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Transcript of doorstop interview: Forum Shopping Centre: Forrestfield, Perth:19 December 2003: Bulk billing; Productivity Commission & FHOG; stamp duty; children in detention.

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Mark Latham MP 19 December 2003

Federal Labor Leader

Transcript of doorstop at Forum Shopping Centre Forrestfield - Perth

Subjects: Bulk Billing; Productivity Commission & FHOG; Stamp Duty; Children in detention.

E & OE

LATHAM: It’s great to be out here today with John and to wish him all the best. It’s a mighty crusade to save bulk billing right around the country. And I look forward to seeing him in Sydney at the end of January and working with him and all the other Australians worried about the loss of bulk billing in implementing the Labor policy where unlike the Government - they’ve basically given up on bulk billing - we want to get the rates back up and ensure that our policy does the right thing to help the doctors do the bulk billing and ensure that all Australian families don’t need private health insurance, they don’t need a safety net. Let’s get the bulk billing available to them. And that’s the best thing we can do for the health system in this country, and it’s the best thing we can do to save Medicare.

JOURNALIST: The Productivity Commission has recommended that the first homebuyers grant be means tested. Do you think that’s a good idea?

LATHAM: We’ve been talking about targeting of grants for quite some time. We don’t believe it should be available to millionaire homebuyers. That seems to be a waste of public money so targeting the grant, getting the money to where it is most needed is a very important way of dealing with Australia’s housing affordability crisis. There is no overnight solution, the house prices have gone up so much. But surely making a better targeted use of federal money is going to be a good thing compared to a system where people buying a million dollar house can get a public subsidy.

JOURNALIST: What about stamp duty?

LATHAM: I want to have a look at the full recommendations of the report but stamp duty of course is a matter for the states. Primarily though housing affordability is a federal responsibility and I’ve been advocating six or seven big things, the federal government could be doing to improve housing affordability in Australia and that’s where my focus lies. It is mainly a national responsibility but if there are recommendations relevant to the states and territories it’s for premiers and chief ministers to have a look at those.

JOURNALIST: You’ve been talking about shared equity schemes, the Productivity Commission looked at those but said the first home buyers grant is the way to go, do you think they still need to be examined?

Contact: David Britton 0411 743 320

LATHAM: I think we’ve got six or seven important federal responsibilities to deal with Australia’s housing affordability crisis. There is no overnight solution, but better targeting of the first homebuyers grant is important and certainly, schemes that help families save for a house deposit is vital. Families who have got to work hard and save hard and put money aside for a house deposit - they don’t get any encouragement out of Canberra at the moment. So, my proposals for matched savings accounts and nest egg accounts - we’re working hard on those and we’ll have policy announcements in the new year.

JOURNALIST: But is means testing the best way of make it a fairer system though, is that the best way to target?

LATHAM: Well, it’s been our policy to have the targeting for quite some time. We don’t believe in giving the grant to people buying a million dollar home. If they can afford a million dollar home they don’t need a public subsidy. So we’re happy to look at targeting policies, we’ve had those in the past and I’m very keen to read the full report of the Productivity Commission and work out the six or seven important ways to ensure that the great Australian dream of home ownership stays alive. Parents and grandparents around Australia are petrified that the next generation will be a generation of renters rather than homeowners. We don’t want that, we want to keep home ownership alive in Australia and ensure that young people have that great Australian dream within their reach.

JOURNALIST: The Treasurer said that housing prices go up and down typically and the Government should stay out of it - we’ve got one of the highest rates of home ownership around the world. What’s your reaction to that?

LATHAM: Unfortunately under Mr Costello the participation of first homebuyers in the housing market is at an all time low. Traditionally in this country the thing that’s kept the great Australian dream of home ownership alive is the fact that 23% of people in the housing market are doing it for the first time - they’re buying their first home. Under Mr Costello that historic average of 23% has fallen to 13% so it’s at an all time low. We’ve got fewer first homebuyers in the market as a proportion than we’ve ever had in Australia and that’s a real problem. If we haven’t got first home buyers participating in the market then common sense will tell you there’s a problem, there’s a housing affordability crisis and for Costello to take a laissez faire attitude - that he’s got no responsibility for it - I would have thought just defies reality. We need active Government policies to build up housing affordability and build up that proportion of first homebuyers in the market.

JOURNALIST: What about revisiting negative gearing?

LATHAM: That’s not on our agenda. That’s not something that we’ll be doing at all in the future.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]…Point Nepean. What’s your reaction to the federal government deciding to leave it in public hands?

LATHAM: Under pressure from the Mornington Peninsula community and a lot of concerned people in Victoria, I think it’s a good thing that the Government has backed away from commercial development. It should never have been on the agenda. This is a win for the local community and it’s been the Labor Party’s pleasure to support them, to



argue the case to turn the whole site into a national park. Under pressure the Government’s moving in that direction. But I note that they say it will take five years to hand over the site to the Victorian Government as national park. The Labor Party policy has always been to do that straight away and if they can improve their announcement today if they will get it to the national park status and the protection of environmental values of Point Nepean even faster.

INTERVIEWER: [inaudible] the Government’s handling of this issue?

LATHAM: They have been all over the shop, they have had so many different options and it is only due to community pressure from the people on the Mornington Peninsula community, the people in Victoria with the support of the Labor Party that has got the Government to see sense. It has been a real worry we shouldn’t have sites of environmental and public value treated this way. I suppose it is a case of better late then never, but again I urge them to get it to national park status as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t take them 5 years to do the right thing on that site in getting it over to the Victorian Government as a national site quickly is certainly in the public interest.

INTERVIEWER: What do you make about the PM’s call for an investigation into claims that maybe children were encouraged to be involved in the actions in Nauru.

LATHAM: I understand my Shadow Minister for Immigration, Stephen Smith is getting some detailed information about what happened. The picture is not clear and certainly our policy is to close down the so called Pacific Solution which has been a very expensive [inaudible] and I am hoping to get a report from Stephen Smith about it due course.

INTERVIEWER: [inaudible]

LATHAM: They should close down the Pacific Solution and they should also get children out of detention centres. We have an opportunity before Christmas to get children out of detention and as a parent and involved in family love and care, in a civilised society children should not be behind barbed wire. And I say again to the Prime Minster let’s get the children out of the detention centres before Christmas, I say that as a parent and I urge the Prime Minister to do the same thing as a parent and a Parliamentarian

INTERVIEWER: [inaudible]

LATHAM: Stephen Smith is getting a detailed report of the circumstances and we will be better able to make these judgements once we know more about the circumstances.

LATHAM: Thanks very much