Tom Burton: Don’t mention the B word in Sydney


Raal estate sold sign

As NSW spends up big on infrastructure, health and education, no one seems to want to talk about the real estate bubble threatening to ruin the party.

What bubble economy?

The smell of high octane speculation is evident every successive Saturday in the nation’s biggest city. Add the likes of RBA governor Glenn Stevens, and federal Treasury secretary John Fraser, angsting about the “crazy” 30% increase in Sydney houses prices, and you would have hoped the possibility of a damaging bust would have featured large in today’s NSW budget papers.

Instead there was not a mention of the words ‘bubble’ or ‘bust’. The only B word NSW Treasury was prepared to utter was that the risks were “evenly balanced”. Shades of then US Federal Reserve chief, Alan Greenspan, who months before the global crash of 2008 also declared all the risks were in balance.

The closest Treasury was prepared to go was to muse about the dangers of a medium-term “disorderly correction” in housing prices, if interest rates continue to be low for a prolonged period — as most sensible economists are predicting.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.