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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2362

Mr TURNER (BRADFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Does the honourable gentleman regard the 6 per cent or thereabouts interest paid by permanent building societies to their depositors as being excessive, at a time when inflation is running at about 8 per cent, thereby giving the depositors a net return of approximately minus - I repeat the word 'minus' - 2 per cent per annum in real terms? Does he, by his irresponsible statements, deliberately intend to bring these hundreds of thousands of thrifty people to disaster? If that is not his intention, is he prepared to give a meaningful reassurance to them here and now?

Mr CREAN (MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - For the information of the honourable member, I state that I will be receiving a visit this afternoon from Mr Hall of the permanent building society associations in New South Wales. I will take the opportunity to indicate to him that I have every confidence in the financial stability of the building associations.

Mr McMahon - A quick change of heart.

Mr CREAN - It is not a change of heart. 1 resent the fact that certain sections of the Press have, it seems to me, misconstrued the words which I said. I shall repeat those words.

Mr Snedden - Do not repeat them; they have done enough damage.

Mr CREAN - I want to repeat them. I must say that never in my political experience have I seen a statement as fatuous as the one issued by the former Treasurer in response to what was said. I indicated when I was asked about it - I shall repeat it - that I believe that interest rates are better low than high. I acknowledge the difficulty of lowering them overall very quickly. I went on to say - and I repeat it - that I believe that as we have imposed social control over certain areas of credit extension, we ought to look at the situation as it applies to other areas. Then I referred to what would happen if we were to do it suddenly. I indicate that I have no intention of doing it suddenly; I am going to consult with the interests involved to indicate the ideas that I have and to listen to the defences that they have.

I at least give the honourable member the reassurance that what I said was not intended to provoke unrest among people who have deposited money with those institutions. I still believe that for home owners to be borrowing at 74 per cent to li per cent places a very intolerable burden upon them. I think that many groups in the community have been priced out of the market by high building costs, high land costs and high interest costs, and surely H should be the concern of all of us to try to lower any and all of those elements.

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