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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 692

Mr KEOGH(8.15) —I support this package of measures that we are debating cognately-the First Home Owners Bill, the Home Deposit Assistance Amendment Bill and the Housing Loans Insurance Amendment Bill. Whilst the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) indicated his support for the first two of the measures, it is interesting to note that he clearly indicated that the Opposition intends to divide the House in respect of the Housing Loans Insurance Amendment Bill. I would say only that that Bill embodies a proposal by the present Government to reverse the decision of the previous Government and to repeal the legislation which authorised the sale of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to the private sector and, to some extent, to extend the Corporation's charter to allow it to insure commercial building loans.

I guess that it is understandable that the only reason the honourable member for Ryan was able to give in support of the Opposition's determination to vote against this measure is that, in his own words, it does not support the private sector. The honourable member may like to know-if he is not aware of it-that the Government is not sad about that. The Government has proposed this legislation to repeal the previous Government's legislation so that it does not support the private sector.

The Home Deposit Assistance Amendment Bill makes a slight alteration to what has become known as the home savings grant, in that the Government acted a couple of months ago to remove-from 1 August until such time as the proposal in the first of these three Bills comes into effect-the requirement that savings would qualify a person for the grant from the Government to assist in the purchase of a home by a first home owner. I congratulate the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Hurford) on the initiative that he took in introducing this change to the present legislation. As he will appreciate, my only concern at the time was that it was not put into place earlier, because many people who supported the Labor Party in the election campaign were anxious to see us have the opportunity, as a government, to implement the very attractive measures that we proposed for home owners.

We are understandably disappointed that it was necessary for them to wait for the opportunity-and for some of them to miss out-to participate in the beneficial effects of these measures. I had to explain to those people, by telephone and by letter, on a number of occasions that although I was sure they appreciated that it was in their interests to make a move to buy at that time rather than to wait for the savings by which they would benefit, it was not possible for the Government to have these worthwhile measures in operation almost overnight, as may have been expected by some following the election win by the Labor Party on 5 March.

What we are proposing this evening is embraced in those three measures I have recounted to the House. I shall base my remarks principally on the first of those measures-the First Home Owners Bill. The honourable member for Ryan said this evening that the Liberal Party, which he represents, has a great interest in and concern for home owners and is most anxious to foster the opportunity for Australians to own their own home. One finds that hard to believe. His Party was in office for almost a generation. With so many years in office his Party was in a position to determine and put into effect policies that would have shown the claims he made this evening to be fact rather than fiction. He even talked about 68 per cent of Australians owning their own homes at the time his Party went out of office. That might have been so, but the point is that he failed to mention that that percentage was falling disastrously. Honourable members opposite claim that when their Party was in office it supported that great Australian dream of home ownership. At that time the Australian people were struggling to achieve home ownership, and if they did so it was despite the policies of the previous Government. Under its policies the Australian dream of home ownership was fast becoming a nightmare.

Mr Speaker, let me illustrate to you and to the members of the Opposition who are prepared to listen to the facts how, after their period in office, young Australians were benefiting from what may well be termed policies which were directed not at assisting home ownership but at propping up the problems that their policies had allowed to develop in the housing industry. They were propping them up with their eyes directed to votes in the next election rather than to determining how they could assist young Australians to achieve home ownership. There is probably no area of Federal responsibility in which the former Government failed more disastrously than it did in meeting its responsibility to develop a satisfactory national housing policy. In other words , the former Government failed to organise for the Australian people the availability of housing at an economical purchase or rental price.

This evening we are dealing with the measures of this Government to make available, probably for the first time, a satisfactory scheme whereby those with the most need receive the most assistance, and that is the scheme which is incorporated in the provisions of the First Home Owners Bill. It may be said that the problems created by the previous Government in the housing area are perhaps secondary to the problems that it created generally in the total area of employment. The situation in the housing area has a very big influence on unemployment. But I am sure I can quite honestly claim this evening that the previous Government's major sin against the Australian people and its major failure was in failing to provide them with adequate housing.

