Dutton’s ignorant, incompetent policies contradicted by evidence

May 25, 2024
Brisbane - Nov 18 2023:Residential houses street against Brisbane City skyline.Home prices across Australia have hit new highs, with the median value of a home in a capital city shooting to $832,000.

Dutton has finally started to show his hand and build his campaign for the next election around energy policy and housing affordability. The problem is that his ignorance of the evidence demonstrates his incompetence.

Ever since he became Leader of the Labor Party, Albanese has been determined to offer a small target by not departing far from what the Coalition has supported in the past. This is true of the most significant policy issues such as defence policy and AUKUS, and the levels of public expenditure and taxation.

In contrast, now that he is Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton has been an outspoken critic of the Labor Government, but without saying what he would do instead.

However, in recent weeks with an election getting closer, Dutton has taken the risk of nominating some policy positions in a couple of critical areas. Most notably these new policies relate to:

  1. Australia’s future energy supplies, and
  2. A lower migration target which Dutton claims will fix the housing crisis.

As will be shown below, however, in neither case are Dutton’s policies and assertions supported by the evidence.

Future energy supplies

At a national level the official position of the Coalition is to favour nuclear energy as the best way to achieve their commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050, but with no intermediate targets. There are many Liberals, however, who disagree with this emphasis on nuclear energy, including many of the State Leaders who have rejected nuclear power.

At first Dutton touted the prospect of so-called small modular reactors that are just a few hundred megawatts of capacity in size. But as these were quickly dismissed by all authorities as totally impractical, Duttion has since pivoted towards large-scale plants.

Dutton’s latest justification for nuclear power is that “The renewables-only policy of Labor is going to result in higher electricity prices and less reliability in the system.” This week, however, the CSIRO released its report “GenCost, 2023-24, which completely demolishes Dutton’s assertions.

In short, Australia’s leading scientific organisation finds that it would cost at least $8.5 billion to build a large-scale nuclear power plant. Furthermore, the earliest this plant would be 2040, which is far too late to meet Australia’s climate commitments.

The CSIRO also estimates that large-scale nuclear power will cost at least 50 per cent more than renewables, including their transmission costs. Even worse, nuclear power could cost as much as 150 per cent more, with the most likely difference being nuclear will cost twice as much as renewable power.

So who do you believe – Dutton’s assertions backed by no evidence, or the scientific experts who have examined the evidence, and substantiated their results?

Migration and the cost of housing

Over the last forty years housing affordability has fallen, and especially recently. Today the median house price for Australia as a whole is 7.4 times the median wage, compared to only 3.5 times in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, this difference is much bigger in the major capital cities, and especially Sydney and Melbourne, which house 40 per cent of Australia’s population.

As a result, the typical young couple can no longer afford to own their own home, and that is a major political issue.

According to Dutton the solution to this problem lies in reducing demand for housing by lowering the number of migrants. But even then, there is confusion among the Opposition as to exactly what they are proposing.

In his budget reply speech Dutton pledged to reduce permanent migration by 25 per cent in the first two years. But more recently Dutton pledged to cut total net overseas migration by what would effectively be a 40 per cent reduction. And to further confuse matters, the Shadow Treasurer, Angus Taylor, said the Coalition will cut that total of net overseas migration by only 25 per cent compared to Dutton’s 40 per cent.

This confusion about what they are actually proposing, underlines how ill-thought-out the Coalition’s migration and housing policies actually are.

Of course, there was a surge in migration last year following the lifting of the Covid restrictions, but what matters is the rate of increase in the number of dwellings compared to the increase in population over a longer period of time than one year. As can be seen from Table 1 below, the increase in the number of dwellings has outstripped population growth every year since at least 2017 except for last year.

Image: Supplied

The real source of Australia’s housing problem, as all experts agree, is on the supply side, not the demand side. And incidentally cutting migration risks having less skilled tradesmen, further constraining the supply capacity.

But in the last twenty years dwelling construction costs have never risen as fast house prices (see Table 2) and the major reason for the reduction in housing affordability lies in the lack of availability of new dwelling sites. Essentially if we want people to be able to afford to live where they want to live we must increase the density of what are incredibly low-density Australian cities compared with the rest of the world.

Thankfully the Labor Premier of NSW, Chris Minns, understands this basic truth, and is moving to change the planning rules so that density will increase, around major transport hubs. And Minns has the support of the Federal Labor Government in pursuing the most significant solution to the housing crisis.

Image: Supplied


In the only two significant areas where the Opposition has finally dared to announce its policies, they are marked by incompetence.

Most importantly, this is because Dutton’s newly announced policies contradict the standard rule that good policy is always evidence-based.

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!