On Wednesday night News from the Front Desk joined old colleague at the AFR Rob Harley for a great little session on behalf of the Property Industry Foundation at Cundall offices in Milsons Point. The topic was “How to get my story in the newspapers.”

We asked Rob to come along because well, he was property editor for a couple of decades at the Fin and from our perspective we wanted to hear what the big news makers were doing in these days of fracturing edifices. And OK we also wanted to point out that green property these days is now pretty much the best story around and leaving regular brown property stories fumbling around behind in our clean vapour trail.

Rob mentioned that the most popular stories are on house prices. Over and over it seems we can’t get enough of how much richer we are today if we own a house, or how much poorer and bereft may we feel if we don’t.

Worse is to be homeless. Take away a person’s home and you take away the structure that allows them to feel safe and secure, and a place from which to launch and make their lives.

The PIF people aired a poignant video that many in the industry have already seen: interviews with young people who without a home are for ever a tiny slip away from drugs, danger or jail.

Have a look at Stacey Miers and Dr Somwrita Sarkar’s article on homelessness this week.

As one of the richest countries in the world, we can’t find it in us to provide accommodation for those who can’t house themselves.

Thankfully the smart cohort among the homeless have brought their plight right to the doors of the Reserve Bank of Australia in Martin Place.

And rightly so. This is a plight that is too often invisible.

By bringing it to the doorstep of our most critical economic and financial institution perhaps the message will seep through that there is really no excuse to allow this to happen.

Earlier this year we held a Flash Forum – a quick before-the-budget gathering of economists, community and housing groups and loads of industry people to pull together a single page agenda to send to our federal treasurer Scott Morrison.

This week he signalled big cuts in depreciation and tougher negative gearing rules.


Housing should be to house people. If it needs or can be an investment product then fine, but because it’s housing, because it’s not an option but a critical need for our humanity, decency and the economic health of our cities, then it should be moderated and controlled. Let’s not for a minute think the market will do any such thing. Last time we looked the market wasn’t even a thing. You can’t identify it, pinpoint its location and you can’t give it penalties if it does something wrong.

It also doesn’t care about anything much except staying in business, operating as a couple of lines wobbling about until they cross over the demand supply axis and settle on an equilibrium.

If that equilibrium happens to mean people on $50,000 a year have to travel bumper to bumper or crammed like sardines for hours every day to get to work, well so what? This is the market folks. And that’s how things are.

Well who says?

We keep saying there are more of us than them and if we don’t like something we need to make it clear and simply stop co-operating with the minority that smugly tells us this is how things are.

ScoMo seemed to have picked up the vibe that we tuned into at our FlashForum.

We are one voice, but here’s a thought that came out while thinking about our media chat at Cundall: not much is wasted in media. You put out a thought and you think who’s reading it? Were the hits dreadful? And does that mean we should not run the story?

The numbers might be low but that’s no reason not to carry the story. If you really care about impact you will ask who reads the story, not how many.

And another thing. You may feel like your story is tumbling around cyberspace, untethered like Major Tom. But just like moisture in warming air, it might well coalesce with other droplets and before you know it you might have a cloud, or even a rain bomb as Al Gore described in Melbourne.

Suddenly there is traction: ScoMo makes some interesting announcements on housing; the heads of fossil fuel companies say they’ll be going 100 per cent renewable before you know it, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia Philip Lowe says (perhaps after stepping over some homeless people on his way to his office) that our society is increasingly unjust and unequal and – hold the front page – that wages are too low. Then he adds, quietly softly, with all due respect for the economic powerhouses and their allies assembled in the room where he gives his address, that this may not be so very good for the economy.

Because if people think their real wages are going down and their debts will take longer to pay, then they won’t spend as much.

Those of us who wish for a different set of values to come about, values that preserve instead of loot and pilfer from our natural planet, will say good. Less is more.

But more equal is even better.

2 replies on “News from the front desk No 349: On why less is more, but equal is even better”

  1. For policy and planning people “housing” is a verb – a thing you do to people. For individuals it is a noun – a thing you need (home) to hold the rest of your life together. Yes, time for some improvement in equity – no not the value of a building, but improved chances of having a home, rent or buy.

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