One in 10 NSW MPs are in an elite club of Australians who own four properties or more, according to an analysis of property disclosures.
Just 2 per cent of Australians own four or more properties – but in the NSW parliament, that group makes up about 12 per cent of MPs.
The MP with the most properties, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Roy Butler, reported 12 homes in his latest disclosure form.
“I’ve been lucky, but it didn’t come without hard work and sacrifice,” Mr Butler said.
Former SFF MP and now independent Helen Dalton disclosed seven properties, mostly farms in the country near Griffith where she and her husband work the land.
But she also has a country home as well as a flat on Oxford Street in Sydney where she lives during sitting weeks.
“I wanted a place in the city that I could call home and where I could keep my toothbrush,” she said.
Another politician who has seven properties to his name is independent Wagga Wagga MP Joe McGirr.
A physician by trade, Dr McGirr’s property portfolio includes three homes on Sydney’s north shore, two homes in Wagga, and a holiday home in Mareuil-sur-Cher, France.
The seventh property appears to be a business address.
Two Liberal MPs also stuck out with six properties each: former local government minister Gabrielle Upton and former multiculturalism minister Ray Williams.
Ms Upton said three of the properties she declared were homes, including a terrace in Paddington, and the others included two commercial units and a carpark.
“A lot of people start with not much and work hard, which is how my situation came about,” the Vaucluse MP said.
“I think that’s a good thing.”
Seventeen NSW MPs declared having an interest in four or more properties, including some who have since retired from parliament.
The other MPs who declared at least four properties included the retired party leaders John Barilaro, of the Nationals, and Jodi McKay, of the Labor Party, who have both left parliament since handing in their disclosure papers.
Nationals leader and Deputy Premier Paul Toole is also in the club as well as other members from the Nationals, Liberals, Labor, the Greens and One Nation.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has four properties as well – all located at the same address in inner Sydney – plus a minor share of a Queensland holiday home.
Mr Greenwich said he and his husband rented one of the four apartments and owned the other three together.
“We’ve acquired these properties over time, but owning them in no way limits my strong advocacy for greater access to social and affordable housing and making renting fair for people, and my record shows that,” he said.
“We’re allowed to own properties and must disclose them, but we also have a duty to acknowledge we’re in a fortunate position, having good salaries, and it’s incumbent on us to have a strong focus on the affordability of housing for people right across the state.”
Deputy Nationals leader Bronnie Taylor reported an interest in 12 properties; however, her office clarified only three of those were homes she co-owned.
The other nine properties were farmland held by a trust that the minister’s husband had an interest in, Ms Taylor’s office said.
Mr Butler, Ms Dalton and Ms Upton all said they had worked hard to amass their property portfolios and had nothing to hide.
Mr Butler said he had set out to learn about the property market as a teenager, had put in work to increase the value of properties and then borrowed against the equity to buy more homes.
“I strongly believe we need to teach young people to be financially literate, and I have advocated for that issue in parliament,” he said.
He said he bought his first home in 2001, and all except one of the properties he disclosed were bought before he entered politics.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals 21 per cent of Australian households – about one in five, or just more than two million households – own another property other than their home.
That figure would include households that rent, rather than own, their primary residence, the ABS said.
There are 155,200 households in the country that own three or more properties on top of the house where they live, the data shows.
Overall, about 60 per cent of NSW MPs disclosed interest in at least one property other than their primary residence.
However, the exact rate of property interests among the politicians is difficult to pin down.
That’s because different politicians take different approaches to the disclosure forms.
Some MPs did not include enough information in their forms to determine what type of properties they had an interest in and whether a given property was a business location or a home.
Another complicating factor is that some of the MPs disclosed properties owned by their spouses, while others did not.
Former Greens MP David Shoebridge, for example, disclosed four properties owned by his wife.
Former trade minister Stuart Ayres, on the other hand, disclosed a home in Mulgoa but not a Chippendale property that his partner, senator Marise Payne, reported in her federal disclosure form.
A spokeswoman for Mr Ayres said he had no interest in the Chippendale property.
The disclosures also don’t reveal the value of the homes, meaning an MP with just one investment property in an expensive area may have a more valuable portfolio than someone with several cheaper homes.
The law governing the disclosures, the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983, says each MP “shall disclose … the address of each parcel of real property in which the Member had an interest” at the time of the return.
Members hand in ordinary returns at the beginning of each financial year, covering the previous 12 months.
They also hand in supplementary returns six months later, disclosing any changes that happened in the interim.
The forms are lengthy, sometimes filled in by hand, and tabled in parliament in document bundles that are usually not automatically searchable.
The most recent set of forms from both houses of parliament, including both ordinary and supplementary returns, total 1827 pages.
A prominent integrity advocate said disclosing interest in properties and businesses was necessary to prevent conflicts of interest.
“It’s plain as day that we need an ample system under which politicians and senior bureaucrats, who have entered public life and taken on the burden of doing so, must disclose potential conflicts,” said former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Watson SC.
“When you take on public life, and the benefits that come with it, you also take on the consequences of doing so, and filling out these forms accurately is one of them.”
Dr McGirr and Mr Williams were contacted for comment.
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