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Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Page: 82


Senator BOYCE (3:09 PM) —I would also like to take note of answers in relation to housing affordability. I find it completely bemusing that it would cause concern to the opposition that, for 2½ solid hours yesterday, members of the coalition managed to come up with good, fresh, innovative ideas to help this country. We do not just have committees and reference groups to think about what to do; good ideas have been a hallmark of this government and will continue to be so. It is somewhat bizarre to think that having good ideas would be seen as a failure or a weakness of any sort.

Let us look at some of the facts behind the housing affordability situation. Yes, there are some families struggling and, yes, our government is working to assist those families. Let us also look at what the state governments are doing to assist those families. In all states there is a department of housing. What are they doing to help families with any problems? What have they done to develop more rental stock? What have they done to assist people who are in any sort of crisis—apart from selling off a few houses and not worrying about demand or supply? Let us look at what they have done to assist those families who may be about to experience mortgage stress. What have the states done with their growth taxes such as the GST, stamp duty, land tax and even, shamefully, their growing revenues from gambling? What do they do with those funds, which might assist families who have any concerns about their ability to afford houses?

Let us flip that around and look at it from the other perspective. What has the federal government done to assist working families? We are proud that we can say ‘working families’, because more families than ever before are currently in work. This is part of the reason why these people can afford mortgages to buy houses. More people than ever before are in a position to get themselves into the housing market.

Let us also look at what we have done in terms of reducing tax over the past 12 months. The new tax rates that came in in July this year give families the opportunity to invest that little bit more in their mortgage. In fact, if you look at the current mortgage situation, you will find that more than 25 per cent of people are more than a year ahead with their mortgage payments. Half the people in Australia who have mortgages are ahead with their repayments. That is the very sensible attitude that a lot of Australians have taken to give themselves a buffer in case of problems that might arise—not small increases in interest rates but the dramas and crises that can come up and affect any family as it goes through life.

We should also look at the Reserve Bank’s notes on the views of households about their personal finances. Most households report that their personal finances are stronger today than 12 months ago. They have continued to reap the benefits of a strong economy with high employment, lower tax rates and a lower take from the federal government. That is not so, unfortunately, in terms of the state governments. The states were dragged kicking and screaming to get rid of their taxes on bank deposits and other areas—things they were supposed to give up in exchange for getting the GST. What have they done with those growth taxes they have received from the federal government? They have done very little to help families. Senator Ludwig mentioned infrastructure. I thought roads, buses and gutters were the province of state governments. This is where we should be looking if we want to look at housing affordability— (Time expired)