Cubitt Street, Richmond, home to go under the hammer as real estate prices rise

Nick Callanan and Penny Chan in front of their Cremorne home. Photo: Wayne TaylorThis little workers cottage in Cubitt Street, Richmond, tells its own bust-to-boom story.
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The free-standing weatherboard last changed hands in 2006 for $499,950 when the standard variable mortgage rate was 7.3 per cent, shortly before the US subprime mortgage crisis precipitated a global slump and today’s historic low interest rates.

Later this month the two-bedroom home will go under the hammer along with 1440 other properties after two years of steadily rising prices and just as the Reserve Bank’s Tuesday rate cut filters through to the property market. It’s expected to have almost doubled in value.

The 18-month record run of low interest rates has spurred Melbourne’s median house price to hit a fresh peak of $669,000 late last year, up from a previous high of $550,000 in 2010, just-released December quarter figures from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria show.

Prices rose most in middle suburbs, with regional areas rebounding as buyers looked for more affordable properties, REIV chief executive Enzo Raimondo said.

“Melbourne’s record-breaking auction boom, which continued until just days before Christmas, helped push home prices up,” he said.

But while values in Melbourne and Sydney at still climbing, other cities lag. Prices in Canberra and Darwin are depressed, and Perth’s are stagnant.

After cutting rates, the Reserve Bank will be watching property markets closely, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Given the large increases in housing prices in some regions and ongoing strength in lending to investors in housing assets, housing market developments will need to be watched carefully,” the RBA said in a statement on Friday, justifying its rate cut.

The statement included a mild warning to lenders that the RBA was considering so-called “macroprudential” controls to limit high-risk loans.

“The bank is working with other regulators to assess and contain economic risks that may arise from the housing market,” it said.

If passed on in full, the cut will result in a saving of $53 a month for a borrower with a $350,000 loan.

Financial markets are pricing in a one-in-three chance of a further rate cut next month.

Cubitt Street homeowner Nick Callanan said a desire to “upsize” and the buoyant property market had prompted his decision to move. “It’s a good time to sell particularly with the recent interest rate cuts,” he said.

But some economists fear lower interest rates could result in another property boom.

“One of the clearest things low interest rates are going to do is boost housing markets. Even lower interest rates risk seeing a housing bubble form, particularly in the Sydney market,” HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said.

Biggin & Scott real estate agent Edward Hobbs said he was expecting another strong year.

“The apartment market for new property is saturated but the housing market is still strong,” he said.

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Senator John Faulkner, Labor’s conscience, leaves Parliament after 25 years

Retiring Labor Senator John Faulkner packing up his Drummoyne office. Photo: Kate Geraghty Retiring Labor Senator John Faulkner packing up his Drummoyne office. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Retiring Labor Senator John Faulkner packing up his Drummoyne office. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Retiring Labor Senator John Faulkner packing up his Drummoyne office. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Labor’s elder statesman in the Senate, John Faulkner, spent the last day of his parliamentary term on Friday packing up boxes in his Sydney office, and having a quiet lunch with staff.

There would, he said, be no parting fireworks after 25 years in the nation’s upper house, no clarion calls for party reform of the sort that made headlines last year.

It was not a day for that.

Instead, he wanted it known that “I will always be a Labor loyalist, and a true believer, even at times when I have argued for change and for those in the party to change their approach. I owe the Labor Party everything.”

Senator Faulkner made an impassioned, and unsuccessful, plea at the state ALP conference last year for changes to the way upper house Labor MPs were selected, saying the stranglehold of factional and union bosses had to be broken.

The party, he said, could not escape responsibility for a system that had enabled the repeated endorsement of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, found later by ICAC to be corrupt.

Speeches like this have led to Senator Faulkner, who was a longstanding Senate opposition leader, as well as a minister under three Labor prime ministers, being characterised as the party’s conscience.

But on Friday he declared “my public political life is behind me”.

