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Monday, 14 October 1991
Page: 1801

Mr MELHAM —-My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Can he inform the House as to Government initiatives to ensure that, as the economy recovers, Australian households will be able to find the housing they need at affordable prices and of a type that suits their requirements?

Mr HOWE —-I thank the honourable member for Banks for his question, which is timely in the sense that it follows a meeting of the Australian Housing Council which occurred on Friday last week. The Chairman of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry, Brian Hamley, was able to mention to the Australian Housing Council on Friday that the Indicative Planning Council was considering revising its estimates to $137,000 for 1991-92 and $155,000 in 1992-93. The 1991-92 figure is 12 per cent up on last year's figure.

That meeting of the Australian Housing Council was not an unimportant meeting and, as people may know, the Australian Housing Council itself is not an unimportant body in the sense that it brings together almost all the major players in the housing industry. Those people came together last Friday on the basis of a discussion of issues paper No. 4, which is the fourth paper coming out of the national housing strategy, dealing with the housing industry. That is obviously very important as we move out of recession and solidly into recovery, especially in the housing industry.

It is absolutely vital, as I think was recognised at the meeting of the Australian Housing Council, that the supply of land be able to meet the increasing demand without generating blow-outs in the cost of housing. At the same time the Government is determined to reshape the conditions under which the housing and land industries operate. If there is an area that reflects a kind of boom and bust mentality, it is the housing industry. Over the years we have often seen the numbers bounce around, reflecting often different conditions that operate in the economy. The Government is very anxious that in the movement out of this recession we take the opportunity to see growth in the industry, but growth based on a much firmer industrial basis.

It is important to take the opportunity to rebuild the skill base to ensure flexibility and transfers to new building techniques. These issues and approaches were spelt out in the latest issues paper from the strategy. All participants-- State governments, local government, the building industry, building unions and the community sector--agreed on a range of issues that need to be addressed at the November Special Premiers Conference, including changes to the planning strategies of State governments to give much clearer direction to local government and to development and changes to the processes associated, for example, with regulations, where a recent consultant study pointed to the possible savings of over $1 billion.

Changes also in the area of taxation will lead to greater transferability of housing as people's circumstances change, rather than locking people into housing because of taxation measures. At the discussions there were also talks between employers and trade unions to find ways of ensuring that costs would not increase as housing associated with Commonwealth-State initiatives are developed. It is good to see the very substantial and growing signs of recovery in the housing industry. That will have an impact on employment and we will begin to see that as the recovery unfolds. It will also provide a great opportunity on the basis of the national housing review on strategy to ensure that we build policies that not only make that recovery sustainable but also produce a very much more efficient industry. Friday's meeting, I believe, is a very important meeting and some of the thinking no doubt will be taken up by the Premiers in November.