Commercial assets favoured by Australian politicians
From farming to commercial warehouses, shopping centres and storage units, investing in commercial property is a reality for members of Australia’s 46th parliament.
Research conducted by realcommercial.com.au has found that many of our senators and members of parliament own commercial properties.
With a starting salary of $211,250 members have the funds to invest in a range of commercial asset classes in addition to the residential properties some also own.
Our research also found that many members of parliament and senators have listed a range of assets, excluding household and personal effects, worth over $7500 that include things like boats, a share in a boat shed, a musical instrument, livestock, motorcycles and cars.
Farm and land assets are common
Owning a farm or farmland is the most common asset that members of parliament and senators own. A number of politicians also own vacant land, which may or may not be a commercial asset, or could potentially be turned into a residential property or a farm.
In some cases, farm properties will also be a primary residence that may have been inherited or may be jointly owned with a partner or spouse. Given that many politicians represent rural or regional constituencies, it’s not unusual for these representative to own a farm or farmland.
Independent Indi MP Helen Haines for example, owns a beef and cattle property in Wangaratta that has been her home for many years, while Leichardt MP Warren Entsch owns a property in Malanda, Queensland that is described as both residential and a grazing property.
New England MP and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce owns a rural property in Baradine, NSW, while Groom MP Garth Hamilton owns a parcel of farmland in South Toowoomba, QLD. Forrest MP Nola Marino owns farmland in Harvey, WA, Grey MP Rowan Ramsey’s list includes agricultural land in Kimba, SA, while LaTrobe MP Jason Wood owns land in Sassafras, Dandenong Ranges.
In August 2020 Dickson MP Peter Dutton updated his form to add a farm in Dayboro, Queensland to his registered interests.
South Australian ALP Senator Don Farrell owns a vineyard in Spring Farm. Victorian Senator Greg Mirabella earns an income from a farm in Wangaratta that is also described as a residential property.
Retiring Hunter MP and ALP politician Joel Fitzgibbon owns a commercial property in Cessnock. Western Australia Moore MP Ian Goodenough owns a farm in Red Gully.
realcommercial.com.au has sought comment from all of the above named politicians about these rural properties, but did not hear back by deadline.
Retail, industrial and office assets
Dickson MP Peter Dutton’s property collection has garnered media coverage in the past. With a portfolio including a Townsville shopping centre, which records show is held by RHT Investments, under the ‘Trust [beneficiary]: RHT Family Trust, Shares: Dutton Holdings [Qld] P/L Shares/spouse: K.D.Investments [Qld] Pty Ltd’.
Two years ago, Mr Dutton failed to declare the Townsville million-dollar property, which includes three shops, that he purchased for $760,000 in 2016.
Mr Goodenough owns an office in Belmont – in Perth’s southern suburbs – in addition to a Belmont warehouse, a Currambine tenancy, plus a storage unit in the suburb.
Records show these assets are held under the ‘Currambine District Centre One Pty Ltd Commercial Property Development’ and ‘Investment / Currambine District Centre Two Pty Ltd Commercial Property Development’, as well as a directorship titled, ‘Investment / Westcapital Group Pty Ltd Property Development and Investment’.
Mr Dutton and Mr Goodenough did not respond before deadline when contacted by realcommercial.com.au for comment.
Retiring Nationals MP for Nicholls Damian Drum confirmed to realcommercial.com.au that he owns a half share in land in Hoppers Crossing which he purchased in 1988 in conjunction with his brother. The industrial block was maintained and at one point rented out to a car yard. After the car yard business was sold, Mr Drum and his brother kept the land.
Politicians are smart investors
Scott O’Neill, director of commercial property buyers’ agency Rethink Investing and Rethink Financing said investing in commercial property assets would be a natural progression for politicians who were seasoned property investors.
“Once you are over a certain wealth, once you have bought your holiday house and your family home and that, and a handful of houses it’s sort of your go to next step,” he said.
“It almost like a wealth factor. So maybe because they’ve bought a few its sort of like, ‘Well, I have done that and now I need to diversify’ and with the yields with residential being so low [and] now to kind of scale your portfolio, it’s pretty hard to do that without the commercial income.”
From a net yield point of view, commercial property reaped about triple the return on a residential investment, Mr O’Neill said.
“In residential you normally get about a 3 or 4% gross return [but] when you take all your outgoings out of it you might be left with 1 or 2 % net before your mortgage,” he said.
“But then commercial, you are looking at 5 or 6 or 8% return, net. So, because of that really high income, as long as you have the deposit, you can kind of keep buying these things because the banks will keep lending.”
The right time to invest
Curtin University School of Economics and Finance instructor Elson Goh said current conditions were creating an attractive market.
“If you look at traditional vacancy rates, on average they are about 2.5 to 3.5 %. So when we are doing any form of projections we always factor in the 2.5 – 3.5 % vacancy rates but right now vacancy rates are at an all-time low. We are sitting in anywhere between 0.5 to 1.5 %.”
Mr O’Neill said investing in industrial property had been booming since the pandemic.
“So, the manufacturing and storage, and obviously anything to do with online sales – that is shipped and stored logistically and anything that’s manufactured under a roof of an industrial property – all of that we have seen some of the fastest growth rates in history,” he said.
“Basically more people are piling into it as they view it as sort of a safe haven asset because basically it’s a growth market.
“Yields are getting lower because people are paying more and more for the same rent value, and it’s almost viewed as a capital growth asset these days.”
Establishing ownership of assets
All of the data for this story comes from publicly available information taken from the Register of Members’ Interests – 46th Parliament and the Register of Senators’ Interests – 46th Parliament.
Many MPs and Senators list themselves or their spouses as beneficiaries of trusts and in some cases like Fadden MP Stuart Robert, blind trusts, so it can be difficult to establish ownership of properties.
The assets realcommercial.com.au has included in this story come from those listed on these forms as owned by individual members of parliament or senators and not their spouses.
Some properties are both residential and commercial, as is the case with Lyne MP David Gillespie, who owns an investment property in Port Macquarie described as both a commercial and residential asset.
– With research from Chris Bartlett.