Joe Hockey, in trying to justify increased student contributions to higher education, used the quote, "In your twenties you complain and in your forties you explain." It's an easy way to brush away the anxieties and anger of an entire generation of Australians, but it also feels like for the first time, this may not be true. I don't see a future, even in my forties, where home ownership and economic stability are a reality. It is scary, and it is my reality. And the generations before me don't give a damn.
You only have to look at the figures to understand the horror in the eyes of Millennials. Total stagnation of wages growth coupled with the median house price now some 14 times the average income, and growing.
Australians are now saying that a household income of $150,000 would allow for a comfortable existence, and yet with more than half the population of Australia on incomes under $60,000 per year, this seems like a distant reality. Household budgets aren't going to miraculously grow, unless policymakers get serious on fixing the cost of living, or we suddenly embrace polygamy.
The recent discussions around allowing young people to tap into their superannuation to put together a housing deposit are an interesting development in this space. I'm encouraged by politicians having these policy debates in the open, but the policy creates more problems than it solves.
In a simple supply-demand market, allowing Millennials to tap into their super, even for a short time, does little to cool an overheated housing market, and only artificially inflates prices – as Millennials scrape together every dollar they have to throw at a house. What happens if the "bubble" bursts, like so many people say it will? Millennials are left in the red, with nothing to fall back on. It's an unconscionable policy.
Senator Derryn Hinch says "owning a house is not a right" and I agree, we don't have an inherent right to own a home. However, we do have a reasonable expectation that the people we elect, and the government we pay taxes to, might actually have our best interests at heart – and give us the best opportunity to make home ownership a reality.
So why are politicians taking this line, and why are some of their base supporting it? As an angsty Millennial, I can only come to the conclusion that maybe our parents don't love us like theirs did. If our parents loved us, they'd support policies that actually restored some balance to the market, like addressing negative gearing, an over-politicised issue, and making foreign ownership more difficult.
The government has taken some steps to try and reduce rates of foreign ownership, but there's little evidence to show these levies deter foreign buyers, as after all, Australia's major cities are cheap compared to the financial centres of Hong Kong and London. It is not unreasonable to expect that Australians should be able to buy in Australian cities, and taking a tougher stance on foreign ownership is one way to create a more level playing field for Aussies looking to buy their own home.
By failing to address housing affordability, prioritising investors and allowing rates of foreign ownership to rise – the government is selling out young Australians, and our parents are letting them. The generation that had everything going for them, has turned their back on Millennials, and rubbed salt into the wound, by telling us to "toughen up". The irony is not lost on young people, when older generations complain about anyone making retrospective changes to their superannuation!
In fact, I think our parents should "toughen up", and support policies that encourage wage growth and an equitable housing market for the next generation. Learn a lesson from the war generations, and actually make sacrifices to your high standard of living. The sacrifice you're forcing Millennials to make, is the sacrifice of a prosperous Australian middle class, and a generation burdened by mortgages they cannot afford, and a widening gap between rich and poor.
Before you criticise Millennials for being lazy or entitled, reflect on how good you had it at their age, and on how good you have it now, and ask the simple question – is it fair?
Megan Shellie is a bachelor of arts/ law (Hons) student at the ANU, and chair of the Youth Advisory Committee for YMCA Canberra.