s passage through parliament has stalled as the Greens wield their balance of power position in the Senate to make a number of demands on the legislation including better protections for renters.

Following Mr Albanese’s press conference, Peter Dutton went on the attack, launching a spirited defence of negative gearing, suggesting Labor was going to hurt “mum and dad” investors.

The Opposition Leader, who also boasts a tidy property portfolio, told reporters: “If you don’t have investment properties, renters don’t have accommodation to rent. Let’s be clear about it”.

“For mums and dads who save and, as part of their retirement income, put some money aside and buy a rental property, they rent it out and that’s supplementing their income,” he said.

“Particularly for people that don’t have a big superannuation balance, that is a perfectly legitimate investment for them to make.”

Julijana Todorovic, a representative of Labor’s housing group, will push for negative gearing to be capped at one investment property and to classify housing as a basic human right at the party’s next national conference.

Ms Todorovic told ABC News later on Tuesday the time was ripe for Labor to rethink its policies on property tax concessions.

“The platform that we took to the 2019 election was really ambitious, but the world that we live in now in 2023 is entirely different,” she said.

“And the fact that we are in this scenario now where people are struggling for rents, cannot get into the property market – I think the mood has changed.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about the politics of compassion and I think the electorate is ready to have that conversation.”

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten made unsuccessful attempts at more ambitious housing policies. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

In 2021, Labor dumped former leader Bill Shorten’s policies of limiting negative gearing to new properties only and halving the 50 per cent capital gains tax deduction after voters rejected the party at the 2019 and 2016 elections.

The current negative gearing arrangements allow people to engineer a loss on an unlimited number of investment properties and then claim it as a tax deduction.

Critics have long argued Australia’s unusually generous tax concessions for investment in rental properties unfairly benefit wealthy people and drives up the price of housing.

But previous plans to change these tax benefits have proved politically dicey, given both major parties’ desire to woo multiple property-owning voters who might swing between the Coalition and Labor.

Anglicare executive director Kasy Chambers took aim at successive federal governments’ approach to property tax concessions in her National Press Club address later on Tuesday.

“Where we used to spend money directly on building houses, we’ve shifted that expenditure into Commonwealth Rent Assistance, negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions,” she said.

“And we now spend more commonwealth dollars per capita on those three payments than we ever did, and yet housing affordability has never been lower.”