There will be no autobiography or memoir, no career in lobbying or in the media, he insists.

Instead, he will make a “useful contribution to the community” in some yet-to-be-revealed capacity. In the short term, he will advise new state ALP leader Luke Foley in the lead-up to the NSW election in March.

An intensely private politician, Senator Faulkner said the rise of social media had made a huge difference to the life of politicians. “So many more aspects of your life are an open book than previously would have been the case.”

Always entrusted by the party’s leaders with their deepest political secrets, he has never revealed the conversations he had with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard on the night she launched her challenge.

On Friday, he stuck to his hallmark taciturnity.

His response as Liberal leadership clouds gathered in Canberra? A wry “no comment”.

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The Liberals of the west who forced the vote against Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Federal MP Luke Simpkins poses with Karen National Defence Organisation head Major-General Ner Dah Bo Mya on January 31. Photo: Steve SandfordAbbott and Bishop to work together to defeat spill’We must bring this to a head and test support’Julie Bishop refuses to quell unrestAbbott’s leadership enters the killing zone
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Days before his surprise incursion on to the centre stage of Australian politics, little-known Liberal Luke Simpkins made an illegal incursion into Myanmar from across the Thai border.

The MP West Australian MP, who has forced the vote that will decide Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s hold on the prime ministership, is another political maverick from the west.

Along with Dennis Jensen, the first Liberal to call on Mr Abbott to resign this week, and Don Randall, who will second Mr Simpkins’ spill motion on Tuesday, Mr Simpkins walks his own path.

Among his pet dislikes, which he has spoken up about in parliament, is halal meat which he has described as “one step down the path to [Islamic] conversion”.

He has spoken up for banning the burqa and was one of a handful of Liberals – along with Mr Jensen – to oppose the apology to the stolen generations.

On Tuesday, Fairfax Media reported Mr Simpkins’ “illegal” visit to Karen rebel paramilitaries in Myanmar.

The former Australian army officer presented a large Australian flag to the rebels before re-entering Thailand near the border town of Mae Sot, 491 kilometres north of Bangkok.

Mr Simpkins, who was born in Sydney and attended Sydney Boys High, defended breaching another country’s sovereignty, saying pressure had to be exerted on “military-controlled governments”.

Mr Simpkins said he would report his findings to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the most senior and influential member of the West Australian Liberals.

It is not known whether he did that or whether Mr Simpkins and Mr Randall warned Ms Bishop that they would call for a spill.

According to Ms Bishop’s statement, released on Friday after Mr Abbott vowed to fight the motion, she does not support their course of action.

Ms Bishop’s relationship with the rebel elements in the Liberal Party room will be under close scrutiny, with the major backbench manoeuvres against Mr Abbott’s leadership beginning in that state.

Mr Simpkins said he expects “people like Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison will stand”.

“I expect Malcolm Turnbull will put his hand up as well,” he said.

In an initial statement, he said the spill motion would give all members the opportunity to “either endorse the prime minister or seek a new direction”.

“I have no front-bench ambitions,” he said.

“I just want to make sure that the economic vandals do not get back into power and our children and grandchildren are not left to pay Labor’s bill.

“I do this because I believe it is in the best interests of the people of our country.”

Mr Simpkins said he had been “inundated” with emails and people coming into his office questioning the direction the government.

Like Mr Simpkins, Mr Randall did not attend the Stolen Generations apology by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

He once referred to the “Gay-BC” when referring to the national broadcaster and its perceived biases.

Mr Randall was at the centre of the expenses scandal that rocked the early days of the Abbott government.

A Fairfax Media investigation found he had used $10,000 in taxpayer money to fly to Cairns, north Queensland, where he and his wife own an investment property. He claimed he was on “electorate business” in visiting then-party whip Warren Entsch.

Mr Entsch cast doubt on whether that was electorate business and Mr Randall later paid back the fares.

