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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 906


Mr DONALD CAMERON(3.47) —Except for about two minutes of excitement at the end of his prepared speech the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) sounded for 13 minutes as if he was delivering a funeral service. The Minister reeks with the smell of lacking conviction every time he stands in this place and tries to defend the abysmal record of the Hawke socialist Labor Government on housing. The Minister stands up in the chamber, as did the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) the other day, and alludes to 90-day bills. Ninety per cent of the people of Australia would not even know what a 90-day bill was, let alone ever having seen one or bought one. The average Australian goes to a building society, a bank or some other lending institution to finance the purchase of a home. The reference to a 90-day bill is an utter insult to average Australians because when they set out to buy a home they do not wish to be rolling over their loan every 90 days.

Average Australians like to know what they are doing when they buy houses. The Government has destroyed their ability to know just what is going to happen as a result of policies that it has followed since it came to power. The Minister is very happy to allude frequently and continually to the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry. I am going to refer to figures of the last 13 or 14 years. It is true that in 1982-83, the last year of the Fraser Government, there were 105,000 housing starts. There were 132,000 starts in the previous year. It is true to say that in 1983-84 the Government reached our performance of 1981-82. The Fraser Government was booted out of office because of what went on in this country. People were short tempered, even for the wrong reasons-a world recession and a national drought. Yet the Government's performance of 118,000 housing starts this year is minus the drought and minus the world recession, so in reality the Government has the lowest start figure for as long as these figures go back. This Government's housing commencements are worse than those before the Whitlam years. This is the lowest number of starts other than in the year when we paid a dear price, yet the Minister for Housing and Construction beats his chest and expects us to swallow it when he says what a great government this Government has been.

People on public housing waiting lists are those who cannot afford a home and who, because of being struck with misfortune or for a number of other reasons, do not have the drive or the ability to get the money together to purchase a home or even put down a deposit. The Minister had better listen to this because he paraded himself as the caretaker of the poor and the downtrodden. Australia has never had as many people waiting for public housing as there are at this time. There are 157,000 Australians-the highest figure in this nation's history-waiting for public housing. I repeat: There have never been as many people lining up and saying: `Please, State government, provide us with a roof over our heads'. If the Government looks at it in those terms it might be brought back to reality instead of giving us the rot and the high-blown stuff which the Minister tries to push down our throats every day and which he does not even understand.

What has happened to rentals in Australia? In today's Daily Telegraph-the Minister had better look at it and not look sideways like a crab-there is the headline: `Average house rent hits $267 a week'. To be charitable to the Government and uncharitable to the media, I thought that that headline could not be right, so today I made a number of phone calls. The great tragedy is that I have established that that figure is spot on. People in Sydney knock at a real estate agent's door and ask: `Have you got a house?' If they are lucky enough that the real estate agent says `yes, we have', on average in Sydney they are paying $267 per week for a house. To get that kind of money together-$267-requires two incomes. The tax rates mean that, for a family earning 400 bucks a week, after the Government has got its hands on that income, all that is left is probably about $267 to pay the rent. So families with only one income are today lining up at government housing commissions and saying: `Please help us. We are desperate'. That is why we have reached a stage when the largest number of people in this nation's history are asking the Government to provide housing for them.

In early 1983 I lost the seat that I held in this Parliament-the seat of Fadden-on the promise by the Australian Labor Party that it would get interest rates down. Nobody likes losing his seat, but at least I understood what came over the people whom I represented in the outlying growth suburbs of Brisbane. They had mortgages and they thought that the interest rates at that time were killing them. The Government has brought in a new definition of death in relation to what interest rates can do. The interest rates that existed then, even without interference, were at a maximum of about 13 1/2 per cent. The Liberal-National Party coalition had a system of rebates and, incidentally, that is another lie that you people told in pitching to the Australian--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) — Order! The honourable member knows that--


Mr DONALD CAMERON —I did not say that the Minister had lied. It was the Prime Minister really, but I did not say that he did it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Moreton will now withdraw.


Mr DONALD CAMERON —The Prime Minister is not a liar.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Moreton knows the rules.


Mr DONALD CAMERON —Right, I withdraw. `Misled'-is that all right?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, the honourable member cannot claim that the Minister mis- led the Parliament.


Mr DONALD CAMERON —I cannot even tell the truth. What kind of Deputy Speaker are you?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order!


Mr DONALD CAMERON —I am sorry. I really do not want to push my luck too far.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —At this rate the honourable member is getting very close to not completing his speech.


Mr DONALD CAMERON —I was trying to say that the interest rates that existed in 1983 were nothing compared with the interest rates that have been reached in this Government's time. The Government came to power on a promise. I will not refer to what happened because I get into trouble. All I can note is that the Prime Minister promised that there would be no capital gains tax and, for some reason that the Minister cannot give, there is now a capital gains tax. I do not think the Prime Minister laid as much emphasis on this, but he also said that he would wipe out negative gearing. Hymns of hate came from the Government when it looked at negative gearing. It thought: `Gee whiz people are into the system'. But what it did not understand was that what made negative gearing costly for the Government was the movement in interest rates. When interest rates shot up, as they have under the Government's administration, suddenly the cost that it is bearing in terms of negative gearing became unbearable in its eyes. What did it do? It said: `That's out and capital gains are in'. All those people who were providing accommodation for people who are now on the lists suddenly thought to themselves: `If I put my money in a bank I will get at least 15 per cent; if I leave it in providing accommodation I will be lucky to get about 8 per cent'.

There has been a retraction of the private sector's involvement in the provision of housing for the very people that the Government parades itself as caring about. As a result of the implementation of the miserable policies the Government has pursued, we now have headlines which state that rent for an average three-bedroom home in Sydney has hit $267. The Minister should get back to his office and not trot out speeches such as that he gave today. He should start to see what he has really done, because those opposite are hurting millions upon millions of Australians, whether they are buying their homes, renting their homes or simply trying to find a house to live in.