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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18583


Mr FARMER (2:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer please advise the House of the measures the government has undertaken to assist homebuyers in areas like Campbelltown and Camden in Macarthur, and throughout Australia? Is the Treasurer aware of any alternative policy approaches?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for his question and for the way in which he is representing the constituents in the western part of Sydney and the great contribution that he is making, unlike some other members in the western part of Sydney. The government introduced from 1 July 2000 the First Home Owners Scheme, which gives a grant of $7,000 to every person who is buying their first home. Since it was introduced, 482,000 individuals and families have benefited from it and it has paid out something like $3.8 billion.

We on this side of the House have been concerned that a large part of that first home owners grant is being soaked up by state governments increasing stamp duties on properties. Since 1996 the increase in stamp duty on the median home in Sydney has been from $6,000 to $16,000, so it has more than soaked up the $7,000 first home owners grant. On this side of the House we have had no difficulty in pointing out this tax slug in all of the Labor states, notwithstanding the extreme discomfort it causes to members opposite. That is why I was very interested by an alternative policy that was apparently announced this morning. My authority is the Sydney Morning Herald, which is always a strong authority on these matters. It reports:

While most homebuyers continue to shoulder hefty stamp duty bills, the State Government has granted a big increase in relief from the payment to more than 50,000 public servants.

Under this plan, if you are a public servant and you are moved into or out of Sydney, the New South Wales Labor government is going to relieve you of the obligation of paying stamp duty. Under this plan—if it were to come to fruition—you could have two people in the one street with houses worth the same value, where one person who works in the private sector pays stamp duty of $16,000 and the next-door neighbour on the same income pays nothing. This is some kind of new ALP plan to give stamp duty relief to friends of the New South Wales government in the public service of New South Wales.



Mr COSTELLO —The member for Werriwa interjects because, of all the schemes I have heard on this, the only one more bizarre is the one he has announced on behalf of the federal Australian Labor Party. He has announced on behalf of the Labor Party that in Sydney you will be eligible for a grant of $12,000. If you happen to be the member for Jagajaga, your constituents will be eligible for $7,000. If you happen to be the member for Gellibrand, your constituents will be eligible for $7,000. If you happen to be the member for Lilley, your constituents will be eligible for $7,000. Under the Australian Labor Party, one class of person—a resident of Sydney—will be singled out for a differential benefit which is denied to the rest of Australia.

I say to every one of those Australian Labor Party members, and I am not talking about the dozen deadwood here, outside of Sydney: how are you going to go back this weekend and explain to your constituents that they are worth $7,000 for their grants whereas, because the member for Werriwa comes from Sydney—not Newcastle, not Corio, not Geelong—those constituents are going to be eligible for $12,000? That sounds pretty fair to the rest of Australia, doesn't it! But not only has he put a residential qualification on this, it is only available for specific classifications—what he calls `essential workers'. If you live in Sydney and, he says, if you are a fireman, a policeman or a teacher, you will get $12,000 because you are an essential worker.

What about other essential workers? What about the taxidrivers of Sydney? How are they going to afford homes so they can bring people home late at night? The member for Lalor is laughing, Mr Speaker—laughing very loudly. Try and contain it if you can! I will be finished in a moment. What about the other essential service workers? This is discriminatory on the grounds of place and discriminatory on the grounds of occupation. This is another unfunded promise worth $50 million to $100 million, depending on how many essential workers there are. And this is the party of fiscal rigour. Well, the fiscal rigour of the Labor Party is fiscal rigor mortis, going nowhere!