Every writer has a voice. I think that’s true, because every time I read Sydney Morning Herald economics columnist Jessica Irvine, all I hear is up-talking?
Take today’s offering. While the rest of the country is observing ANZAC Day and honouring the sacrifices of past generations on the battlefield (as well as getting really pissed and playing two-up), Irvine’s going after the oldies who are making it, like, really hard, you know, for her to get on the property ladder. This comes after her previous cringe-worthy life-event columns about her battles with weight and encounters with the wedding-industrial complex.
After taking pains to assure us that “I like old people”, and claiming that “Society benefits little from the so-called ‘generational wars’ that artificially pit young against old”, she then gets down to business: Generational warfare. Woe is us. Those greedy Augustus Gloops in adult nappies, swanning around like Rich Uncle Moneybags from Monopoly with their top hats, cigars, and zimmer-frames, have stacked the deck against us poor Generation X’s and Y’s. They’ve gotten tax breaks, we’ve gotten HECS debt. They’ve gotten house price inflation, we get rental bonds. Finally, the nub of the problem:
From the perspective of the young, who in increasing numbers will never own the home of their dreams outright, the idea of older Australians being entitled to live out their days in their family home carries a special sting…encouraging older Australians to rattle around in three or four-bedroom houses no longer suited to their needs helps no one.
A study by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute released in May 2010, How well do older Australians utilise their homes?, found 84 per cent of homes occupied by people aged 55 or older are under-used (having one or more spare bedrooms).
While older people view such spare rooms as necessary, for hobbies and when grandchildren come to stay, arguably a more efficient allocation of housing would help relieve upward pressure on house prices.
For “from the perspective of the young”, above, I think it is safe to read “Me! Me! Memememememe!”. And for “a more efficient allocation of housing”, read, “Dammit, why won’t granny die so I can move in and start filling the place with sprogs?”. Seriously, God help us if the likes of Jessica “Logan’s Run” Irvine ever get their hands on the levers of policy. Economics writers should not sneer at the concept of being “entitled” to live in a house one has paid for unless they are writing for the business section of Granma or the KCNA.
Irvine goes on to advocate all the old standbys: mixed-density housing so that “old and young people can move in and out of age-appropriate housing without leaving their communities”; a land tax (one of the most regressive and unfair taxes around); and, of course, inheritance tax, which is such a bastard of a concept and affront to property rights that Sweden — Sweden! — abolished theirs years ago.
They say that marriage, home ownership and parenthood are among the most conservatising events in life. If that’s so, watching Irvine’s columns over the next few years should be a very entertaining indeed – especially since the Internet never forgets. In a few years I look forward to reading her explain why the baby bonus should be tripled, the reasons why that apartment block shouldn’t be approved down the road from her charming Victorian semi, and how Tony Abbott’s maternity leave scheme, generous as it is, really doesn’t go far enough.