Price Hikes and Rachel Cuts

As a reader who prefers to encounter sentences made from actual words, pharmacy thoughts made from actual thinking, and publications made of actually endurable writing instead of Satan’s nut-sweat, I generally avoid the Herald Sun. But, there are times when this, and other News Corp titles, emit the hellish nut stink of a filth so pure I cannot resist a sniff. It’s not a defensible instinct to draw your nostrils to the wet, tan spot on the month-old cauliflower your flatmate holds with the warning, “you’d better not put your nose near this stinker”. But, it’s an instinct nonetheless.

the-rachel-haircutAnd, so it was that I encountered today the “writing” of one Susie O’Brien. I know nothing of Susie O’Brien save for the fact that she is the last woman alive to ask a hairdresser for a modified “Rachel”. I am not myself a very fashionable lady and I am certainly not as photogenic as the blonde and winsome Susie. But, I know what’s right and I know what’s good and asking for a layered, high-maintenance simulation of the Friends second season ain’t it.

Second only to crimes against hair, of course, are crimes against fact. And O’Brien’s refusal to engage with easily accessed fact has produced a brassica of such extreme decay, I find myself unable to let this day pass without publicly scrunching my nose at its moralising rot.

Perhaps O’Brien doesn’t know how silly her hair has made her when she makes the claim that the “Chinese” are inflating our housing market. But, she makes it nonetheless. Chinese investment in housing, writes Rachel, is the “reality that is making housing unaffordable”.

The thing is, though, it’s really not.

I know this because my hair, which is much more like Phoebe’s, was having an argument with its mother. It was mother’s view that my hair had failed to acquire a residence due to financial irresponsibility. It was the, then-unproven, view of my hair that the chasm between the average Australian house price and the average Australian wage had increased over time. As things turned out, Phoebe was right and this was a fact confirmed by the very on-point hair of Christine Lagarde, or at least of the organisation of which her marvelous steely ‘do is managing director. The IMF reports that Australia’s housing price-to-wage ratio is now the world’s third worst. And so, despite the attempts by the Coalition’s Kelly O’Dwyer to prove a connection via the Inquiry Into Foreign Investment In Residential Real Estate between Chinese ownership and housing affordability, it seemed silly to conclude that Australia was being impacted by investment at a rate unseen in the rest of the Western world. Where, in many cases, Chinese persons are free, if not freer, to buy.

Rachel O’Brien Green is a putative journalist and could have always made a call or visited the RBA website or asked Monica for help in understanding the emerging crisis of housing affordability. Instead, she swallowed the reeking fiction served up so regularly by her publishers and elected not to look at the reasons for this local inflationary bias. None of which, to the best of my knowledge stubbornly acquired over several days to prove a point, have anything to do with The Chinese. Whose selfish hegemonic audacity, says O’Brien, is reflected in the fact of them putting up signs in shops in Chinese!!!!! (Note to News: hànzì is not a hot new haircut.)

“The facts speak for themselves,” says Rachel before pausing to offer no facts of consequence. The “facts” of inflationary momentum have even been recently discussed by Federal politicians with the Coalition mentioning, correctly, the impact of state planning controls and the Greens mentioning, correctly, the impact of negative gearing. Tax and asset test concessions have served over time to concentrate property in the hands of a few. Australians, that is.

“Auctions,” says Rachel, “are packed with foreign buyers with cheque books”. Actually, what they are packed with is Australians who have tax benefits of such significance, no first home buyers’ grant can compete.  And these bidders, like all bidders including those who may dare to read Chinese signage in public, don’t squeeze others out of the market because they’re arseholes. They do it just because they can. Policy allows it.

The “people” responsible for inflationary bias are not, as Rachel Green-Hayek suggests, acting against the law to diminish affordable housing. They are working absolutely within it.

It’s been a while since anyone in the ALP has dared talk openly about the consequences of these tax concessions just as it’s been a while since well-to-do Australians stopped thinking of property as something to live in rather than something that lives in an investment portfolio. But, this doesn’t mean that the “facts” about inflation in the sector have changed nor does it mean that a journalist of modest skill can’t locate them. And the “facts” are not that limited affordability is the work of The Chinese, even if Rachel does find it difficult that her “beloved” upscale suburbs are now polluted with the Chinese characters and architecture she sees as testament to “overseas wealth and power”. I mean, can’t These People learn to decorate their gardens with tasteful yucca plants and perhaps get a nice layered crop?

If there is anything polluting our “beloved” suburbs, aside from stupid fucking cafes that serve paleo omelettes on tables upcycled from “retro” (i.e. de-funded) government school desks, it is idiocy. Idiocy of a sort that says Facts Are Facts and not, after all, “racist scaremongering”.

Frankly, I plan never to read Rachel O’Hair again and I don’t give a shit if she’s a racist or not. Perhaps she even travels regularly to Bali where she is “inspired” by the “simple wisdom” of ”local artisans” and is very careful to stay in luxury villas whose construction did not create an inflationary bias for residents. But, I do give a shit that this cauliflower stench is given free license to stand in for the facts of the market.

The thing about capital and the conditions that permit its very uneven distribution is that it does not have a race. It does not have a particular taste in architecture. It does not have morality. This is not to say that people are immoral, although I would argue that to make a statement about the poor taste and greed of a particular ethnic group is immoral. It is, rather, to say that crying for “morality” when what you need to cry out for is a suite of policies to increase housing affordability is bollocks.

Look. Don’t trust me on this. Trust an economic forecaster or an academic whose scholarship is based in urban or housing research. The “facts” can “speak for themselves” if one chooses to allow them oxygen. And to do this, we must remove the cruciferous stench of the rotten cauliflower. You know, the one with the haircut that takes a tiny bit of evil and infects the entire household with it.

Inflationary bias doesn’t just happen because people are Chinese. Or because they are greedy or because they have no taste. It happens because there are no fucking controls on the fucking market—save for those, like negative gearing, which advantage persons already rich in property. And, to a lesser degree, because there are no fucking controls on basic fucking journalism.

I mean. Fuck. I hate numbers and markets bore the blind shit out of me. Even more than season two of Friends. But you just can’t make shit up, lob a few volleys about mock French provincial design and cry about “foreigners” taking control. At least, not without me making fun of your haircut.

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