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Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2184

Mr BEAZLEY —That comes from a party that has to pay its campaign workers—there are so few of them! My question is to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister seen the evidence of the Housing Industry Association to the Senate GST inquiry that the GST will cost the industry 20,000 jobs, increase housing costs by five per cent to eight per cent, increase rents by three per cent, permanently cut 2.4 per cent off residential building activity and make new houses smaller and of poorer quality? Is he aware that this evidence is based on the work of Chris Murphy, the Prime Minister's modeller of choice? Does the Prime Minister agree with Chris Murphy that housing industry workers will lose their jobs as a result of the GST?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am glad the Leader of the Opposition has asked me a question about housing because in the last three years housing has become more affordable in this country than it has been at any time in the last 30 years. If there is one group of Australians that every one of us who sits on the Liberal and National side of parliament can look in the eye without any fear of contradiction and say to them that we have made their financial situation much better, it is the home buyers of Australia. This government has delivered the lowest interest rates for Australian home buyers in 30 years.

Mr Beazley —I rise on a point of relevance. This question was devoted entirely to the impact of the GST.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is dealing with the question of GST, and the Speaker was making the fair presumption that he was proceeding to the matter of employment and jobs in the housing industry. The Prime Minister will continue.

Mr HOWARD —The policies of the coalition government over the last three years not only have reduced interest rates, they have put the average home within the reach of the Australian home buyer to a far greater extent than at any time during the last 30 years. If you look at our record in relation to housing, you will see that it is the best record of any Australian government since the 1960s. That is the starting point of any rational discussion of the impact of policy on housing.

We have structured our tax package so that, first and foremost, we will deliver massive personal tax cuts to all Australians. Whenever a question is asked about tax in this country, the person asking the question ought to be able to explain why it is that he leads a party that is trying to deny $13 billion of personal tax cuts to Australia. The man who asked me that question is the man who wants to take tax cuts away from the average Australian battler.

Mr Beazley —I rise on a point of order and I go to the point of relevance. Whatever claims there are for tax cuts related to this from the surplus, this is modelling based on the totality of their tax package. Your so-called cuts—20,000 jobs out of the housing industry—

Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will address the question of jobs in the housing industry.

Mr HOWARD —The employment impact of the taxation package will be overwhelmingly beneficial because it will produce increases in gross domestic product. It will be overwhelmingly beneficial because it will deliver disposable income into the hands of the Australian taxpayer. The government which has reduced interest rates for Australian home buyers is now the government that wants to implement the wish of the Australian people to endow those home buyers with greater disposable income via personal in come tax cuts. There is only one group of people that stands in the way of the achievement of that objective.

Mr Beazley —I rise on a point of order. All his so-called tax cuts are there in the modelling that has been handled by Murphy's office. I asked him specifically a question about the relationship of the GST to jobs. He has no answer.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is obliged—you are right—to deal with the question of jobs in the housing industry and the way in which the GST impacts on it. He has not, as far as I have noted, concluded his answer, and I invite him to do so.

Mr HOWARD —I simply say to the House that the employment impact of the tax package is overwhelmingly beneficial. The government does not believe that the tax package will have a detrimental effect on employment in the housing industry.