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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 414


Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (5.16 p.m.) —I will respond briefly because people who read that speech by Senator Tambling will find that there was not any development of an economic argument to back up the four assertions in his motion. All we got from Senator Tambling—`rambling Tambling' perhaps would be the best description of him during that speech—was a list of the alleged misdirection of time and effort of people such as the current Prime Minister, Mr Keating, through to former prime minister Bob Hawke's book. We heard some sort of description of Senator Robert Ray, who has been misunderstood clearly, and his alleged counting of numbers in Victoria, and about Mr Barry Jones. We got a run-down for at least 10 minutes of the alleged problems in these areas. All this is supposed to represent a lucid development of economic policy to substantiate the motion that Senator Tambling has before the chamber today. It was a very poorly developed argument.

  I will make a couple of points about the four parts of this motion. The first part of the motion attempts to condemn the government for its fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current budget strategy of the government as set out by the Treasurer (Mr Willis) lays out a responsible approach to be taken over the next two to three years to the budget deficit, which approach is quite critical to addressing the issue of interest rates.

  The second part of the motion from Senator Tambling alleges that the government has disregarded evidence that Australia's home finance market has continued its slowdown over recent months. I think part (b) is a statement of fact: the housing market is slowing down. However, as the Treasurer made the point in an interview of Sunday morning last, even though the market is slowing down, it is currently running at rates well in excess of where it was at the height of the last housing boom four or five years ago. The third part of Senator Tambling's motion states:

(c) deplores the Government's approval of the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to increase the risk weighting for home loans where equity is less than 20 per cent . . .

Again, I think Treasurer Willis pointed out on the Sunday program that there is a significantly increased risk for borrowers where the equity in their home loan is less than 20 per cent; that if interest rates should move up, borrowers will have a problem meeting those home loan repayments. It is a responsible approach by the government to ensure that people do not go in too far and do not go in over their necks in borrowing too much money. It is a responsible approach by a responsible government.

  Following my rebuttal of parts (a), (b) and (c), it can clearly be seen that any alleged lack of concern by the government, as in part (d), is rebutted. In fact, the government's actions are motivated by a concern that home borrowers not borrow too much in the way of funds. The budget strategy has been developed to ensure that there is minimal fluctuation in interest rates. It is a responsible budget strategy, and the assertion in (b) that the home finance market has slowed down is correct. It has slowed down; but it simply has not slowed down enough.

  The majority of the time taken by Senator Tambling in his speech went on irrelevant comment about the alleged problems in other areas, problems which have absolutely nothing to do with the issue that Senator Tambling has brought before the Senate. It was a very disappointing speech. I will not attempt to go into the policy of opposition members because they do not have any. That is the problem. There is no need for me to spend any time on that because their policy development in this area could be put on a pin head. All they do is shadow box—box at personalities and distract themselves from the development of their policy.