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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 2740

Mr MORRISON (9:07 PM) —I note that the previous speaker, in moving this motion, talked about growth in our time. One thing is very clear: it will not be growth in the time of this government. There will be no economic growth in the time of this government, the way it is going.

I thought I would take this opportunity to dispel some myths that have been put out there by the government today. The government seems incredibly confused about the coalition’s First Home Owner Grant position. The coalition have consistently supported the measure and continues to do so. What we are puzzled about is why the government does not seem to want to back its own measure. The initiative has had success. I do not doubt it. In fact, I have applauded it in several statements. Housing finance figures show that loans for new housing construction increased by 2.5 per cent in January, following a much larger—9.9 per cent—increase in December. In addition, the proportion of first home buyers taking on housing finance commitments rose again, to 26½ per cent, in January, the highest on record.

These figures highlight the need for the federal government to increase their focus on stimulating construction in the private housing market, as opposed to the other measures they have put about in their big cash splashes and spending sprees. Last week, when the Prime Minister was asked about his first fiscal stimulus package and specifically about the effectiveness of his cash payments to create jobs, he hid under the skirts of the First Home Owner Grant and refused to answer the question. The coalition does not doubt that the First Home Owner Grant has been a successful measure. As the previous speaker, the member for Blaxland, outlined, it is a measure that the coalition has used on occasions to stimulate the economy, and it has been successful because it stimulates the private sector housing industry to go out there and create construction jobs.

So the issue I have with the government is: the government are happy to repeat their mistakes with cash splashes but they are not happy to repeat their successes. They are happy to go again when it comes to cash splashes, but when it comes to extending a measure that has proved to be successful, which the coalition also thought would be successful, they find it hard to say yes. We have a government that are happy to repeat their failures but not their successes. So we are seeing more billions of cash being splashed about in one-off payments, yet incentive for grants for new construction, which leverages private investment, cannot be afforded.

Under Labor’s plan, this can only be achieved by driving Australia even further into deficit and debt, a debt so far of $9½ thousand for every man, woman and child in Australia. Labor’s failure to set aside funds for this purpose from their $6 billion public housing program was reckless and irresponsible. Six billion dollars would pay for more than 280,000 new home construction grants at $21,000 each. That is twice the number of annual housing starts at current levels. By focusing only on public housing in their spending package, the government ignore the private housing sector, where more than 95 per cent of Australians live and more than 95 per cent of Australians working in the housing construction sector have a job, which they are at risk of losing under the government.

The coalition has supported $3½ billion in social housing initiatives announced by the government. The test of the $6 billion splashed in this package for social housing is not social housing outcomes; it is whether it acts as an economic stimulus. The test is whether it will deliver jobs. We need to get some balance back into our housing program and to acknowledge the urgent needs in our private housing sector. Building 20,000 homes in the social housing sector is not the challenge. We need to build an extra 200,000 homes in the private housing market, because that is where the pressure on prices is, that is where the pressure on rents is and that is where the stimulus needs to be directed.

State and territory housing agencies simply cannot deliver this package announced by the government on budget and on time. They need to start more than 30 houses every day for more than 500 days. And the person they have asked to do it is Nathan Rees. Nathan Rees is going to be the saviour and deliverer of the government’s budget stimulus package. Is it any wonder that those on this side of the House have no confidence that $6 billion can be delivered to social housing? Is it any wonder that those on this  side of the House say the government should start backing its successes rather than its failures with cash splashes and start putting money into areas of stimulus which generate private sector jobs in private sector housing?

This is the challenge that is before the government. They want to splash cash but they do not want to get out there and create jobs in the private sector housing industry, which accounts for 95 per cent of the opportunities, more than 95 per cent of the jobs. But we are going to narrowcast it and count on Nathan Rees to save the day. Well, the people of New South Wales know that day is never coming under Labor or under Nathan Rees.