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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 864

Mr CONNOLLY (Bradfield) -This Bill is the last gasp of a morally bankrupt Government. We have heard from numerous speakers on the Government side this afternoon about how we the members of the Opposition must have compassion for those in the community who are unable to fund the purchase of their own homes. Yes, we have compassion for the 3 1 1 000 people who are registered as unemployed in this land, for those who have lost their jobs and some of whom have lost their homes, for others who cannot even consider buying homes and for those who cannot even afford to pay the rent.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - You keep them on the street.

Mr CONNOLLY -This Government put them on the street. It has taken their jobs from them. It has taken everything from them and now Government members come into this place and ask us to show compassion. Let us just look at the situation in an objective manner. When I made my maiden speech in this House on 1 August 1 974 1 had occasion to say the following: . . the present Government's management of the economy, since it came into office in December 1972, has failed. Much has been said by Ministers about how they inherited a situation of excess liquidity in the economy. What they have never attempted to answer is that 12 months later the level of liquidity had expanded even further. Although it was obvious in 1973 that the economy was gravely overheated no meaningful policies were introduced and it was not until September 1973 that the Government decided to use monetary and interest policy, currency appreciation and tariff reductions, to control an already alarming inflationary trend. Those policies enabled the Government to end the 1973-74 financial year with a deficit of approximately $400 m less than budgeted for. This is hardly surprising as taxation receipts were $500m above the Budget estimate.

We are not talking in terms of $500m. We are now talking about a budgetary deficit of $2,500m- money which has to be manufactured on a printing press but ultimately paid for by every citizen in this land. I ask honourable members to consider that with the greatest of care.

Today in the afternoon Press we saw statistics put out by the Bureau of Statistics which show that the number of privately employed people in Australia dropped by 185 000 during the 6 months ended last December and that the total civilian work force was now 4 788 500. The point was also made that the number of people in government employment rose from 1 197 600 to 2 22 1 200. Here we are debating a piece of legislation which is not going to put one more cent into the pockets of people who need housing but is going to employ hundreds of public servants to ascertain whether State authorities are doing their bidding and whether the Commonwealth can interfere even more in the operations of the private sector of the community which has always worked on the assumption that where there is a demand for housing it shall be met provided interest rates are kept within the capacity of all our citizens to pay. I should not just suspect because it is a fact- that this piece of legislation is but another plank in the Labor Party's policy to interfere in the workings of the economy The Labor platform as indicated on page 4 of the document 'The Labor Way' under the heading Economic Planning ' specifically states:

With the object of achieving Labor's socialist objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly-

This is what we must note- in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing-

Note that one, housing- stevedoring, transport and in areas of anti-social private monopolies.

All of a sudden it is anti-social private monopoly. That 80-odd per cent of the houses of this land which have always been purchased by the people of Australia are built by the private sector which is allegedly of monopoly and therefore anti-social. There is only one piece of respectable phraseology in this entire Bill, and it is that which the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) stated in his second reading speech that he hopes- I emphasise the words 'he hopes'- this Corporation will open the way for the resources and initiatives of private enterprise to enter a productive partnership with government. I think that is an admirable concept. I think it should be endorsed as it has been by the Opposition What we question and with very good reason is whether this piece of legislation as formulated and as presented to this House is going to be capable of doing that or is it in fact simply going to be another means of separating the ordinary man and his wife and family from their dream, which is to be able to live in a decent house and preferably to be able to purchase that house. I have never known yet how any administration especially when it is an extension to an existing administration established by banks, finance companies, State housing corporations and the like is ever going to build a house for anyone. I suggest that the cost of employing the staff alone will be equivalent to the cost of some thousands of houses over a period of years.

The problems which we see with this Bill are essentially twofold. Firstly, it is so broad and vague in its definition of the Corporation's powers that it inevitably will lead to confusion and duplication of functions of the existing public and private institutions. I hope I have made that point clear. Secondly, the Corporation usurps the role of the States and increases the scope for direct Australian Government intervention and involvement in the development of shelter industries which it allegedly is supposed to be assisting.

