Australia PM, trailing in election polls, announces housing policy

Recent polls show Scott Morrison's Liberal-National coalition on track to lose to centre-left Labor. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRISBANE (REUTERS) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a housing policy on Sunday (May 15) aimed at boosting home ownership and reducing prices, as his government lags the opposition Labor Party days before a general election.

Australians will vote for a government on Saturday, with recent polls showing Morrison's Liberal-National coalition on track to lose to centre-left Labor.

A win by Labor, led by Anthony Albanese, would end nine years of conservative government in Australia.

Morrison's Liberal Party formally launched its campaign in Brisbane on Sunday, with Morrison detailing the policy at the event in a last-ditch appeal to voters.

“This will increase the opportunity for people to downsize, and increase the supply of family housing stock in the market,” Morrison said.

The policy aims to encourage older Australians to sell the family property, Morrison said. It would enable those aged over 55 to sell a home and invest up to A$300,000 (S$290,000) in a superannuation fund outside existing caps.

The policy is an effort to put downward pressure on high house prices in an election campaign that has been dominated by cost-of-living concerns, national security and climate change.

Morrison said a re-elected coalition government would allow first home buyers to use a “responsible portion” of their superannuation savings to buy a house, calling it a “a game changer” for thousands of families.

The campaign launch comes after Morrison promised on Saturday to be more empathetic if he wins re-election after conceding he could be a "bulldozer" and promising to change.

Labor's Albanese said on Sunday he backed the housing initiative, describing it as a "modest announcement".

"This suggestion by the government is a practical one and we'll support it," he told ABC television.

But the opposition criticised the first home buyer proposal, with Labor campaign spokesperson Jason Clare saying it would lead to even higher house prices.

His party said that if it won government it would spend A$1 billion on advanced manufacturing to boost jobs and diversify the country’s industrial base.

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