Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has come under fire after advising prospective first home buyers to “get a good job that pays good money”.
At a Sydney press event, Mr Hockey raised concerns about illegal foreign purchases of residential property.
“If you’ve got a good job and it pays good money and you have security in relation to that job, then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money, and that’s readily affordable,” he said.
The treasurer denied Sydney was in a bubble and stated that it was a costly place to live.
“It’s my home city, it is an expensive city,” he said.
“If housing were unaffordable in Sydney, no one would be buying it.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was quick to attack the treasurer’s remarks.
“How are Australians supposed to find the good jobs that pay more when unemployment is at its highest levels in more than a decade under his government?” Mr Shorten told AAP.
In a press conference, Mr Hockey reminded foreign investors earlier that they have until December for any suspicions of illegally buying residential property in Australia.
He stated that the foreign investor review board had identified 195 cases where existing laws were violated. The individual values of the properties involved ranged from $300,000.00 up to more than $40,000,000.
“In one case, there is an owner who is being investigated as a foreign citizen owning 10 properties across two states, ranging in value from $300,000 to $1.4 million.
“These are existing properties – not new properties, so it narrows the field of available real estate,” he said.
Under Australian law, foreign investors are not allowed to purchase residential property in Australia. Foreign investors are encouraged to invest in housing developments rather than existing properties.
“The message is clear. Build, build, build – we want Australia to have more housing stock, and foreign investment does help, but not when it comes to existing real estate,” he said.
“Come forward if you believe you have unlawfully purchased residential property in Australia.”
Mr Hockey said 24 active cases involved were “voluntary” where an investor approached the government and declared their purchasing history.
Temporary residents with 88,000 properties in the country are also included in the investigation. If they are moving abroad, temporary residents will need to sell all their residential properties.
Mr Hockey said the government harbours a “deep suspicion” some of those residents are leaving Australia and illegally maintaining ownership over their properties.
According to the treasurer’s report, data-matching was used for fraud cases.
“Because we have begun the transfer of the investigative powers from the treasury to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), it is giving us a much broader range of opportunity to carry out the investigations.
“Data matching is proving to be the most viable form of investigative methodology,” he said.
Hockey stated that tax fraud can also be identified in certain cases.
The government’s proposed legislation will be released for consultation on July 6.
Hockey stated that he anticipates the House of Representatives passing the proposed laws by August 19 and going into effect on December 1st.
Under the new legislation, foreign buyers and those who participate in illegal property sales face new penalties including fines of more than $100,000 or up to three years’ jail.
Chinese officials purchased a Sydney mansion for $39 million in May.
Villa del Mare was a Point Piper residence that was sold without the approval by the foreign investment boards.