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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1689


Mr HODGMAN(8.45) —I intend to speak on clauses 2 and 10 of the First Home Owners Amendment Bill. I will speak to them at the one time thus saving the necessity for two speeches by myself and two replies by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West). It is a matter of profound regret that the House has just voted to defeat the second reading amendment.

Tonight we have present in the public gallery boys and girls from the Grammar School at Sale, Victoria. Therefore, I will explain this matter in very simple terms so the listeners of Australia will know exactly what this deceitful, dishonest Government has done. Before the last election the Government promised $1. However, on 16 April the Government said that it was not a dollar after all but only 80c.


Mrs Sullivan —How much?


Mr HODGMAN —Only 80c! The Government has cut back on the home savings grants by an average of 20 per cent. I note that the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) is in the chamber. I remind him that clause 2 of the Bill provides that:

Sections 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 14 shall be deemed to have come into operation on 17 April 1985.

The Bill therefore is technically retrospective. However, I do not stay to debate that. It means that the election promise to maintain the first home owners scheme has been broken. Here I quote Robert James Lee Hawke, the impostor who on 13 November 1984 said in the Opera House: 'And we are going to keep it that way'.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! I ask the honourable member to refer to the Prime Minister as the Prime Minister.


Mr HODGMAN —Madam Chair, I will refer to him as the Prime Minister for the time being; the Prime Minister on the way out and the Prime Minister who will not even be leading the Hawke socialist Government by Christmas this year. The Special Minister of State grins. The Prime Minister is on his way out because the people do not believe him any more. What is the point of a promise made on 13 November which is torn up in shreds by 16 April 1985? I am sorry to say that the Minister for Housing and Construction, who said that our second reading amendment was silly, is being conned because he is basing his whole argument on clause 10 of the Bill. Clause 10 of the Bill amends section 34 of the principal Act. The Minister has been conned into believing-just as the first home owners of Australia were conned into believing that the Prime Minister would keep his word-that he will get $290m in 1985-86. What does this clause say? There are two quite independent Queen's Counsel in this chamber who will listen to these words and decide whether the Minister is to get his $290m or not. Clause 10 states:

Section 34 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section is substituted:. . . .

'34. (1) Subject to sub-section (2), assistance payable after the commencement of this section and before 1 July 1985 is payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.

There is no problem with that. However, let us look at sub-section (2) which states:

(2) Assistance payable under sub-section (1) shall not exceed, in the aggregate, an amount that, together with the total amount of assistance paid on and after 1 July 1984 and before the commencement of this section, is equal to $290,000,000.

I see the look of amazement on the face of the honourable member for Menzies (Mr N. A. Brown). There is no promise of $290m. The Bill states that the amount shall not exceed $290m. Unless the Minister has it in writing his chances of getting that $290m must be looking a little shaky. If the Minister is prepared to put his trust in the honourable member for Wills, the Prime Minister, so be it; but he is one of a rapidly reducing and speedily dying bunch. If the Minister so proudly thinks he has the $290m, why did he not insert in the Bill the grants to be applied for 1985 so that he could have said to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Keating), when he returns from explaining himself overseas: 'You cannot change the grants any more because the figure is locked into the Act'? But that has not occurred. The first home buyers of Australia will be staggered to find, when they receive a copy of the First Home Owners Amendment Act 1985, as it will become, that it does not say what their entitlement is.

So what do we have? Tomorrow the Minister for Housing and Construction might be shifted again to another portfolio. He has made as much of a mess of the Housing and Construction portfolio in four months as he made of the Immigration and Ethnic Affairs portfolio in two years. The Minister does not have one word of statutory authority for his statement that grants will be maintained at the level that he has announced. The Prime Minister made a promise on 30 November to the effect that he would keep the first home owners scheme the way it was and 16 weeks later tore up that promise and chopped the scheme. He is cheating the first home owners of Australia by cutting their grants by 23.5 per cent. The Minister has said: 'I was the first to be responsible'. He went willingly to the block. He should have fought right down the line.

I put it bluntly that the Minister waffled when he gave his answer. He said nothing about the broken promise. He did not in any way answer the strong arguments put forward by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Donald Cameron), the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper), who gave an outstanding speech, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), who gave the sort of speech that we expect of him, the honourable member for Forde (Dr Watson) and, last but not least, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran). I am proud to have led Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in this debate with such an outstanding team of supporting speakers whose contributions were very different from some of the speeches that were made by honourable members opposite. One of the Minister's colleagues said that we should be very grateful that the scheme is still on foot. That is rather like saying: 'Thank God, we have not been murdered; we have just been raped'. The attitude of the Minister's colleagues was to say: 'It does not matter very much'.

In conclusion, I want to read into Hansard the explanatory memorandum. I am not having a shot at the officer who drafted it, but this is what was given to us as the explanatory memorandum in relation to this Bill. I will read it because every prospective first home purchaser will laugh his or her head off when the names of Hawke and West are mentioned and these words are remembered. The explanatory memorandum states:

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for a number of machinery amendments of minor policy significance--


Mr Donald Cameron —Oh, no!


Mr HODGMAN —It is true. It states:

. . . of minor policy significance or of a routine administrative nature, and to provide for a fixed--


Mr Donald Cameron —Who wrote it?


Mr HODGMAN —I think Bob Hawke wrote it. It continues:

. . . to provide for a fixed appropriation to contain expenditure under the First Home Owners Scheme to within Budget appropriation.

We have a Bill that does not guarantee the Minister his $290m. We have no statutory provision which guarantees any first home owner that after the Budget is brought down he will get the amounts that the Minister announced one week ago. There is no protection. We have a guaranteed situation of retrenchments in the building industry and in the housing industry as the direct result of what the Minister has done.

I say to the Minister that, whatever else his failings may be, I would have thought he would have seen this to be an issue that is critical to the first home owners of Australia. He has even boasted in this Parliament that this year there will be 150,000 new starts and next year there will be 146,000. Yet he does not admit that that is a drop. If he cannot tell the difference between up and down, he is just as hopeless as a government which cannot tell the difference between $1 and US62c. Before the Minister replies, I challenge him to refute what I have put. He has no guarantee of receiving his $290m. The first home owners of Australia do not trust him. They certainly do not trust the Prime Minister. I ask the Minister to take back this Bill, redraft it and bring it back in proper form. I plead on behalf of the first home owners and the housing industry for the Government at long last to do the right thing and not betray thousands and thousands of decent Australian who stupidly trusted it before the last election and now realise that they have been betrayed, deceived, conned and let down shamefully.