The fundamental principle which the Liberal Party has enunciated in the field of housing is that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure that the housing industry, both private and public sectors, should have the necessary resources of land, labour, materials and finance available at all times to meet the social needs of the community. Having provided guidelines and the necessary framework, it leaves to the entrepreneurs and to the State governments the job of designing specific programs for the assistance of the private sector, and expects the private sector to carry out that responsibility. This point has not been emphasised by the Government in this Bill.

Accordingly, we do support initiatives which provide greater opportunities for the housing industry to produce more houses and to increase the quality and quantity of dwelling units, which is consistent with the particular local needs of the community. The Minister has stressed repeatedly the role of private industry. This is comforting. But the historical record of this Government quite clearly shows that it is unlikely that this Commission will be able to carry out a policy which will assist private industry to meet its very real responsibility in the field of housing. We believe the areas of finance are proper avenues for Australian Government intervention. But we question the proposed action suggested by this legislation. We regard the development areas as being no concern of the Government and as best left to the States and private enterprise. If the appropriate framework and incentives are provided, there is absolutely no need for further centralisation. I fail to see, in a country as large as Australia, how any form of centralisation will result in increased productivity.

The point has been made by numerous speakers that interest rates have been the greatest cross which the people have had to carry in relation to their demands for housing. The position has become worse. Not only have interest rates increased because of the specific policies of this Government but, worse than that, inflation has put for many housing well beyond the capacity of the average Australian to purchase. About 4 months ago, speaking in this House also on housing policy, I made the point that the average house cost about $25,000. On further examination, and bearing in mind that the cost of building has gone up by approximately 25 per cent, it is more realistic to talk about an average cost for a house, which is not by any means exessive as being around $30,000.

Let me quote these figures to illustrate the position. The minimum deposit required in Victoria on a house, the purchase price of which is $30,000, is $6,000 or 20 per cent of the total cost. A maximum first mortgage of $24,000 is available. That sum may be borrowed at 1014 per cent interest from the State Savings Bank of Victoria, at 10½ per cent interest from the Commonwealth Savings Bank and at 12% per cent interest from permanent building societies. The important point is this: Average weekly earnings today are still approximately $120. That gives a monthly earnings figure of between $476 and $480. The gross weekly salary required to service a loan of that size varies between $190 and $269, depending on the number of years required to repay the loan. The Minister, I am sure, appreciates that this figure is well above the one-quarter which is the basic requirement of most building societies and banking institutions. The mere allowance of $5,000 as proposed by this legislation will not go very far in helping to bridge the deposit gap about which we have heard so much.

We have been told also that this Corporation will be administering the deferred payments scheme. I would like the people of Australia and the members of this House, whether they wish to listen or not, to appreciate that the deferred payments scheme was first proposed by the Opposition on 13 January 1974. This is but another example of how our policies have been stolen by this Government and incorporated in its legislation. I appreciate that. It is splendid to see that the Government is prepared to understand that even we in the Opposition are capable of decent ideas. I emphasise a point which has been made by others: We are an Opposition of compassion; indeed, the Liberal Party has as a specific objective the uplifting of all Australian people. We are not interested in dividing this nation, the way in which the Government has done. We are not interested in making one section any better assisted than other sections. We want to see a Bill which is based on the precise presumption that it is the role of government to assist all people to better themselves and especially to help those at the bottom end of the financial ladder to be able to take themselves up.

This legislation, if amended, to some extent could do that. But, in doing so, we notice that in his second reading speech the Minister has made certain exceptions. For example public servants, though he does not say exactly what specific public servants he refers to, and others are going to be given special treatment.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where do I say that? You point it out.

Mr CONNOLLY -I think the Minister should explain precisely what he means by what is in his speech. On the basis of the salaries already being paid right throughout the Public Service, and the pace setting principles that have been enunciated by this Government, I would have thought that public servants on the whole are in a much better position to pay interest rates than a number of people in the private sector who, as a result of Labor's policies, are in every sense of the words on their uppers'. If the Minister questions the point that I made, I refer him to his second reading speech at page 284 of Hansard of 13 February 1975, in which the Minister said:

These may include, if the Government so decides- any future government- persons living in the Australian Capital Territory-

As the Minister is aware, such persons are already assisted as they have always been by successive governments: and the Northern Territory-

Again, that is a specific case: migrants, students, Aborigines-

And this is the point I made: and persons engaged in work for the Australian Government.

Mr Minister,I think you must explain that point more fully. That is all I ask.

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