July 10th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Julia Gillard's long-term agenda

CANBERRA OBSERVED: No easy policy options for new PM Julia Gillard

Shuffling the deck-chairs leaves key issues unresolved

Feminist-backed push to disadvantage parentcare

HOUSING: Rampant divorce pricing young couples out of homes

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Have we reached the end of the beginning?

LEGAL AFFAIRS: Move to centralise control of the legal profession

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Beijing's softly, softly approach to Taiwan, Hong Kong

CHINA: China labour activism heralds profound change

EUROPEAN UNION: EU President admits people misled by euro project

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Suppressing the truth about maternal deaths

Meet the new family, digitally deluged

PARENTHOOD: No man will ever replace a real mum

Vietnam veterans (letter)

Tony Abbott and his faith (letter)

New states deserve support (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Who jails and tortures the most journalists on earth?; US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

BOOK REVIEW: A RAT IS A PIG IS A DOG IS A BOY: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement, by Wesley J. Smith

BOOK REVIEW: WAR IN THE PACIFIC, 1941-1945, by Richard Overy

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Rampant divorce pricing young couples out of homes

by Peter Kavanagh MP

News Weekly, July 10, 2010
For decades, Australia has borne very high costs for the reckless disregard by some of its governments for families generally and for marriages in particular.

This indifference is perhaps primarily exemplified by Senator Lionel Murphy's Family Law Act of 1975.

The costs of family and marriage breakdowns include personal misery in all its manifestations - harrowing loneliness, suicide and, with little doubt, alcohol and drug abuse, among others. It is also reasonable to conclude that avoidable juvenile delinquency and increased crime are also among the results of letting marriages fail and families fall apart.

Upon consideration, it is clear that our accommodation crisis is also partly another consequence of not even attempting to save marriages that might have survived if our governments and legal system had been supportive rather than destructive of marriages and families.

Sharing is the most efficient method we have for utilising almost any asset. Two people cannot live as cheaply as one, but, through sharing, they can live for less than twice the cost of a single person.

Families provide a natural form of insurance and a means of getting best value out of shareable assets, including housing. Family break-ups inevitably reduce real living standards.

Most divorces increase the level of demand for housing. When couples divorce, both parties generally need their own houses or apartments even if they do not have children. Two people, who need only one house between them when living together, need two homes when they live apart (even if each home is slightly smaller than the accommodation that they previously shared). This obviously increases net demand for homes.

The law of supply and demand tells us that increased demand for any good, service or asset will increase its price. The degree of price increase will depend upon what economists call "the price elasticity of demand" - the actual extent to which prices vary in response to changes in demand. It is possible for a small rise in the level of demand for a good, service or asset to cause a large increase in its price. This is particularly likely to be true in cases where the supply of the particular "service, good or asset" is limited and cannot be readily increased, such as is the case with land.

It was not long ago that ordinary Australian working families could afford decent accommodation for even a large number of children. It was a great feature of Australia and a major aspect of our very high quality of life and standard of living, but this is no longer the case.

Housing is now out of the reach of ordinary Australian families. Indeed, even Australians on quite high incomes from secure jobs now find it very difficult to buy a home. Rents are also every high.

There are many reasons for this, including increased population in our cities and higher expectations in respect to the size and quality of housing.

Another important cause is surely the extremely high divorce rates that Australia has experienced for decades. Our divorce rates have partly been the consequence of the failure of some Australian governments to even try to keep families together.

We have a federal Labor Government whose ministers refer repeatedly to "working families"; but many on this side of politics actually have very little respect for traditional families.

A government that is actually committed to keeping troubled families together, whenever this is possible, would actually help lead to a better Australia, including more affordable housing.

Peter Kavanagh MLC is the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) state upper house MP for Western Victoria.

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