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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3750

Mr SNOW —Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the effect of the Government's policies on Australian families?

Mr HAWKE —The first point we need to understand, which is certainly appreciated by the honourable member, is that when we talk about Australian families we have to remember that they do not live in a vacuum or on Mars, they are people living here in Australia whose welfare is determined by a range of factors affecting their income and a range of factors affecting the services provided to them. In other words, the welfare of Australian families is determined by policies in regard to housing, education, prices, health and those sorts of things. What happens in those areas will determine the welfare of Australian families. In that regard the record of this Government is a proud one and it compares outstandingly favourably with that of our predecessors.

I have had occasion before in this place and elsewhere to make the point in regard to the fundamental issue of jobs. The availability of jobs is going to determine to a very real extent the welfare of Australian families. It is a matter of great pride, I know, to the honourable member who has asked the question, as indeed it is to all members of the Government, that this Government has created 670,000 new jobs. In broad terms, the simple fact which I put with pride to the honourable member is that in roughly half the time in government we have created double the number of jobs that were created by our predecessors. That is the fact, and the availability of jobs is a basic determinant of the welfare of Australian families.

On the question of housing, I point out to the honourable member that under this Government new dwelling commencements-that is, the rate of creation of new home opportunities in this country-have averaged 142,000 a year, which is more than 10 per cent higher than the rate of new dwelling commencements under our predecessors. I refer in particular to the first home owners scheme. The honourable member would know and again be proud of the fact that that universally acclaimed scheme, the first home owners scheme, has provided 200,000 families with the opportunity of going into their first new home.

Let us look at the question of funds available for public housing. I remind the honourable member that funds available in that area have increased by 86 per cent under this Government. Again, education is an issue which fundamentally determines the welfare of families. What is happening in education? The facts again are quite clear. The honourable member will recall that I have said again with pride in this House that when we came to office the retention rate for kids in the secondary education system was 36 per cent. It was one of the most intolerably low figures in the Western world. In the relatively short time we have been in government that has increased to 46 per cent.

While I am talking about secondary education, I know, because I have spoken with him, that the honourable member who asked the question shares my great pride that in the area of education funding we have introduced certainty of funding in the government and non-government sectors. They have been given a certainty of funding enshrined in legislation over a four-year period which they never had before. This has enabled the public and private sectors to go ahead with plans to expand and provide better facilities for the kids of this country. That is at the secondary level of education. In the area of tertiary education, and again it is a matter of great pride to me and I know to the honourable member, this Government has already provided about 38,000 additional places in tertiary education in this country.

These are the things which determine the welfare of Australian families. What happens to prices determines the welfare of Australian families. We more than halved the level of inflation we inherited from our predecessors. While it is true that as a result of the massive depreciation there has been an increase in inflation, it still has not got up to anywhere near the level we inherited from our predecessors. It is the case that as we go into 1987 the level of inflation will be coming down. Talking about prices, what is the prescription for the welfare of Australian families promised by the Leader of the Opposition? It is a double bind. He says: `We will freeze your wages for 18 months and we will lift all restraints from prices. So you will have no opportunity of getting any increase in wages and we will remove the prices surveillance system'. That is what he offers for the welfare of Australian families.

In the area of tax, the Leader of the Opposition is going to take away the great reforms in capital gains and elsewhere, which have meant a significant increase in the Commonwealth revenue, and promises to return the rorts and ramps of the past, which will hurt the ordinary families of this country, to the wealthy, privileged interests the Opposition represents. Madam Speaker, if you asked me about families I would say that I speak with great pride because of what we have done in the areas of education, housing, prices and jobs-all the things that determine the welfare of Australian families. Against that we have these hypocrites opposite who, with their confected nonsense and pious phrases, talk about the families of Australia and promise in all those things a return to the past, a return to their last year of government which threw 250,000 Australians, members of families, on to the unemployment scrapheap.