The Property Council has hosted two premiers at events over the last week. How are premiers McGowan in WA and Gutwein in Tasmania prioritising property in their economic recovery?
Three key takeaways:
They may be at different ends of the country geographically, but Western Australia and Tasmania have taken a similar approach to stopping the spread of COVID-19 through hard border closures. Similarly, they are prioritising property as part of their economic recovery planning.
The leaders of both states spoke in recent days at Property Council events in Perth and Hobart, which were also livestreamed.
In Perth, more than 400 people turned out for a lunchtime address with premier Mark McGowan who reflected on the enormous challenges posed by COVID-19 and some of the unprecedented decisions his government had been required to make in responding to the pandemic.
The WA economy was “heading in the right direction” before the pandemic, with unemployment at a five-year low and state debt forecast to fall.
McGowan said he had started the year excited about what lay ahead for WA, “but 2020 has not been the year that anyone expected”.
Premier McGowan offered a robust defence of his government’s hard border policy which had allowed the lifting of local restrictions: “a hard state border with COVID suppressed or eliminated inside WA is best for the economy”.
WA had leveraged its advantages in managing the pandemic, including its geographic isolation, “to keep everyone as safe as possible and return to life as normal as possible in a COVID-safe way ahead of the rest of the country,” McGowan said.
Having suppressed the virus, the WA Government was now focused on the economic recovery challenge. Property, planning and construction feature strongly in the response.
State incentives for first home buyers were driving strong demand in the residential sector – and McGowan said he expected the government would need to allocate more than the $117 million already committed.
The government had successfully introduced a sweeping planning and development assessment reform agenda, McGowan said.
The premier firmly signalled his support for the development sector, stating his government was “ambitious when it comes to development, housing or planning”.
“We want to see construction and development in WA. We want to see quality projects that the community can get behind and support.
“We need to fight off the naysayers and the critics, the people who oppose good density and want no change whatsoever, especially if it’s near where they live,” the premier said.
Calls to end the Code
The Property Council’s WA executive director, Sandra Brewer, called on the premier not to extend the commercial tenancy leasing code of conduct beyond the end of September.
“Our WA members have given very substantial financial support to their tenants,” Brewer said.
“We’re concerned that the financial costs of this pandemic do not fall on one part of the business community. If the code continues, it has the potential to threaten the viability of many small and mid-sized property businesses. It will also hurt the income of big property owners, resulting in reduced returns for every West Australian with superannuation and other managed trusts that invest in property.
“The fact that WA is reopening for business and that there have been a relatively small number of landlord-tenant disputes indicates there is no need for the Code to continue beyond September 29.”
The WA Government is expected to decide shortly on the extension of the code.
Cautious optimism on the Apple Isle
In Hobart, Premier Peter Gutwein expressed “cautious optimism” about the outlook for the Tasmanian economy highlighting the importance of property and construction in supporting the island state’s economic recovery.
The Tasmanian Government was investing $3.1 billion in a two-year construction blitz, Gutwein said, including fast tracking investment in new social housing construction.
Gutwein pointed to an increase in building approvals and the strong take up of incentives for new home builders as encouraging signs.
Already, 140 applications had been received for home building grants of up to $45,000 (including the Commonwealth’s HomeBuilder incentive), while building approvals for the second half of 2019-20 were up on the same period 12 months earlier.
With Tasmania’s borders closed until December, Gutwein said their re-opening would be kept under constant review over coming weeks and months. Re-opening would depend on the risk COVID-19 posted to Tasmania’s population, especially older people.
Missing your boost of learning and networking at Property Council events? We’ve got a stack of online forums, briefings and courses running, as well as face-to-face events in some states.
Don’t miss the Property Council’s luncheon on 15 September when we unpack the implications of the upcoming election for Perth’s new lord mayor.