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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 246

Mr BEALE —I refer the Prime Minister to the fact that over the past two years the average home loan repayment, as a percentage of a median family income of around $500 a week, has increased from 18.3 per cent to 26.5 per cent. What is the Prime Minister's excuse for this massive 45 per cent increase in the ratio of average home loan repayments facing such families under his Government?

Mr HAWKE —I have already responded in this place to a question from the honourable member in regard to housing and have demonstrated to the House that the policies initiated last year to meet the difficulties then being experienced by the housing industry and by people wishing to purchase their own homes have been successful. That, of course, came on top of an enormously successful program covering the whole range of the housing industry that had been initiated in 1983. We make no apologies for what has been done by the Government generally in the conduct of the economy and particularly in the housing area. But, Madam Speaker, I ask the House to take into account what is the real program of the Opposition for the sort of people to whom the honourable member refers in his question. It is no good him just saying: `Look, there are these difficulties that are being experienced'. We acknowledge the difficulties and we have introduced policies which, as I have said and the Treasurer has said, through 1987 will lead to a gradual lowering of the interest rate regimen.

But the people of Australia are going to be asking what does the Opposition offer ordinary wage and salary earners in this country. I will tell the House what the Opposition offers them. Let me just give the four elements offered by honourable members opposite that affect people's capacity not only to buy their house but also to sustain any sort of standard of living. Let us think about these four things. What is the Opposition's policy in regard to wages? It is to freeze them. That is nothing new; we must give the Opposition full marks for consistency because in 18 out of the last 20 national wage cases the coalition has said that there should be no increase in wages, and its current position is that we should freeze wages. So that is its policy. What will the person who is trying to meet home loan repayments or to get a house do under its wages policy? That person will have his or her wages frozen. Secondly, what does the Opposition say in regard to prices? Not only will the Opposition freeze people's wages but also it will abandon any protection at all in the prices area. So it will freeze their wages and let prices go through the roof.

Thirdly, what will the Opposition do in regard to taxes? As far as we can tell today, it will bring in a tax policy which will be a reversion to its tax policies of the past. What were its policies of the past? Its policies were to ensure that those in this country with the least capacity to pay in fact had a relatively greater burden. Why? Because it ensured that the wealthy would have all the lurks and perks in the world available to them. By making sure that billions of dollars were not collected from the sorts of people with whom Opposition members associate and with whom they are most comfortable, the previous Government gave them all the perks and the breaks but it would not help the little person. It walked out of office with a top marginal rate of 60c in the dollar. That was its tax policy in the past, and the Opposition promises a return to such a policy. It will give them back their company Mercedes, give them back their company lunches, give them back all their entertainment allowances, abolish the capital gains tax, bring the top rate down to 25 per cent and ensure, in the process, with or without a consumption tax, that it will put a higher tax burden on the lower and middle income people of this country.

That is what the Opposition will do in regard to wages, prices and taxes, and of course the inevitable result of its macroeconomic policies is that-this is the fourth point-interest rates will go through the roof. So that is what the Opposition promises these people-absolute chaos. Whatever condition they are in now, they would be infinitely worse off with a combination of the economic policies which it proposes. No wonder the Opposition is regarded as the laughing stock throughout the country.