It is an undeniable fact that had the former Government been concerned enough by the rising interest rates for which its policies were responsible, had it been concerned enough by the disastrous downturn in home building completion rates that fell lower month by month, particularly after the middle of last year , and had it been capable of putting together a viable plan to revitalise the housing industry, the unemployment problem that we faced when the Labor Government came into office would not have been at anywhere near the disastrous level that it was. These policies will stimulate home building. In recent times young Australians particularly have faced increasingly the grave problem of being unable to take the step to home ownership because of their inability to save the necessary deposit. This legislation will make it easier now for those young Australians to take that step into home ownership. The policy put into effect by this Bill is to be praised. The Minister and the Government are to be complimented for it.

Of course, as the housing industry starts to pick up again and as employment levels start to increase, we will face another problem that can be laid at the feet of the previous Government. We will face the problem of the shortage of tradesmen in the buildng industry. There is no doubt that this will be a grave problem. I assure the people of Australia, and in particular the young people who in recent years have been denied the opportunity to gain apprenticeships not only in the housing field but also elsewhere-I talk particularly this evening of the housing field-that they will be supported by the policies of this Government . Through the liaison of this Government with the various State Labor governments-of course, that is the majority of them-and the trade union movement a satisfactory arrangement will be worked out. The many thousands of young Australians who missed out on the opportunity to participate in apprenticeship training in the years when they should have done so-this occurred because of the high level of unemployment-will be given that opportunity through training programs which will be arranged to provide the tradesmen for the future development of housing that will result from the implementation of these policies.

I urge young Australians to think very seriously, when this legislation is in operation after 1 October, about taking the step from rental accommodation or whatever they are in at the moment into a home of their own. I caution them to be very careful about being led into taking on commitments beyond their ability to handle but I also counsel them to realise that today, as always, there is no substitute for home ownership. It is all very well and good for the honourable member for Ryan to suggest this evening that 40 years ago the Australian Labor Party discouraged home ownership. The Federal Government by its policies shows in a very real fashion its genuine concern for the need for the Government to encourage home ownership. I urge young people to think very carefully about, but to move very positively towards, accepting the opportunity presented in this very favourable package of opportunities that the Government has put before the Parliament this evening.

It is an opportunity for them to take the step towards home ownership that has been denied them in the past few years because of high interest rates, coupled with the lack of a positive approach by the former Government to assist them.

I congratulate the Minister and the Government for coming forward with the scheme that we are considering this evening in the First Home Owners Bill. It has been welcomed throughout the housing industry as the best move that has been made by any government to assist young people in overcoming the problems of getting their own homes. It has been welcomed by all sections of the housing industry as a correct move for the Government to give an impetus to the housing industry. It has also been welcomed by all those young people, in particular, who have for so long looked at owning their own home, but who have faced the problem of overcoming what is commonly referred to as the deposit gap. Because of the high costs of living, because of inflation-again we can relate that to the previous Government-young people have found it almost impossible to live and to put together the funds necessary to meet the requirements of the lending authorities to have the necessary deposit for home ownership.

This legislation is a positive move. It is a real step by this Government to put money into the hands of those young people to assist them over that threshold towards home ownership. The funds available under this legislation will help them in various ways. They will have an opportunity to choose the way most satisfactory to them. Either initially or over the first few years of home ownership they will get real assistance to allow them to establish themselves in a home, an opportunity that was denied them by the policies of the previous Government which, in the field of housing, were directed more to preventing a loss of votes that to enabling young people to get the accommodation they so desperately needed.

I urge all honourable members, despite the Opposition's attitude to the third of the three measures, which the honourable member for Ryan indicated, for the sake of all those young people who need a home and who appreciate the benefits that this Government has extended to them by this package of legislation to support all three measures.