Four Corners episode too light on: Louis Christopher

Four Corners episode too light on: Louis Christopher
Four Corners episode too light on: Louis Christopher


Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of substance in the Four Corners program Betting on the House.

Claims were made without backing evidence. Too much was made of individual ‘hard-up’ cases. When will some borrowers understand that it is ultimately your responsibility to work out if you can service a loan or not?! Portraying the basket case of Mandurah as something that could happen to the rest of the country is laughable.

Mandurah, a regional town, approximately 100km south of Perth, has had problems for many years now. All that should be taken from this point is Australia has a mixed housing market where risks are elevated on isolated, regional areas.

Yes, of course, housing prices can and do fall. Perhaps if that point alone needs to be stated out aloud, over and over again, then fair enough. But I got a distinct impression that the implicit message that Mandurah could be a precipitous for something much wider and bigger.

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Four Corners episode too light on: Louis Christopher

Much was made of rising loan defaults and mortgage stress getting to a breaking point. Yet the reality is loan defaults remain at low levels and loan servicing at this stage is not an issue.

Yes, of course, if the RBA lifts rates aggressively, we could have a large correction in the market. For the record, we have been stating this in our Housing Boom and Bust reports for a number of years now. It is a risk that is well and truly acknowledged, not just by myself but by many others including the RBA who recently discussed what would now be regarded as the new “normal interest rate setting”.

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Four Corners episode too light on: Louis Christopher

Perhaps if there was a more rigorous discussion on this point (where is the new normal for interest rates) that would have been useful. Quite clearly, with the excessive amount of private debt in the economy, a cash rate of say circa 6% would smash the community, which I personally find concerning.

This is not the first time Four Corners has covered the housing market.

In May last year, they ran a story on the market, mainly covering negative gearing but also discussing how the market could pop. They rolled out Steve Keen and Lindsay David.  It was a relatively good piece, overall in comparison.  

Since then, the Liberal Government has gone some way to reforming Negative Gearing by preventing plant and equipment depreciation claim on existing investment properties and cutting out travel expenses. And there also has been further clamp downs on foreign investment activity with reports offshore that the rate of capital outflows from China has significantly slowed.

Yet, the market continues to rise…

Macrobusiness today provided a scoop on the fact that many of the commentators featured in the segment felt that their comments on population growth as being a contributor to an overvalued housing market, was cut out!  If so, this is a disgrace on the part of 4 Corners producers. Let’s just remember, Melbourne’s population is expanding by 120,000 a year or 2.4% pa.

Sydney is rising at 90,000 a year or 1.7% pa. These are massive numbers which are causing some rather obvious issues on housing and creating a strain on our existing infrastructure with long term ramifications for our natural resources.

Excessive population growth, while not the sole reason, is most certainly a large reason why Sydney and Melbourne housing markets are massively overvalued right now and yet are not correcting despite macro prudential action which has included interest rate rises on investors.  

If there cannot be a public discussion on this issue than this country has some real problems.

Louis Christopher is managing director of SQM Research. He can be contacted here.

Louis Christopher

Louis Christopher

Louis Christopher is the director of research house SQM Research.

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