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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 889

Mr HOWARD —I refer the Prime Minister to surveys of housing and home unit rentals conducted by the Master Builders Federation of Australia Inc. which show massive rental rises, particularly in Sydney. Is the Prime Minister aware that in Bondi, in the seat held by the honourable member for Phillip, the rental for a two-bedroom unit has risen by 25.7 per cent to an average of $163 a week and that for a house in Strathfield, in the seat held by the honourable member for Lowe, the average rental has risen to $191 a week? What excuse does the Prime Minister have for those now facing a predicted 25 per cent increase in this coming year in home rentals, adding to the increasing worries facing those who are trying to stay in their own homes? Does the Prime Minister now acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of average Australians have been severely damaged by his decision to break his election pledge and impose a capital gains tax and abolish negative gearing?

Mr HAWKE —I have seen the surveys to which the Leader of the Opposition refers. Of course the Government would wish to be in an economic and financial position where, by its resources and actions, it could immediately move to alleviate the situation. As distinct from the Leader of the Opposition, my Government and I move in the world of real economics, acknowledge the limitations upon what we can do and are not prepared to give ourselves the $16 billion sort of credibility gap which--

Mr Howard —Is it now $16 billion?

Mr HAWKE —Yes, it is now $16 billion-with another $2 billion because the Opposition, under intensive questioning, has now walked away from its consumption tax proposal. The Leader of the Opposition was given four opportunities in his interview to say `Yes, I stick to my promise about the consumption tax', but under persistent questioning, as he does in every other area, he finally chickened out and walked away from it. So the Leader of the Opposition has had another $2 billion put on to his credibility gap. As distinct from his preparedness to go on in this voodoo economics area, we accept the harsh constraints and realities.

I am also prepared to look with a great deal of pride at our actual performance in the area of housing compared with that of the Opposition when it was in government and when the responsibility for economic policy was in the hands of the now Leader of the Opposition. I remind the House of housing starts, which numbered 105,000 per annum, a figure we inherited from the Opposition and which we moved to increase significantly as a result of our first home owners scheme. Some one-quarter of a million people are now in homes, which they never would otherwise have had the possibility of doing, and there has been a 42 per cent real increase in housing provided for low-income people through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.

In one of the few areas about which the Opposition has now released a policy, what does it say about housing? It would scrap the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, as characterises its whole approach to economic and social policy, as contained in its observations about the capital gains tax, and it would once again give the perks and the opportunities to the rich and bring down heavily to bear upon the poor the forces of economics. We would like to be in a position to remedy in a reasonably quick way the problems to which the Leader of the Opposition refers, but he has no credibility either in terms of his past record or in terms of his proposed policies for the future.

I have been noting a great deal of what has been said, not only in the surveys to which the Leader of the Opposition refers. As would be well known in this place, a great deal has been happening on his side of politics and a great deal has been written about it. Amongst the most interesting things that have been said and written about that side of politics-I do not know whether it has escaped the attention of all members of the House; if it has, it is something that they really ought to share with me-in the Time magazine of 9 March the Leader of the Opposition, who is now putting himself up as a man who is to be listened to in relation to housing and everything else, is reported as having said:

There won't be a leadership challenge. I am regarded as the messiah of conservative politics.

Only two observations can be made about the claim of the Leader of the Opposition to be the Messiah of conservative politics: Whether it will be left to the Treasurer and me to undertake crucifixion or whether his own friends will undertake it. I think there is only one member on the Opposition side to whom the analogy of the Messiah should be applied and that is the honourable member for Kooyong who, I understand, is seriously considering the possibility of a resurrection. It will not matter whether the Leader of the Opposition stays there, whether he is thrown out or when he is thrown out. The nature of the Opposition's policies in housing, as in everything else, will bring no comfort to the poor and the underprivileged in this country. What the Opposition will do in the area of housing and in the area of taxation will be to go back to the characteristics of its previous period in government and it will give as much as it can to the privileged in this country and impose the greatest burden it possibly can on the poor.