The property development lobby, as readers of this site know well, constantly badgers government to raise migration levels in order to keep up demand for housing beyond that which would naturally occur without massive overseas migration. And government and property development are increasingly enmeshed. The unfairness of top-down population and development engineering in the guise of planning and environment, is encountering increasing local resistance from those communities that have retained any self-determination in the face of massive population-infilling elsewhere. And this is drawing increasingly authoritarian responses.
It is somewhat worrying to read the treatment that Michael Brennan, outgoing Productivity Commission member, would have meted out to resistant members of the Australian community in his ambitions to make a ‘strong contribution to the housing debate.’ (Joe Kelly, 'Michael Brennan: make affluent local councils pay for 1.2 million homes target', The Australian, August 28 2023.) Brennan formerly worked for the Australian Treasury, which has recently been shown to be responsible for setting Australia's massive immigration numbers. (https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2021/06/why-is-treasury-setting-australias-immigration-numbers/)
From Brennan’s jarringly authoritarian stance, it would seem that meeting the property developer lobby's latest 1.2 million new homes demand on the government would require states to over-ride well-founded democratic objections, by extorting prohibitive payments from local councils that refuse to dictate to their residents in favour of the growth lobby's objectives for lining its pockets by forcing Australians to accommodate mass migration from overseas.
“Achieving the 1.2 million new homes target would depend on a shake-up of the way state governments incentivised change at the local level. [Brennan] said “relatively affluent” councils that resisted new housing should be forced to contribute to infrastructure costs for developments in other municipalities.”
Referring to a 'disconnect,' Brennan seems to be advocating that residents need a lasting painful fiscal shock in order to realise that they no longer live in a democracy.
“The states are probably going to have to incentivise their local councils. I think that’s where the biggest disconnect has been around the target of 1.2 million new dwellings,” [Brennan] said.
Although Mr Brennan seemed to acknowledge in his term, 'bear[ing] the brunt,' that [forced] 'new growth' is an unpleasant thing, there seems to be no recognition that residents, indeed, citizens, actually have rights and should retain control over their built and natural environments. That is what councils are for.
Mr Brennan seems to think that government is there to dictate to the incumbent population of Australia at a fundamental level.
Indeed, Mr Brennan’s language seems quite indignant at the idea that Australians might even think of resisting overpopulation and the associated fall in living standards and quality of life.
Interestingly, Mr Brennan, despite being on the Productivity Commission (which reports to the Australian Treasury), does not seem to have considered that the industries that profit from all this growth and which have been demanding it for years, should also pay for it (if it is to go ahead at all.)
“I think there should be a fiscal dimension. If some municipalities don’t really want to have much population growth … then, to some extent, they need to help fund the cost of the infrastructure and other things that are going on where the growth is happening.” (Brennan)
Mr Brennan warned a lot of the strain was falling to councils on the urban fringe “who have to bear the brunt of the new growth” and some inner city councils where there was a “greater preparedness for higher density.”
Mr Brennan is leaving his position, as a public servant with the Productivity Commission, to become chief executive of the e61 economic research institute in September 2023. This institute’s ‘supporters’ are the Susan McKinnon Foundation, the Becker Friedman Institute, Macquarie Business School, and for data: Illion (a credit reporting agency, PropTrak (property marketing and lending), Purpose bureau (all kinds of data collection on businesses), Afterpay a money-lending organisation, Accenture (‘consulting’) and Xero (Accounting software and services), but also the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
Michael Brennan commenced a 5 year term as Chair of the Productivity Commission in September 2018. Previously Michael was Deputy Secretary, Fiscal Group, in the Federal Treasury with responsibility for budget policy, retirement incomes, Commonwealth-State relations, social policy and infrastructure financing.Before that he was Deputy Secretary, Economic in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance. Michael has worked as an Associate Director in the economics and policy practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and as a senior adviser to Treasurers and Ministers for Finance at the State and Federal level.