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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 130

Mr BEALE —Will the Prime Minister confirm that since 1984 new dwelling commencements have fallen from a rate of 153,000 a year to the current level of 118,000 a year? What is the Prime Minister's excuse for this deplorable situation which is preventing young Australians from buying their own homes?

Mr HAWKE —Madam Speaker, I know that you would regard a question on housing as being broad enough to enable me to make a comment on bankruptcies, which I will do very quickly. I was interested in the question addressed to my colleague the Treasurer earlier about what had happened to bankruptcies in this country. It is relevant to note just what happened to the bankruptcy rate in the years 1983-84 to 1985-86. I ask honourable members to note this in light of the now well-known remarks of the incoming Leader of the National Party in this place, the Premier of Queensland. He said on a national program the other day that he wants to do for Australia what he has done for Queensland. I see the smiles on the faces of my Liberal friends the honourable member for Ryan and the honourable member for O'Connor. They agree with me because in the last two years the increase in bankruptcies in Queensland has been 43 per cent; the increase for the rest of Australia has been 6 per cent. So that is what the incoming Leader of the National Party wants to do. Is this what the honourable member for Maranoa wants his friend to do for the rest of Australia-give them a 43 per cent increase in bankruptcies? What he will do is sink not just the honourable member for Maranoa but the whole lot of his colleagues.

Madam Speaker, I know that the question was about housing. In the difficult economic circumstances that confronted the economy in general and the housing industry in particular, this Government brought in a housing package last year and it has been a significant success. Let me very briefly give the figures. The housing finance figures show that savings bank lending is up markedly since the package was introduced, and is now running at an annual rate of above $7 billion compared with the pre-package level of less than $4 billion. In December private housing approvals were at their highest level since February of 1986. The outlook for starts in 1986-87 and for employment in the housing industry is much brighter than before the package was brought in. Therefore, we are satisfied that the steps that we took last year to meet the problems of the housing industry in those difficult economic circumstances have been successful.

Madam Speaker, you will be aware, as will all honourable members, of the other actions which the Government has taken to demonstrate its commitment to support the housing industry. We introduced the widely acclaimed first home owners scheme which has put more than 200,000 Australians, particularly young Australians, into homes. The circumstances were such that before the introduction of that scheme they could not possibly have contemplated the ownership of their own home. In terms of funds for public housing, under this Government there has been a 42 per cent real increase in the funds made available by government for public housing. When we came to office we took steps to lift the housing industry from the doldrums into which the incompetence of the Opposition had plunged it. We are confident, in the difficult economic circumstances, that the package that was brought in by the Minister for Housing and Construction on behalf of this Government will be appropriate to lift the level of activity, as it has in the period since it was introduced.