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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 2014

Mr CADMAN(8.57) —The Housing Loans Insurance Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Housing Loans Insurance Act, which governs the activities of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. That Corporation insures lenders against losses on loans secured by mortgage, principally housing loans. I was making the point that the legislation seeks to change the Corporation in ways that are unacceptable. Prior to the debate on this Bill being adjourned I made the point that the Corporation is being provided with a government supported reinsurance capacity which other insurers of mortgages do not have and is being given a government supported reinsurance capacity for other insurance companies which is unavailable to private companies insuring mortgages. I also complained most bitterly about the special provisions in the legislation which allow the Minister to direct the Corporation to engage in activities that the Minister thinks are important. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) said in his second reading speech:

The Government envisages that use of the 'special interest' provision will be strictly limited. It will be used only where proposals have particular importance in terms of the Government's housing policies and where mortgage insurance will not otherwise be provided because of the application of strict commercial principles.

So it is a political direction for the first time in the history of this Corporation, which has a very fine record. I resent the approach that the Government has taken in this matter. I said also that the Government had failed to deal with the difficulties of the secondary mortgage market by having discussions with State Governments on the levels of stamp duties that they impose upon the transfer of mortgages. The secondary mortgage market in Australia will not be encouraged to any real extent by allowing the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to become active in the secondary mortgage market, but the Government should be examining the level of stamp duty which is a real impediment to the transfer of mortgages within States.

The role of corporations such as the policy of the HLIC was discussed by the previous Government. It was the policy of the previous Government to sell the HLIC, but it failed to do so. That was a decision which I did not agree with because it seemed to me to be a token gesture of the policy of privatisation. It was one small, profitable organisation that could be used to demonstrate an intent that usually was not strongly felt by the government of the day. I felt that the work being done by the HLIC was so significant I did not agree with its sale. I have had views for a long time about restructuring of government authorities and semi-governmental organisations. If the privatisation or restructuring of the HLIC were to take place in a total, comprehensible policy package I would endorse that approach.

The HLIC has a proud history of providing funds, and guaranteeing loans to people who have a low equity in the house they are purchasing. In cases of people with deposits as little as 5 per cent or even, in some instances, no deposit at all the HLIC has been prepared to underwrite and insure the loans provide by building societies and banks. In any restructuring process a criterion that the coalition parties must put in place is a requirement that the low equity purchasers are covered and that the drive to provide an opportunity for home ownership is not altered. I regard that as a process which can take place by legislation and which should apply to the HLIC. There would also be a need, I believe, for a fidelity fund to be established for home loan insurers so that there can be no collapse and no need for government support or guarantee for these organisations.

Any decisions by governments to restructure and free up semi-governmental organisations which are conducting business in the name of the Government must be gone about in a comprehensive and sensible way. The stifling provisions of Public Service regulations in regard to employees restrict talent and ability in so many instances. Many corporations and businesses presently operated by the Commonwealth Government deeply resent the strict rules of Public Service employment. Personnel and management alike resent the implication of Public Service provisions. The need to work specific hours, the tight restriction on overtime, the staff cuts, the staff ceilings, the incapacity really to manage effectively stifle talent and ability in many corporations and organisations within government.

The absolute frustration of people with ability or drive is dreadful to see. It is a tragedy that those people lose their positions within organisations, fail to be advanced when often they should be advanced and, in other instances, leave the public sector altogether. As an Australian I resent seeing people with potential and capacity being denied the opportunity to advance their talents and careers. The ability of people cannot be recognised properly within the Public Service sector unless they go through a very tight and drawn out process of examination, promotion review and then, often, challenge. In many instances that has taken away the capacity of public sector managers effectively to manage their personnel. We see the effects of it in many instances in low morale, the failure to apply oneself to the task one is given and a very poor public image for some lower level public servants.

The propping up by the taxpayer of these organisations by constant contribution is often a detriment and a burden the taxpayer need not bear. I hasten to add that the HLIC has been a profitable organisation. It has not been propped up by the taxpayer. However, many business-type activities run by the Government of Australia are constantly supported and subsidised from the taxpayer's purse. It amounts in a year to millions of dollars spread across the whole sphere of government activity. Workers are supported in positions which they do not wish to hold. The all-embracing attraction of a superannuation scheme that locks people into positions from which they cannot move for fear of losing a benefit, or of not fully realising the results of their efforts at the end of the day, is stifling and debilitating. The way in which employees in some areas are held in positions of no importance when they should be encouraged to retrain and move into other areas is also debilitating. The purchasing policies of these organisations are also somewhat restricted by Australian Government policy.

All in all, political interference in corporations and business makes it difficult for them to be effective and to realise high standards of efficiency and operation. If they are business ventures they should be run as businesses. I believe that the welfare of all individuals must be carefully considered in any movement to change the status of or to restructure these organisations. Employees cannot be dealt with willy-nilly. Their interest must be preserved and their opportunities extended. Therefore, any change to privatise or to restructure organisations must be done with a great sense of delicacy and concern, both for employees and for their clients.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.