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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 932

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(7.52) —I am not at all familiar with the matters that Senator Haines raised, but I will see whether the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) has any response to them. However, I make the general point, without making any judgments or passing any opinions about that case, that vexatious litigation against the Commonwealth or against anybody else is certainly not something that should be encouraged. Indeed, I have considerable concern about the ease with which a number of people can get access to publicly funded legal aid with which to take action against the Commonwealth. It is something that needs to be very carefully watched and which this Governemnt is watching.

I have noted the comments made by Senator Peter Baume. Of course, it is axiomatic that the higher the income cut-off point for access to public housing, the greater the number of applications there will be and the longer waiting lists are likely to be. The whole question of eligibility for and access to public housing in the various States will be examined by the Government in the very near future. In the case of New South Wales, whatever funds are available from whatever source could be used more effectively if the State Housing Commission built its public housing in suburbs less salubrious and less expensive than Potts Point, as I understand it does. That perhaps helps to account for the $27,500 income ceiling; people with those sorts of incomes might prefer to live in Potts Point instead of the rather more down market suburbs.

In relation to the private rental market in Sydney and Melbourne, something both State governments could do in addition to what the New South Wales Government or Mr Walker seems to find most attractive-that is, complaining about the Commonwealth Government-is perhaps to look at some of the disincentives to the provision of private rental accommodation which arise from State government rules and regulations and occasional mutterings about rent ceilings and that sort of thing. They should examine their own policies and the effects of those policies rather than complain about the Commonwealth Government, as appears to be the first preference certainly of Mr Walker. Finally, people speculate from time to time as to how much additional public housing could be built if Mr Walker's personal staff was half the size it is. I do not know what the answer to that question is but I am led to believe that there would be some.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 7.56 p.m.