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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1561


Mr HURFORD (Minister for Housing and Construction)(5.36) —I wish to thank the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who wanted to make a contribution, no doubt about Sydney Airport. Like the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) he would have been totally out of order. There is no excuse for the honourable member for Gwydir. He has been a Minister for Transport and Construction and he knows that decisions relating to airports are made by the client departments. The client department in this case is the Department of Aviation. I have not looked up the records, but if we have not yet had a debate on the estimates for the Department of Aviation I recommend to the honourable member for Mitchell that he get on to his Whip and put his name down so that he can say what he wants to say about airports on that occasion.

I thank all those members who took part in this debate. It was pleasing to me that a number of the wide issues that are covered by both the Department of Administrative Services and my own Department of Housing and Construction were mentioned. I refer to housing, property, which is covered by Administrative Services, and the great construction divisions of the Department of Housing and Construction. Working backwards in the order of speakers I mention to the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that it is good for him to have his bit of fun at the expense of the honourable member for Lilley (Mrs Darling) but if he is giving the impression that the great Brisbane Airport construction project is not under full stream, he is misleading the Committee and the people who may be listening. It is under full stream. I have visited the site. The honourable member for Lilley took the trouble to come with me when I visited that site. What is more, if the honourable member for Darling Downs wishes to give the Committee and therefore the people of this country the impression that the same timetable is not being adhered to, he is misleading this Committee as well. We have the same timetable in store and we welcome that great project going ahead in the way it is.

It is sad that the honourable member for Gwydir has not remained in the Chamber for me to thank him, first of all, for his kind remarks about officers in my Department. He mentioned Mr Keith Rodda, the Deputy Secretary, who mainly takes an interest in the great construction divisions. He is quite right that officers in the Department are a very professional group of people often unsung. There are not many opportunities to talk about the matters covered by that great Department, which consists of nine to ten thousand people in the construction divisions, ranges over 130 different locations and is very well represented in the regions of this country. They cover a wide range of construction. They erect buildings, defence establishments and airports. I say only this about the Sydney Airport: Indeed, it has been a tragedy for this country that the Australian Labor Party has governed for only 3 1/2 years out of the last 34. The honourable member for Gwydir said how incredible it is that for so many years nothing has been done. He is, of course, doing nothing more or less than criticising his own Party's stewardship of this country. It is indeed a tragedy that we have had so much indecision in so many areas to date. Certainly, that applies to the Sydney Airport. I give due credit to the Minister for Aviation, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Beazley), for the way in which he is tackling that issue. It now looks as though we are on our way to a proper resolution of the matter.

I am sure that many members of this Chamber who have electorates around Sydney Airport will be very happy to take copies of the speech made by the honourable member for Gwydir and put them in letterboxes around Sydney Airport because it properly outlines the sort of attitude that members of the Liberal Party and the National Party have to the discomfort caused to thousands and thousands of Sydney residents living around the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. In fact, Mr Chairman, you know that issue well.

Mr Chairman, I thank the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Ronald Edwards) for his enormous interest in housing and for the very sensible contributions that he makes on housing in this chamber. After what he said there is probably little need for me to respond to the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) who led the debate for the Opposition. So much of what the honourable member for Ryan said was so wrong that I am almost bereft of words, but I have been helped by the contribution made by the honourable member for Stirling. Let me go through some of the points. The first thing to recognise is that what the Hawke Labor Government has done for housing is not just a reordering of priorities. I have only to look at the results of what we have done in order to make my point. The honourable member for Ryan talked about some hiatus in housing in June and July. If there has been a hiatus in housing in June and July that points up just how poor the results were in earlier months.

The fact is that housing activity is on the move again in this country, and we are proud of it. It is on the move again because of the great confidence that has been brought to so many people in that industry through the election of the Hawke Labor Government, through the National Economic Summit Conference, through the housing mini-summit, and through the consultative mechanisms that have been established between the Government and so many great institutions that make up the housing industry of this country. I refer to the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Federation of Australia Inc., the banks, the building societies, and the credit unions. I could go on. These are the institutions that make up the housing industry. Through the co-operative effort of this Government and those institutions, housing is on the move. We have approval figures today that show that that is so. We also have lending figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to show that that is so.

All of this activity is happening prior to the great impetus of our new first home owners scheme. Liberal and National Party members around Australia were invited to the breakfast launches of those schemes. I am glad that some of those members came to these launches; they would know just what a great scheme it is and how not only the representatives of the Housing Industry Association in Perth have lent their support and their words to this new first home owners scheme, as the honourable member for Stirling indicated. In addition, national leaders have also lent their support to the scheme. I am grateful to Mr Bill Kirkby-Jones, the National Executive Director of the Housing Industry Association, and to Mr Ron Cameron, the Director of the Australian Bankers Association. I am grateful to so many others who spoke at so many of those breakfast launches around Australia and for the great support they have given to the first home owners scheme.

Since the announcement on 21 July of the deletion of savings from the home deposit assistance scheme-we announced that we would not require savings in order to qualify for home deposit assistance in August and September-we have received 150,000 inquiries about the HDAS scheme as well as the first home owners scheme. In other words, on the first four working days-3 October to 6 October-we had 35,000 inquiries around Australia in regard to the first home owners scheme. In addition, there was the news that loan approvals in Victoria were up 50 per cent last month.

These are just some of the signs that the housing industry is on the move. I do not want the move to be such that it overheats the industry. We want it to be steady. From what the leaders of such companies as CSR Ltd, which has a big building materials division, and Boral, which also specialises in building material, tell me, there are great signs around, not only from the Australian Bureau of Statistics records but also from their own sales records, which indicate that the housing industry is on the move. It does not put things into perspective-indeed, it misleads the Parliament and the people-for the honourable member for Ryan to talk about a hiatus period.

He then went on to say that there was something wrong with abolishing the savings requirement from the old home deposit assistance scheme. He regretted it . He mouthed the sort of troglodyte attitudes that were also expressed in the Senate when the First Home Owners Act went through the Parliament. How can young people, who are obliged to pay large market rents, get together the necessary savings requirement as they were obliged to do in the past? Of course they cannot. They are paying out too much for other things. Every bit of research tells us that the abolition of that savings requirement will bring home ownership within the range of a whole new group of people. Anyway, it will be the lenders who will be taking any risk associated with such savings requirements.

It is just not true to suggest, as the honourable member for Ryan did, that the market place is slack at present-I think I have already answered that point-and that all the emphasis has been on public housing vis a vis home ownership. The first home owners scheme is all about the private ownership of housing. It will help those who are reliant on the public housing market because it will remove people from waiting lists for public housing and help them towards home ownership. It will also remove people from the rental accommodation area in the private sphere as well and thus reduce the pressure on rents.

Let me again thank all those who took part in this debate. It is most encouraging that the housing industry is on the move again. I pay tribute to the officers of my Department, not only those in the construction divisions I have talked about, but also those in the housing divisions as well, for the sterling work they have done because, with their help, the Hawke Labor Government has already achieved great results in the housing sphere as well as in the construction sphere.