Lindsay David may sound crazy comparing Australia’s banks to Lehman Brothers and Bernie Madoff.
But in his mind, it’s everyone else who is living in a “Disneyland” delusion by failing to spot a bank-led property bubble that shows no sign of deflating.
“No one in the Western world has ever done what we are doing.”: Lindsay David. Photo: Supplied
It’s “the sheer size of the loans relative to the incomes here” that troubles Mr David.
“No one in the Western world has ever done what we are doing.”
Mr David, who used the case studies and research projects from his time at the IMD business school in Switzerland to form the basis of a book, Australia: Boom to Bust,
warns that the three shaky pillars of real estate, resources and the banks will eventually collapse.
He says that as Chinese authorities appreciate, China’s built more houses and apartments than it needs. Demand for Australian ore will grind to a halt,
triggering a weakness in the economy that will expose the banks. “There are going to be more apartments than people in China and all of a sudden if [the construction] stops,
then what is the floor on the spot price of iron ore?
We don’t know what that is,” he said. Last week he used the Financial System Inquiry open forum to present his book to its chair David Murray,
who begrudgingly asked to see his stress test of the Australian banks.
The tables of comparisons that feature in his book and on his website show the extent to which Australians value property compared with those in other countries.
The median house price to income of Sydney is nine times, compared to 6.2 times in New York and 7.3 times in London. Even Adelaide is more expensive than New York on price-
to-income basis. He is particularly troubled by the surge in asset values in his Sutherland Shire neighbourhood, where land is changing hands for more than $1 million. “I have never
seen so many Range Rovers in the Shire. It’s a small world out there and you know they haven’t become millionaires overnight. It’s eerily similar to Miami [in 2005 before the
sub-prime crisis]. It feels like Groundhog Day,” he said.
While Mr David’s views exist on the fringes, he has formed a moral and analytical alliance with a pair of academics, Philip Soos and Paul Egan, who have published their own
book, Bubble Economics. It uses 230 years of data and 810 pages to warn of dangerous excesses in the property market.
The prospect of a collapse in property prices has been made repeatedly by offshore hedge funds that have by and large conceded defeat. Earlier in the week, the four major bank
economists dismissed suggestions that property prices were in a bubble .