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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1638

Senator JONES(12.50) —Mr President, I take this opportunity to outline just some of the details of the Government's housing policy. I think it is worth while recording at this stage the very fine job that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Hurford) has done during his period of office and during the period of office of the Hawke Labor Government. In its first year the Hawke Labor Government increased the appropriation for public housing by 50 per cent and in the 1984-85 Budget by a further 9 per cent. Between 1 October 1983 and 30 June this year $141m was spent on the first home buyers scheme, assisting some 55,000 applicants.

Since the introduction of the changes to the income limits this year 80,000 people will be helped to gain their first home under this scheme. When one compares that performance with the empty rhetoric of the previous Government one realises that this Government has done something to assist first home buyers to gain accommodation and purchase their own dwelling, I know this is a non- controversial debate so I will not say too much about that. It is thanks to the policies of this Government that we are now seeing housing commencements rising from a 20 year low of 105,000 in the final year of the Fraser Government to 135, 000 in 1983-84 and to an expected 140,000 to 145,000 in the current financial year.

Estimated expenditure on the scheme in this Budget is $265m in Queensland alone and $54m has been earmarked, more than one fifth of the national total. Some 16, 800 applications for home owners assistance were received in Queensland last year, of which some 10,900 have been approved to this date. The Hawke Government must be congratulated for the introduction in this Budget of a new and innovative scheme known as the local government and community housing program. The Government will provide funds to the local authority and community groups including co-operative housing societies through State governments to build, buy , lease or upgrade houses for low cost rental housing. Some $7m has been approved by the Government in this Budget for that program. The scheme is designed to expand and diversify the range of low cost housing available and broaden the range of specific housing requirements such as house accommodation, group housing and housing for single persons.

The Government has given an enormous boost to public housing through the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It has developed a program which aims to ensure as far as possible that housing assistance is delivered to those in need and in forms which are appropriate to their needs. Let us consider the Opposition's approach firstly to public housing when it was in government. Public housing received $377m in the 1975-76 Budget which was progressively reduced to a paltry $264m in 1981-82. Ignoring the effects of inflation, this represents a nominal reduction in expenditure of some $133m in six years. In the first Hawke-Keating Budget grants and net advances to States rose by a massive 55 per cent. In the second Labor Budget there will be a projected increase of 18 .5 per cent over the 1983-84 allocations. We have allocated some $500m to public housing in 1983-84 and $624m in 1984-85.

The renegotiated Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement of course is the centrepiece of this Government's policy for achieving satisfactory housing arrangements for low income groups in Australia and provides the basic framework for delivering a national housing policy. There is a guaranteed minimum funding base of $500m per annum by the Federal Government over the first three years of the Agreement, compared with $200m a year under the 1981 Agreement. All this funding will be in the form of grants. Rent level for public housing will be based on the cost of production and administration rather than market levels as was the 1981 Agreement. There will be provision for reduced rentals for those unable to afford the set rent, broadened criteria to include single persons and youth, specific grants to pensioner housing and Aboriginal housing and the establishment of new local community housing programs with a total funding allocation of $27m over the three years.

The Agreement also includes the incorporation of other specific assistance schemes such as the mortgage and rent relief system and crisis accommodation programs. The crisis accommodation program involves the purchase, construction or renovation of dwellings to be used for short term emergency accommodation, a need that is required in Australia. About $12.6m will be made available this year, with additional funds coming from supported accommodation assistance programs for operational and administrative costs. These programs are funded by social security. The 1984-85 increase for crisis accommodation is some 19 per cent in real terms. This allocation is a step towards arresting the growing problem of youth and their opportunity to gain a home in our society. It is only a step, more funds will be made available in the future.

The last two Budgets brought about a 53.4 per cent increase in funding for public housing, with a guaranteed minimum of a further $500m in 1985-86. There are still some 138,000 householders on the waiting list, representing an increase in demand for public housing of some 64 per cent since 1980. I think the downturn in the building industry was clearly shown during the final years of the failed Fraser Government. The increase is a direct result of people being forced out of the private market by rents that are too high. Decent affordable housing is the right of every Australian. The public housing policies of this Government are the first positive genuine step in that direction. Further Budgets of the next Hawke Labor Government will ensure even greater allocations which will enable us to keep our election promise in doubling the proportion of public housing stock over the next 10 years.

One has to realise that the upturn in the building industry at the moment, brought about by the allocation of extra funds by the Hawke Labor Government and the Keating Budget, will allow an increase of employment in those areas that are tied to the building industry. There are, I believe, some 26 allied trades-I refer to carpenters, plumbers and electricians and the manufacturing industries which produce furniture, carpets, curtains and all the fittings, including plumbing fittings, that go into a house. There will be an increase in demand for those particular items produced by the trades tied to the building industry because of the increase in funding by the Hawke Labor Government. I believe that the upturn in the building industry will be of great advantage not only to those trades that are tied to the building industry but also to those people who require accommodation for the future and those young people who find it very difficult to find affordable accommodation at this time.