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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 975

Senator CHANEY —Is the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices aware that in Sydney it now costs, on average, $267 a week to rent a three-bedroom, unfurnished house, which is an increase of more than 25 per cent over the last 12 months? Is he further aware that in Perth rentals for inner city units have increased by as much as 40 per cent in the same period? Does he agree with the New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr Frank Walker, that the direct and major causes of the rental crisis have been the Hawke Government's decisions, such as the abolition of negative gearing on property investment and the taxation of capital gains? If the Government is really concerned about prices, will it take action in the May mini-Budget to reverse these Government decisions which are pushing up the price of accommodation and causing great hardship to many Australians?

Senator BUTTON —I am aware in a general way of the information contained in Senator Chaney's question. I am aware that Mr Walker, on behalf of others, has made statements about these issues. Whatever the solution to the problems raised in the question is, the Government will look at the question. However, it will not look at the repeal of the capital gains tax or the abolition of negative gearing in the course of preparation of the May statement.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question as I think the Minister's answer was rather confusing. I ask the Minister, who says that the Government will look at these matters, whether he is saying that the Government will examine the allegations of Mr Walker and many others, including Opposition members, that it is the Government's policies, including those I have mentioned, which have forced up the price of rental accommodation for Australians right round the country, although I mentioned in particular Sydney and Perth. Is the Minister saying that the Government will examine those matters but that, if it concludes that Opposition members, Mr Walker and the many other critics are correct, it intends to do nothing about it?

Senator BUTTON —I thought that the implication of my answer, at least, would have been clear. In terms of the results reflected in the figures Senator Chaney gave about costs and rents, there is probably a very complex set of answers as to why those things have occurred. I am not for a moment saying that some Government policies have not contributed in part to those things. What I am saying is that in addressing the complex set of reasons for those results the Government would not, as a solution, be about repealing the capital gains tax or abolishing negative gearing in the context of the May statement.