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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3866

Mr BEALE —Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that during the seven full years of the last coalition Government, housing commencements adjusted for population growth averaged 143,000 a year? Is he also aware that commencements for the four years ending June 1987 will average about 136,000-not 142,000 as the Prime Minister said in answer to his dorothy dix question in the House yesterday-with the 1986-87 year having only 122,500 starts? Can the Minister explain to the House, firstly, why the Prime Minister misled the Parliament yesterday in claiming the Government had averaged 142,000 starts--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Deakin will withdraw that comment.

Mr BEALE —I beg your pardon. The Prime Minister incorrectly--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will withdraw first and then reconstruct his sentence.

Mr BEALE —I withdraw the comment. The Prime Minister incorrectly stated in the House yesterday that there would be 142,000 starts when that number should be 136,000 starts. Secondly, why was the last coalition Government able to average 143,000 starts per year, which is consistent with the underlying demand, when the current year forecast is 122,500; that is, nearly 15 per cent below-not 10 per cent above, as represented by the Prime Minister-the level required to provide Australians with new homes?

Mr WEST —The 1986-87 financial year is not yet over, but this country will always remember what the coalition achieved in its last period of office; that is, the 105,000 abysmal starts compared with a record of 137,000, 153,000, 136,000 and anything up to 130,000 that the Government will achieve this financial year. So this Government has a very firm record, it has in place very good housing policies that have provided jobs, have constructed houses, and have placed people in those houses. The Opposition has had a very bad policy in government and a virtual non-policy in opposition. What there is of Opposition policy has been entirely destructive instead of being constructive. I have waited all year for an update of housing policy from the honourable member for Deakin.

While the Opposition carps about our record it has not been able to produce any policy of its own. One can only assume that the puerile statement that the honourable member for Deakin made earlier this year is still firmly in place. I remind the House what the honourable member for Deakin said in that policy, which I assume is firmly in place. The only two things that firmly come out of the Opposition's housing policy is that it would abolish the first home owners scheme and that it would abolish tied public housing programs such as the pensioner rental program and the local government and community housing program. We will stand on our record. It is very good that I am able to get on my feet today to remind the Opposition what that record is. Let me deal with employment first. We created 100,000 new housing and construction jobs in our first three years of office. We have made it very plain that we will protect those one million borrowers who have savings bank loans at 13 1/2 per cent.

Mr Beale —What about your record of high interest rates?

Mr WEST —You will not say what you will do.

Mr Hunt —I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is not referring to the honourable member through you as the Speaker, and I think he should.

Madam SPEAKER —The Minister will address the honourable member for Deakin by his correct title.

Mr WEST —As far as lending is concerned, as a result of our subsidy the savings bank lending rate is currently running in excess of $8,000m at an annualised rate. The first home owners scheme is continuing and will continue, and, as the Prime Minister said yesterday it has assisted almost 220,000 Australian families into home ownership. The Opposition is saying that it will abolish that scheme. We have encouraged low start loans. I say to people to go out to see what they can get from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the other savings banks in the way of a low start loan if they are having problems at the moment as low income earners. I encourage them to do that. In fact, they are doing that.

Let me deal quickly with public housing, because this matter was raised in the House yesterday. We have allocated, together with the States, an all-up total of $2,000m to public housing this year. That will allow something like 18,000 new acquisitions for the States. In the Opposition's last year of office the States were able to add on to their public housing acquisition lists only 7,000 compared with the 18,000 that they will get this year. That is the record. In our three years of office 150,000 Australian families have been placed in public housing accommodation. While we have these positive policies in place-and we are constantly refining them-the Opposition simply offers zero policies, but makes it very plain that it is intent on the destructive course of abolishing the first home owners scheme and the tied programs. Honourable members opposite were divisive in government, they are divisive in opposition and there is very little wonder that the Leader of the Opposition, as he sits there and stares into space contemplating his 30 per cent approval rating, is a bit concerned about his future. It is perfectly obvious that as a result of the Opposition's inability to put policies on the record more than half of the back benchers who sit behind him are at the moment contemplating his removal.