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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1560

Mr GORMAN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing and Construction. What has been the reaction of the housing construction industry to the Government's changes to the first home owners scheme?

Mr WEST —I am happy to inform the House that the reaction of the industry groups to the changes I announced to the scheme last Thursday has been extremely positive. The Housing Industry Association, the Real Estate Institute of Australia and other industry organisations have made it very plain in their public comments that they see the need both to reduce the deficit in monetary terms and still to stimulate the housing industry in Australia. They have publicly praised this Government for the measure that it has taken. This is in marked contrast to the attitude of the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said earlier today that he has perceived some divisions in certain areas of the Australian Labor Party. He has obviously completely missed the fact that his statement in the taxation legislation debate last Thursday showed a division in the ranks of the Opposition on this issue.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong, said he agreed with what I said last Thursday on budgetary and economic grounds. This shows a remarkable and complete division in respect of what the honourable member for Denison said. He used colourful language, for example saying that it was a shameful exercise, that it was a deceit and that it showed gross economic and social irresponsibility. Here is a direct and absolute division between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition spokesman on housing. Quite frankly, it shows the depth of political opportunism to which the honourable member for Denison will sink. He seems to find it mandatory to jump on every political band-wagon about the place if he perceives there might be some measure of political kudos to be gained. The Opposition seems quite incapable of a cohesive and united position.

I have also been asked whether the effect of changes on the industry will be very great. To my great satisfaction I received information today that tells me that the dwellings commencement figures for the December quarter of 1984 for private other dwellings are up 43 per cent on figures for the December quarter of 1983. I said last Thursday that the Indicative Planning Council said we would have 147,000 starts on housing construction this year as a result of the increase in the lending and home approval rate. Now, in addition, the increase in the commencement rates induces my Department to inform me that this year we may not get just 147,000 housing starts but 150,000. Better still, this will be in a non-inflationary situation because for the month of January the building materials price index showed only a 0.3 per cent increase, which is far less than the underlying rate for the consumer price index. We are not only getting increased commencements and stability in the housing construction industry but also achieving this in a non-inflationary way.