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Liberal spill: where various cabinet ministers stand

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces that he will not step down despite a challenge to his leadership. Photo: Janie BarrettTony Abbott
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Leader of the Liberal Party since he deposed Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 and Prime Minister since winning the 2013 election. Will not go quietly, having told dissenters they were “asking the party room to vote out the people that the electorate voted in.”

Malcolm Turnbull

Communications Minister, former leader and the prime contender for the leadership. On Thursday, Turnbull stated that there was “no tension between Tony and any of his senior colleagues. It is a very, very cohesive team and we are all supportive”. Has not spoken since the spill motion was placed on the agenda.

Julie Bishop

Deputy leader of the party, Foreign Minister and is consistently mentioned as a a potential challenger for the leadership. Will vote with the Prime Minister against the first spill motion for the sake of “cabinet solidarity” but has not agreed to run on a joint ticket with Abbott if the spill motion gets up.

Scott Morrison

Until recently the Immigration Minister, now the Social Services Minister. Very succesful in his former portfolio and touted as a potential leader, although he has ruled out nominating. Reportedly a possible replacement for Joe Hockey as treasurer.

Joe Hockey

The Treasurer has said that he “strongly supports” the Prime Minister. His position as Treasurer would be vulnerable under an alternative leadership.

Warren Truss

Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals. Although Nationals cannot vote in a Liberal leadership ballot, Truss has thrown his support behind the Prime Minister.

Barnaby Joyce

Agriculture Minister and deputy leader of the Nationals. Quoted on Friday: “If all of sudden a different person is walking down the aisle towards us, don’t necessarily think the wedding is still on.”

Eric Abetz

Leader of the Government in the Senate and from the conservative wing of the party. Abetz has publicly stated his support for the prime minister.

Christopher Pyne

Leader of the House and Education Minister. On Friday morning, Pyne stated that he was a “strong supporter” of the Prime Minister but didn’t appear confident that he would survive a ballot.

Andrew Robb

Trade Minister and a senior Liberal figure. While he supports Abbott, he has stated that the concerns of backbenchers are legitimate and that the Prime Minister’s “position relies on his performance.”

Bruce Billson

Small Business Minister. Stated his support for the prime minister on Friday afternoon, Billson said “the spill-motion will not succeed. It would be an act of self-harm.”

Peter Dutton

Recently minted immigration minister, Dutton has stated that a “spill of a sitting Prime Minister half way through his first term when there is no challenger just makes no sense.”

Kevin Andrews

Defence Minister. Will vote against the motion because MPs “should respect the view that the Australian people took to the election.”

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Defence Minister Kevin Andrews in Julia Gillard leadership gaffe

Analysis: all eyes on TurnbullThe Pulse: Tony Abbott faces leadership challenge’He’s smarter than Tony Abbott’
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Among the cavalcade of ministers pledging their support for Prime Minister Tony Abbott there was one statement that really stood out – for all the wrong reasons.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews followed his colleagues by calling a press conference to plead for unity amid the extraordinary leadership crisis gripping the Liberal Party.

“I believe the team of Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard is the best leadership team for the Liberal Party and therefore part of the best leadership team of the Coalition for the country,” he said.

It was unfortunate. And it was perfect. Thank heavens Kevin Andrews is not in charge of anything important like, say, Defence. — Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) February 6, 2015

“We should respect the decision that the Australian people made and, most importantly, we should be acting for stability of the party and through that for the stability of the country.”

One by one, ministers emerged on Friday to declare they would not support next Tuesday’s leadership spill.

They included Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Employment Minister Eric Abetz and Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“I believe that the spill motion should be defeated and will be defeated,” Mr Frydenberg told the ABC.

“We saw, from the Labor Party when they were in government, it turn out like a very bad horror movie. I just don’t want to buy another ticket to such a horror movie.” Amid the flurry I missed Kevin Andrews saying he believes the team of Tony Abbott & Julia Gillard is the best team for the Liberals — Lauren Gianoli (@LaurenGianoli) February 6, 2015

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