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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 2026

Mr WEST (Minister for Housing and Construction)(10.20) —The Government will be insisting upon maintaining the integrity of clause 9 because it allows me, as the Federal Minister, to direct the Corporation to provide insurance on loans deemed to be of special interest in terms of this Government's housing policies. We make no apologies for that. The Housing Loans Insurance Amendment Bill provides for prior consultation with the Corporation and for consideration of its advice. It also requires that all directions issued by the Minister will be tabled in this Parliament. The Government envisages that the use of the special interests provision would be strictly limited. It would be used only where proposals have particular importance in terms of the Government's housing policies and where mortgage insurance would not otherwise be provided because of the application of strict commercial principles.

I take up the challenge issued by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). He said we would not be able to point to any other piece of Federal legislation in which a similar provision applies. There is a precedent with a similar national interest provision in the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act, section 35C (3) of which states:

Where, in relation to an application referred to the Minister . . . the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the national interest that the Corporation should enter into a contract of indemnity in respect of the matter . . . the subject of the application, the Minister may, by writing under his hand, approve the entering into by the Corporation of such a contract.

There is the precedent-the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act.

Mr Hollis —Withdraw.

Mr WEST —Exactly.

Mr Hodgman —Oh, come on. I will not withdraw. You are prolonging the debate for half an hour. You are an absolute idiot.

Mr WEST —Well, there it is. I really think that the Opposition ought to think about what we can do with this power, because this is the sort of thing we want to do. Examples of proposals that might be covered by a special interest determination include housing in remote areas, housing that might not otherwise proceed, multiple occupancy developments, housing co-operatives, pensioner housing, Aboriginal housing projects in remote areas in the outback, and probably most importantly, demonstration projects by government with the private sector for more affordable housing. There are a number of such projects proceeding in Melbourne and Brisbane in co-operation with the private sector; that is, with major construction developers such as Jennings Industries Ltd. That is the sort of thing that in future this special interest clause would cover and it is a most laudable activity. In some cases the use of the special interest provision could remove the need for direct government outlays; for example, by enabling housing co-operatives to obtain private finance instead of being financed through the public housing funds.

I conclude by once again condemning the Opposition and its spokesmen today for the fearful misrepresentation that they have once again put forward in debate on this Bill. They have suggested it might be the start of nationalisation of the insurance industry and all sorts of other ratbag suggestions. I repeat that all of the major industry organisations and the State governments have supported this legislation. The Real Estate Institute of Australia, hardly a socialist organisation, and the Federation of Permanent Building Societies of Australia have not only supported it but lauded it. They have said: 'We want it, get it through the Senate and get it promulgated'. The Housing Industry Association and the Master Builders Federation have all said: 'Get this operational. It is the best thing you have ever done for the HLIC and the industry. It will help to get the secondary mortgage market off the ground'. That is what we want to see because it will get more funds into housing funds, that we would not otherwise get without the market. If the States are going to develop the secondary mortgage market they have to have an organisation which will ensure the mortgage-backed securities that will be stamped by the State corporations. But the Opposition does not understand that. It says that it is the start of the nationalisation of the industry. That is nonsense; it is not. This measure is supported by the industry and by the States. The only people who oppose it are the fools opposite.