Did you pay for the Treasurer’s home? Kitchen Cabinet Kitchen Cabinet

Independent senator Nick Xenophon is calling for greater transparency for MPs who use taxpayer-funded allowances to pay off houses in Canberra, accusing the Government of “dog whistling” on home ownership.

The call follows Treasurer Joe Hockey’s advice to first-home buyers to “get a good job that pays good money”.

When in Canberra, Mr Hockey stays in the exclusive suburb of Forrest at a house he and his wife own.

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The house is valued at around $2 million and was bought in 1997 for $320,000.

As a politician, Mr Hockey also legitimately claims a $270-a-night allowance for travel to the capital.

In the past he has rented rooms in the property to other politicians.

Right to know

Senator Xenophon told ABC’s Lateline the public had a right to know how their money was being used.

Mr Xenophon said the issue would continue to dog the government.

Return property profits: Xenophon. Photo: AAP

“If an MP is using their allowance to pay off a home for themselves or for their spouse, I don’t think it’s unfair to require transparency,” he said.

A recently retired senator confirmed to the ABC that it is common practice for politicians in the major parties to buy a house in Canberra and use their travel allowance to pay off the mortgage.

“It’s an entirely legitimate entitlement that gets turned into a benefit and an advantage [in the property market],” they said.

Senator Xenophon said he would look at forcing politicians to return some of the profits from selling a Canberra property to taxpayers if they had used public money for their mortgage.

“I like the idea of a portion of that capital gain being put back into Treasury’s coffers,” he said.

“Although the flip side to that is if the housing market crashes, and the MP makes a loss, I don’t think taxpayers would want to subsidise a bad investment decision by an MP.”

The Treasurer on Wednesday softened his comments about home ownership, saying he “totally understands” property in Sydney and Melbourne is “very expensive”.

But Senator Xenophon said he hoped the comments were not part of a political strategy to pander to home owners at the expense of renters.

“I certainly hope that the Government isn’t hinting that if you’re a property owner that’s good and if you’re a renter that’s not so good,” he said.

“It just seems to me that the Government might be putting their lips on that dog whistle when it comes to property ownership and that’s not a good thing.”

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