Don’t be fooled into thinking this election doesn’t matter much. Nope, this election is critical. Brexit ought to be warning enough that no vote should be taken lightly.

We need to rise ourselves up and out of this soporific eight-week campaign, with politicians looking tired and sick, or semi-euthanased by their media trainers lest anyone perceive any glint of fire or passion behind their droopy eyelids.

We need to brush off the political cobwebs and understand that even a fraction of difference in tone, in policy settings, let alone key priorities will have a lasting impact on our future. Because every nuance, every casual word or careless policy setting counts.

Don’t analyse what the parties are telling us right now. Ignore their promises, accusations and costed or uncosted “priorities”. All that will change. Best to concentrate on what we know – the evidence of their past actions and even more importantly where their hearts and their heads are at because that’s what will drive and determine events that will affect us all and our relationship in the world.

These are destablising times. For the sustainable built environment the critical need is to install in Canberra the people who hear the urgent messages from this industry’s leading thinkers, the advocacy groups and the grass roots that have poured countless hours and resources into producing roadmaps, plans and policies into how to deliver more sustainable cities and buildings.

They’re not flying kites. There’s never been a more critical time.

There’s a lot of talk about the need for stability in clear and solid plans for our future: steady clean energy and carbon policies (not ones that quiver and shake with every glance coming from the Institute of Public Affairs).

We need commitments now to pivot our manufacturing capacity away from the old industries to the new – battery storage, electric cars, new sustainable materials, smart cities with better technologies and analytics that deliver efficiencies. We need new thinking about new enterprises that produce social good. These too have economic value.

In this sector we need to re-invigorate the energy efficiency space.

Soon The Fifth Estate will launch a new program in collaboration with NABERS to exactly do this. It’s hugely exciting. We’ll keep you posted.

In housing we need rock solid stability, the kind of solid that won’t be blown away like a Narrabeen or Collaroy front yard everytime there’s a bit of a storm. The kind that will be liveable in five year’s time and won’t cost the earth to heat and cool.

In the property industry there are great moves underway to create more sustainable housing. Huge, brave, collaborative initiatives such as:

  • The workshop with around 50 gurus in Adelaide on Monday engineered by the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council to come up with some roadmaps to progress sustainable housing on all fronts
  • Work on the amazing Build for Life initiative that brings together ASBEC, The Collaborative Sustainable Housing Initiative out of the NSW government’s Office of Environment and Heritage, CSIRO, Frasers Property Australia, the Green Building Council of Australian and, believe it or not, Channel 9, which will mobilise a social media platform to engage and inform consumers in the housing and renovation market, a bit like Trip Advisor (Currently in development and not past Stage 1 yet, but still, a brilliant idea)
  • The resurrection of Liveability (thanks to CSIRO) with the incomparable Cecile Weldon back in the lead.
  • A NABERS rating for multi unit resi on the way
  • Constant work on better materials development

Affordable housing is harder. Sustainability is part of the longer term affordability story but cost is a hugely important issue that’s part and parcel of the whole and it’s good to see the industry remembering this in its work.

What we don’t need in a general election is to vote on a single issue.

ABC radio on Thursday morning interviewed people who would vote at Saturday’s election based on a single issue: childcare. Pensioners and retired people will probably also vote on a single issue. And likewise a whole string of special interest groups.

They’re entitled to of course, but it makes everyone else’ s vote even more critical.

The Property Council and other lobby groups from the property industry such as Urban Development Institute of Australia pretty much suggest that Labor’s negative gearing policy should be enough to swing your vote.

Fine. They can say what they like. They can turn a blind eye to their own rhetoric of producing more affordable housing, and frighten people that house prices will fall or that we’ll have less rental properties (maybe because more people will be able to afford to buy their own houses).

We have five million renters in Australia. How many more does the property investment industry want?

But if the Property Council wants to create a sense that the property market is a great and solid investment that deserves protection then heavens knows why its allegory for the anti-negative gearing campaign was, literally, a house of cards that would collapse if negative gearing were removed. That fragile, huh?

The property industry is forever calling for a level playing field and for taxation policies that don’t skew the market. They need to place as much energy and resources in working out how to make property more affordable for those among the five million people who rent and may want a home of their own. Or put some serious energy into creating long-term leases.

The Fifth Estate is sometimes accused of being political. We’re not. We don’t care what political colour delivers green. Just that it’s delivered. We were scathing about Kevin Rudd’s failure on climate and we were scathing about Abbott’s attacks on the environment, which were much deeper, broader and downright malignant. That’s the only evidence we have for how the Coalition will act in a new term of government.

Leader and PM Malcolm Turnbull has dampened his previous fervour on green and social issues. It’s not a good sign. We could give him the benefit of the doubt but the track record isn’t there. Too much undone and unsaid.

Labor has a better track record on sustainability and climate. The evidence is in.

The Greens, whatever you think of them from a personal or political point of view, have their hearts in the right place when it comes to the environment. In politics that means a lot. On Thursday they released their policy on greening the built environment.

They may not be in a position to govern after Saturday but we’d like to see them in a strong enough position to push and nudge and shove if needed to ensure better outcomes.

We need to foster collaboration and new governance models everywhere. Why not in Canberra?

One reply on “News from the front desk: Issue No 298 – On why you need to focus hard & think of Brexit”

  1. Negative gearing’s most ardent detractors say abolishing it will have very little impact on housing affordability. Grattan Institute says a 2% decline. The McKell Institute says even less than that.
    So what’s the point in risking imposing $32 billion of extra taxes on investment in much-needed rental properties, and the consequential economic impacts, for next to no affordability dividend?
    Housing affordability is a huge issue for the country. Best to focus on solutions that work.
    Regards
    Ken Morrison
    Chief Executive
    Property Council of Australia

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