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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 513

Mr STAPLES(3.43) —Mr Deputy Speaker, as I am sure you would have noticed and as everybody else who was interested would have noticed, when the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper) rose to speak the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) and the Leader of the National Party of Australia and right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), rushed into the House. Some honourable members would have thought that they rushed into the House just to support their back bench colleague. But they were really coming into the House to check up on what the honourable member for Fisher was going to say. They thought that the honourable member for Fisher might have been going to announce Joh's new housing policy. It would have been a real change because we do not have a housing policy from the Opposition. At least one policy would have been a start because the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale) has not produced his housing policy. But such is the level of concern, disarray, disruption, distrust and paranoia on the other side of the House that these senior people had to rush in to make sure that we were not getting a new policy from one of the other sectional parties that are starting up.

What is this new game that we have heard about? The honourable member for Deakin continually asked the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West): `What is your excuse for that?' Is Reg Grundy running the show for the Opposition now? Is he giving Opposition members all their lines? Is this a new television game that they have thought up? Perhaps it is something like Family Feud. That is something that all honourable members opposite have been playing very well lately. In Family Feud the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and the honourable member for Bennelong could be two very good participants. The right honourable member for New England and the Premier of Queensland or perhaps the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) could take part in that game. But are members of the Opposition playing another television game such as Perfect Match by asking: `What is your excuse for that'? What a perfect match the honourable member for Kooyong and the Premier of Queensland would be.

Or perhaps members of the Opposition are playing a television game such as Sale of the Century. What about the Opposition's privatisation policies? It wants to sell off the assets of the Australian public. What will it sell Telecom Australia for-$7? Do I hear $8? What about Australian Airlines, Qantas Airways Ltd, or perhaps the Commonwealth Bank of Australia? Now we are talking big bikkies. Let us look at last year's profits of the Commonwealth Bank-the people's bank; the big Australian bank. It had a 55 per cent profit increase. That would be a good one to sell off, would it not? The Opposition would get $10 for that on Sale of the Century. That is what we are into now. The Opposition is down to the level of playing television games. What is the excuse for that?

Why did the Opposition put forward a matter of public importance on housing policy today? What has prompted it? It has no policies. We did not hear a word about its housing policies here today. The Opposition has the most terrible and disastrous record on housing that this country has ever seen and it has no social or economic solutions to what it has put forward. This debate is just a smoke-screen-we on this side of the House have seen through it and the people of Australia will easily see through it-to attempt to cover the disarray and the disruption on the other side of the House. Members of the Opposition are a disgrace to democracy. I think one of the things that we should be discussing as a matter of public importance to the Australian electorate is the fact that the Opposition is a disgrace to democracy. Let me say something to members of the Opposition. We have been talking about games. Honourable members opposite should lift their game as an opposition. They have to do a lot better than they are doing now.

This matter of public importance is a very dangerous tactic on the part of members of the Opposition. It is a symptom of their desperation. Honourable members opposite are a very desperate opposition-a rag-tag, rag-bag collection of parties and splinter groups. Members of the Opposition have been exposed today. They got up in the House and talked about what the Government is not doing or what it is doing badly. They did not say anything about what they are going to do. They have no policies, yet they hand out all this glib clap trap around the place about the billions of dollars that they will cut in one area and the billions of dollars that they will spend in another. They have no policies on interest rates that will stick, that will be cohesive, and that will produce a stronger economy and security for all Australians. They have about four or five policies on taxation at the moment-I must give them that. Every couple of Opposition members has a policy on taxation. But that is no use. Honourable members opposite have exposed themselves by bringing on this matter of public importance today. It shows that they have no policy, that they are in total disarray and that they have nowhere to go.

We heard from the Opposition's last speaker about its housing and construction policy only by chance. It fell off the back of a truck in May last year. Its draft policy No. 9 was dated 17 February 1986-by my calculations a year and a week ago. For goodness sake! That is the last that we heard about the Opposition's housing policies. What is going on over there? If housing is so critical what has the Opposition been doing over the last three or four years? What has it been doing in the housing area since 17 February last year? Nothing. It has no interest rate policies and it has done nothing in the housing area. It led Australia into the worst recession it has had in 50 years and into the highest unemployment, yet it talks about our housing record.

When the previous Government left office there were 105,000 housing starts in 1982-83. Yet members of the Opposition are complaining to the Minister, who has done a tremendous job in the housing area, that he may get that figure to only 118,000 housing starts. By my calculations that is 13,000 more housing starts than when the previous Government left office. If honourable members opposite reckon that that is bad, what is so good about their policies and what will they do to make them better? They did not tell us; they cannot tell us. They have ideas going everywhere and nowhere. The Minister for Housing and Construction has answered all the comments of the honourable member for Deakin, such as `What is your excuse for that?'. He laid it out. I advise honourable members opposite that if they really want to find out what housing is all about, if they really want to find out about housing policy, if they really want to lift their game and do something for their country, they should read the Minister's speech and listen to what the Minister for Housing and Construction has to say to the Opposition.

What will the Opposition do? Will it abolish the first home owners scheme? This Government has put over $1,000m into the first home owners scheme, and that has helped 230,000 Australians into homes. Yet the Opposition will throw that scheme out of the window. It cannot be serious. It cannot expect the people of Australia to believe that. The honourable member for Fisher-he would have us believe that he is the great champion of low income people, poor people and pensioners-and the honourable member for Maranoa, who sits next to him, think that the way to solve the country's problems is to freeze pensions. That is what the honourable member for Maranoa has been saying. What has the honourable member for Fisher been saying? He has said that we must help the pensioners. What is the Opposition's policy? It does not call these bits of paper policies; they are discussion papers, because, as we read in the papers, the Opposition can discuss a lot of things but it cannot decide on a policy. The Opposition says that it will throw out the tied grants from the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, the mortgage and rent relief scheme and the crisis accommodation program. Where does the Opposition think those people will stay? Where does it think the people who do not have roofs over their heads will get shelter from now? They get it from the crisis accommodation program that the Opposition would throw out. We are all concerned about public housing. When the Opposition was in government after the Whitlam years it cut that spending to $264m. That is 40 per cent lower than the funding in the Whitlam years. We have increased funding; it has been increased 42 per cent in real terms since this Government came to power. We have a very good record on housing. We have allowed the States to get more money from the Loan Council and nominated funds at bargain basement interest rates-at 4 1/2 per cent-so that they can lift their game and put their money where their mouths are. That is a bit different from what honourable members opposite said. The States will get stuck into it because they have a lot of work to do as well.

Today in Question Time I thought the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) summed it up beautifully. He talked about the snake oil salesmen opposite. What this Government is doing is setting Australia back on its tracks, setting Australia up for the twenty-first century in industry policy, employment, the social security system and almost every area. We challenge the Opposition to question this Government on any area. We will lay the Opposition out flat because it has no policies. This Government is about putting people into housing and it is also about getting this economy going. We do not have time for the Opposition's little games of `What is your excuse for that?'. The next election will be fought not on whether this Government has been a good government; the next election will be fought-members of the Opposition had better get this through their heads-on what this Government offers and what the Opposition offers. At this stage the Opposition offers absolutely nothing.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is concluded.