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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1688

Mr SHARP(3.32) —What a desperate performance we have witnessed here this afternoon. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) has given us a performance that really and truly indicates why Australia has a housing crisis on its hands. For example, all we have heard from the Minister this afternoon is how much money the Government and the poor old taxpayer are having to pay out for public housing. I put this piece of logic to the Minister: If his economic policies were working as well as he claims they are, the Government should not need to increase its expenditure on public housing. There would be no need for it because the private investor would be able to pick up the tab and provide accommodation at reasonable cost to those Australians who can no longer afford to find it under this Government.

If the Minister believes there is no housing crisis in Australia, I suggest he take off his glasses, give them a good shine and look at what is going on under his own nose right in the centre of his own electorate. I refer to a quote from the Illawarra Mercury of 14 March, a couple of weeks ago. It is entitled: `So you thought you were doing it tough . . . Car is home to destitute family'. There is a family of a mother and two young children living in a car in Wollongong, the heart of the Minister's electorate. There is a crisis. Thank goodness, the Salvation Army has picked them up and is now helping them out. Captain Hazelgrove of the Salvation Army pointed out to the people of Wollongong:

They cannot afford to continue living in their rented home and felt they had no other alternative but to live in the car. . .

He continued:

Wollongong has an alarming accommodation crisis. . .

There it is, right under the Minister's nose. He should take his glasses off, give them a shine and have a look because there is a crisis in this country. There are people not only living in caravans and cars, but also living on the streets of Sydney and all the other cities of Australia. It is a great shame. The next thing we will see is people living under old sheets of galvanised iron in the streets of the inner parts of our cities. Is it any wonder that this is happening in Australia when we look at the fact that in Sydney the average three-bedroom unfurnished home now cost $267 per week to rent? That is expected to go up to $300 per week by the end of this year. Over the last 12 months the cost of rental accommodation in Sydney has gone up by 25 per cent under this Government's so-called very good economic policies. The facts speak for themselves.

Mr McGauran —Who are they kidding?

Mr SHARP —Who is the Government kidding? It is not kidding the people of Perth. Perth has also seen a dramatic rise in rental costs. For example, in Perth the average rental has gone up by 27 per cent. In the working class suburb of Tuart Hill the average cost of a unit has increased over the last 12 months by 45 per cent. How on earth are the working class people of Australia expected to afford the policies of this Government? No wonder rent is increasing so badly. I read an article in the paper a few days ago about people in Sydney trying to move into abandoned warehouses and live in those conditions. Is it any wonder? The New South Wales State Government figures show that a family of four on unemployment benefits in an average private three-bedroom Sydney home would currently pay 69 per cent of their income in rent, despite Federal rent assistance given to low income tenants in private housing. This is all happening under this Government. There is a crisis. The Minister should not tell us there is not, because there is.

Let us look at the facts for a moment. There are record numbers of home buyers defaulting on their loans. In real terms there are between 19 and 24 per cent fewer rental properties available in New South Wales at present. The normal vacancy rate for rental accommodation should be around 3 per cent, according to the Real Estate Institute. In Sydney alone, only six in every 1,000 homes or units are available for rent at present. That is the lowest availability of rental accommodation that Sydney has ever had-and that under this Government's policies.

Mr Cobb —Shameful!

Mr SHARP —It is a great shame, as the honourable member so freely points out.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Parkes will cease interjecting.

Mr SHARP —Not one capital city in Australia has that vital 3 per cent vacancy level at present. In New South Wales the construction of new dwellings has dropped by 30 per cent under this Government's policies. The Government's chief advisory body, the Indicative Planning Council, predicts that interest rates will not fall during 1987. I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Cobb) asked a question of the Prime Minister, who again for the one hundred and tenth time told the people of Australia that he expected interest rates to fall during 1987. The Government's senior advisory council says that that is not to be the case. There are 57,000 people on the waiting list for public housing in New South Wales. In States such as Victoria there has been a 21 per cent increase in the numbers of people on housing waiting lists in the last 12 months; in South Australia there has been a 13 per cent increase; and in Western Australia there has been a 31 per cent increase in the people waiting for public housing accommodation under this Government. Why do we have this situation?

Mr Tim Fischer —What does Frank Walker say about it?

Mr SHARP —As the honourable member for Farrer points out, Frank Walker can throw some light on it. I will come to his comments in a moment. Why is it? It is because of this Government's economic policies-record high interest rates, the capital gains tax that it promised it was not going to bring in but brought in, which has taken the speculation out of the market, and the tax on negative gearing. What a great shame. Interest rates are now 15.5 per cent for someone trying to buy a home. In 1981 they were 11.5 per cent. The cost of a home loan is now equivalent to 46.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. People cannot afford to buy because of this Government's economic policies. Everybody knows, Frank Walker and all the State Housing Ministers agree that this Government is to blame for the housing crisis. The Real Estate Institute and the Master Builders Federation all agree. All the people who are credible in this industry agree as to why we have this housing crisis and they blame it directly on the Federal Government. I will quote from Frank Walker. He states:

There is a crisis in the accommodation market . . . of the private rental markets and our housing markets in this country. That is a fact of life, that everyone in politics knows.

That is everybody bar the Minister. He goes on to tell us exactly why. He says: `It is due to your interest rate policies, it is due to your capital gains tax and your tax on negative gearing'. Everybody who is credible agrees with that. In Shoalhaven, in my electorate of Gilmore, the value of houses has fallen by up to 20 per cent since this Government has been in power. That means that a $70,000, three-bedroom brick-veneer home in Shoalhaven today should be worth $84,000. That is not the case and home owners have lost $14,000 because of this Government's policies. In Young the value of houses has fallen by 13 per cent and the cost of rent in the City of Goulburn has increased by 15 per cent in the past 12 months. This is indicative of what is going on around Australia.

This Government is destroying the value of Australians' most valuable asset, their homes. This Government has reduced the value of homes and it will see the wrath of electors vented on it at the next election. Rents are consuming more and more of the family income. This Government is reducing the ability of the average family, by pushing up interest rates, to be able to save to have their own home. This Government is reducing our living standards and destroying the great Australian dream. It is doing everything it possibly can, with its economic policies, to destroy our standard of living. The Government is forcing people out on to the streets, forcing people to sleep on park benches and in cars, as is the case in the Minister's electorate, or in warehouses, as is the case in Sydney--

Mr Cobb —Under bridges.

Mr SHARP —Under bridges, as the honourable member for Parkes points out. People are living in caravans. People are now saying that their great Australian home will be a caravan in a trailer park. That is what this Government has done to the average Australian. In a few months time-the sooner the better-the Government will be flogged by those people who have lost the value of their housing and who have been kicked out on to the streets because of the Government's economic policies. The Government will be flogged by those people and it deserves to be flogged. We can solve those problems with our sensible policies. The Government will deserve to be on the Opposition benches because of what it has done to average Australians by throwing them out of their homes on to the street.