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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1240


Mr HOWARD —Is the Prime Minister aware that statistics released yesterday show that the number of loans for the construction of dwellings on a seasonally adjusted basis fell by 29 per cent in January to the lowest monthly level for the last four years, that total loans made by savings banks for housing fell by 15 per cent in January, and that investment in dwellings is now 9.2 per cent lower than it was a year ago? What action does the Prime Minister intend to take in view of the continued parlous outlook for the housing industry, as indicated by those figures released yesterday?


Mr HAWKE —I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition is with us in terms of asking questions about the economy but, as usual, he is off beam. I preface my answer by reminding the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition generally or its various parts of the comparison between our performance on housing and their miserable performance. I will not spend a great deal of time on it because the fact is well known that we rescued the housing industry from the devastation which they wreaked upon it. Let me come to the current position. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures confirm that savings bank home finance is more plentiful than our best expectations a year ago. An amount of $6.8 billion has been lent to January 1987, compared with the commitment when the package was announced to lend $6 billion to March 1987. I repeat: When we organised the package last year there was a commitment by the banks to lend $6 billion to March 1987; by January this year $6.8 billion had been lent.

In addition, the latest Indicative Planning Council forecast suggests that these trends will continue. The latest IPC forecast gives a figure of $8.8 billion for this financial year, 1986-87, and $9.5 billion for 1987-88. The IPC assumes that, whatever arrangements apply after this month, sufficient housing finance will be available at prevailing interest rates to meet demand. All I will say in regard to what the Government will do in this matter is that any action taken when the bank subsidy expires at the end of March will reflect, firstly, the economic and budgetary realities and, secondly, the priority that this Government has given to housing from the day we came to office.