A new Victorian micro-party fighting for upper house seats in the state election wants the government to help low-income earners and people on welfare in Melbourne to buy cheaper homes in rural towns.
The Aussie Battler Party, running on a platform of reducing the cost of living for ordinary Australians, has pledged to take action on housing affordability and homelessness if successful at the November 24 poll.
The party’s founder Stuart O’Neill, a self-employed life coach, stands to gain a swag of preference votes in the Western Metropolitan region, which could deliver him a spot in the Legislative Council.
His party’s policies include establishing a government-backed mortgage lender for people on low incomes and government benefits. Other ideas include freezing stamp duty increases and relaxing planning laws to make it easier for multiple properties – such as tiny homes or granny flats – to be built on one land title and rented out.
“The system is broken,” Mr O’Neill told Domain. “Australia has the vision that the great Aussie dream was to own your own property and it’s just impossible for 90 per cent of people unless you’ve got money or a high level of skill to understand how you can get into the market in different capacities.”
Housing affordability has been less of a focus this election, despite Melbourne’s median dwelling value holding at a pricey $852,980 according to Domain’s September quarter house price report. The figure edged down 3.2 per cent from a year earlier but it follows a 72.9 per cent rise during the five-year boom to 2017.
Under Mr O’Neill’s plan, the federal government would offer zero-deposit loans to Australians on long-term government welfare, such as the age or disability pension, if they moved to regional areas where housing was cheaper.
Asked why he was campaigning on federal issues in a state election, he said he was confident he would be able to negotiate deals with the federal government from State Parliament.
He added the Victorian state election was “just the beginning”. “We’re confident we will roll out nationwide really fast and be a registered federal party very quickly,” Mr O’Neill said.
When asked if he could point to any research or economic modelling that supported his housing policies, Mr O’Neill answered: “It’s a calculator.”
“You sit down and work out what rent assistance is going to cost the government for the next 40 years.”
“With interest rates so low now, it’s cheaper for some people to own a home than rent a home,” he said, citing houses in the rural Victorian town of Horsham selling for less than $200,000.
When questioned on whether regional areas had the appropriate services and infrastructure for new residents, Mr O’Neill said: “For the people who have got complex needs, those services aren’t there but the only way you’re going to get those services is to regrow the population.
“The people who are able and healthy and willing to go, let’s deal with them first and that will automatically take the pressure off the city for those who do need it more.”
The Aussie Battler Party also wants to relax rules around eligibility for state first-home buyer schemes, to allow couples with one partner who has previously owned property to access stamp duty incentives or grants.
In a populist pitch to voters, Mr O’Neill said members of the public already knew the solutions to homelessness and housing affordability, while governments were “clueless” and relied on academics.
“It’s not big science, it’s just hands-on stuff from real life experiences,” he said.
Mr O’Neill said he did not own property in Melbourne and was living with a friend in Carrum Downs.
The Aussie Battler Party has 19 candidates running for the Legislative Council.