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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 621


Senator ARCHER(4.58) —in reply-In closing the debate, I need to remind the Government that the problem of housing for Australians exists now. We have had discussions on what may have been the case five or 10 years ago and we have had irrelevancies on other matters, but the problems with Australia's housing exist now, and will do so into the future. The motion calls on the Government to reverse those policies that are having a disastrous impact on both home owners and potential home owners-people who, in future, will be the new Australians of the age.

In Question Time today I set the scene by asking a simple, straightforward question of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan). After considerable delay she was unable to find any sort of answer. I was somewhat surprised because housing is a very serious matter. She was completely uninformed and was unable to give any answer at all. I was even more surprised when, as the Minister in charge of this topic in this chamber, she was not in a position to know enough to be able to make a contribution to the debate on this matter of urgency. It speaks very ill of the Government that it was not able to provide the Minister with an adequate brief so that she could respond to the matter in the chamber.

During the debate there has been a considerable amount of irrelevancy in one way or another. Then a Government senator finished his speech by begging us to tell the Government how it could solve the problems. What an admission! The Opposition is very concerned about the families of Australia. We are concerned to see them well and economically housed. We are also very keen to see that the problems which the Government has created are dealt with adequately.

What is the potential now for young people? What is their choice? Apparently, their choice is to join the small army of half a million people living in caravans; or they can join the queues for government housing, whose numbers have risen from 100,000 to 160,000; or they can join the queues for private rental accommodation. Private owners have been driven out of the rental market by the stupid capital gains tax. All the capital gains tax has done has been to remove virtually the entire stock of private sector housing from the market. It has done nothing to replace that housing for the people who have been put out on the street.

The final alternative for young people is to try to buy something. We know the problems of trying to buy on the present market. Interest rates, even according to the briefing note we were able to get from the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, are unlikely to fall. The briefing note said in effect: `Don't expect any benefits to come from falling interest rates in the foreseeable future'. What an admission! If the Government wants to know how its housing policies are working, let it check with the banks and the building societies. Let it check with the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Federation of Australia, the Real Estate Institute of Australia and the people seeking housing. They are unanimously and totally opposed to what the Government is doing. The people out there are getting pretty angry. If the Government ignores them it will do so at its peril. This is not a crisis; it is an absolute disaster.

Question resolved in the affirmative.