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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2895


Mr RUDDOCK —My question is to the Minister for Housing and Construction. I refer him to the figures released yesterday by the Real Estate Institute of Australia which show that average home loan repayments have increased by $281 per month under the Hawke Government. Does this massive increase in the cost of home ownership help to explain why rental vacancies have fallen to record lows in several capital cities, why housing rents have increased markedly faster than the consumer price index, why the number of home loans in arrears for more than four months has nearly doubled over the past year, and why public housing waiting lists have risen to record high levels? When can Australian families, currently suffering under the economic and taxation policies of this Government, expect some moderation in both the cost and availability of housing?


Mr WEST —The first thing to say is that I and the industry organisations-that is, the Housing Industry Association and the Australian Bankers Association-have some doubts about the figures in the survey released yesterday by the Real Estate Institute of Australia. I believe, and on this point I am supported by the Housing Industry Association, that the figures are highly exaggerated. What is more, the survey was conducted before the recent 30 March housing package was released. To be specific, the recent housing package pegged the old savings bank rate once again at 13 1/2 per cent. There are 900,000-odd savings bank loans involved in that. For those people currently paying 15 1/2 per cent-that is, those seeking new loans-we have increased the income limit for the first home owners scheme, which will assist about 26,000 families. Of course, that means that they will not be paying the full interest rate because it will be subsidised. They will also be assisted with a lump sum to help to meet the deposit gap. Furthermore, low start loans will continue to be available for those who require them. People will be able to seek a low start loan from, for example, the Commonwealth Bank or Westpac Banking Corporation with early repayments on a loan of $50,000 of $522 per month and $568 per month respectively instead of $676 per months at an interest rate of 15 1/2 per cent. That is a very substantial concession for which people can apply.

As far as interest rates are concerned, it is well known that the May economic statement will be outlined by the Treasurer on Wednesday. When one adds that statement's contribution to the already tight fiscal policy that this Government is implementing, takes into account recent downward trends in the current account deficit, and the fact that, as the Prime Minister mentioned today, short term interest rates, as exemplified by bank bill rates, are now down to 14.6 per cent, one will see after Wednesday that that downward trend in interest rates will continue and in due course will be reflected by a downward trend in housing interest rates.

Before I conclude my answer, let me point out that the question of the honourable member opposite referred to the state of play with regard to public housing waiting lists. As the Prime Minister said today, we have directed record sums into public housing expenditure and the States have matched those funds to a certain extent. As a result of that, we have been able to more than double the number of acquisitions of rental stock per year. The Opposition, while complaining about numbers on public housing waiting lists, at the same time advocates the abolition of all Federal funds for public housing. I have said before that the Opposition will be guilty of the most extreme hypocrisy and contradiction if it complains about the numbers on the waiting lists while at the same time advocating the abolition of public housing funding by this Government.


Mr Ruddock —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. Under the appropriate standing order, I ask the Minister to table the documents from which he was reading.


Madam SPEAKER —Was the Minister reading from a private, confidential document?


Mr WEST —I was reading from a private document and quoting from my own personal notes.