Chalmers becomes columnist Scott Pape
Today I’m doing something that I’ve never done before in nearly 20 years of writing this column … I’m letting someone else answer my readers’ questions: And that someone else is Treasurer Jim Chalmers.
I caught up with the Treasurer this week ahead of his grand final (the federal budget) and added an even harder task to his plate: the job of being Barefoot for a week.
To ease him into the job, here’s the advice I gave him.
First, don’t be boring.
Second, really, please don’t be boring.
Finally, don’t give us the party line. Instead, give us the “Jim at a party, three bourbons down, telling it straight”.
Over to you, Jimbo.
FIRST HOMEBUYER HELL
Hi Barefoot Jim
My husband and I are in our late 20s and have been desperately saving for a first home. I’m a nurse and he’s a teacher, and we earn just under $160,000 a year combined. We’ve tried so hard to save up a 20 per cent deposit but with house prices, and rents, going up so fast it feels impossible. We want to have kids soon and be close to our family (who all live in Sydney), but I can’t see that we’re ever going to make it. The system is just broken beyond repair. How can we plan our lives when we don’t even have the stability of a roof over our heads?
Bec and Steve
The Treasurer responds:
Thanks for the work you do teaching and nursing. I get it – when you’re under the pump it’s hard to save for a house. We’ve got two ways to help – one that’s up and running and one that’s on the way, but both of them are about helping you buy a house without needing the full 20 per cent.
One’s called the First Home Guarantee (up and running) which can help you buy a home with as little as a 5 per cent deposit; the other’s called the Help to Buy scheme (coming).
In the rental market there are tax breaks coming this Budget to encourage people to build more rental properties as well. Big challenge, not uncommon, doing what we can.
FROM A SLEEP-DEPRIVED MOTHER OF TWO
Hi Scott Jim,
I’m a single mum with two kids (and two cats and a dog), and I’m really struggling. My landlord just let me know he’ll be increasing the rent by $150 a week, due to the “changes in the housing market”. How will I survive? I’ve just moved into a permanent job, but my increase from four to five days means I will lose my family tax benefit. I’ll probably also have to pay more after school care fees because I’ll soon be earning $100,000 a year. But it’s just ME on my single income paying for everything. What should I do?
The Treasurer responds:
Thanks for this and congrats on the new job. $150 a week increase is ridiculous. It’s worth talking to your local tenants’ union to find out what your options are. The options will differ depending on what state you’re in but could include reporting excessive increases to a relevant state body. Apart from that, we recognise rent’s a big part of the pressure people are feeling right now. We are trying to get the parliament to agree to building more properties, we’ve got some tax breaks coming so that investors build more as well, and besides that we are making your after school care cheaper from July 1, by increasing the subsidy – hope that helps you make ends meet.
THE PINEAPPLE PROJECT
I thought I’d add in a question of my own …
If the RBA gets its way, in the next few years there will be plenty of businesses that go bust, and lots of people who will lose their jobs. That is, after all, how to slow the economy.
Now here’s the jam, Jim: there is really only one place that Aussies who get the wrong end of the economic pineapple can turn to for free, unbiased, confidential financial help: a community-based financial counsellor.
There are 750 financial counsellors across Australia. Yet they are already overrun. People are being turned away. However, if your government put up the dough to double the number of financial counsellors, it would mean an additional 50,000 families would get the help they need to get back on their feet this year.
Will you commit to that funding? Scott Pape
The Treasurer responds:
There’s no doubt financial counsellors do a fantastic job. They help people who are in real financial strife to make the case to get a debt waived or get a better rate and that makes a massive difference in people’s lives.
As a government, we recognised how critical these services are, particularly during natural disasters, and we’ve delivered extra funding over the last year to employ more financial counsellors in flood-impacted communities. We’ve also been working with industry on a way to make funding of these services sustainable over time which is something that my colleague Amanda Rishworth has been leading.
It’s a cliche to say “thanks for taking time out of your busy week” … but the dude’s got the federal budget to deliver on Tuesday. So, Jim, thank you for taking the time to answer questions.
I don’t agree with encouraging people to put down a 5 per cent deposit (I’ll have more on that next week).
And as for your answer to my question … that was one hell of a word salad, mate. Should I take that as a “no”?
Good luck with the budget and, as my old man says, “Just look after the battlers, son”.
Information and opinions provided in this column are general in nature and have been prepared for educational purposes only. Always seek personal financial advice tailored to your specific needs before making financial and investment decisions
“How can we plan … when we don’t even have the stability of a roof over our heads?
Bec and Steve Nurse and teacher