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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 908

Mr JENKINS(3.57) —Despite the verve and enthusiasm of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Donald Cameron), we have had the tired, old story thrashed out by the Opposition. It tried to be a little cute in raising the matter of public importance today by putting in the pricing angle, but we have been subjected to a rerun of its housing debate of a couple of weeks ago. There was nothing new. What can we expect from an Opposition that is disorganised, disoriented, disillusioned and divided? It comprises a coalition of sorts-two conservative parties riddled by internal disputes, lacking leadership and unsure of their direction. A whole host of outside groups are trying to dictate policy to them. In listening to those outside groups, the Opposition lacks the ability to put into place appropriate policies because of the lack of a general philosophy.

Recently the Australian Chamber of Commerce set out in a document entitled `Mandate to Govern' certain policies that it saw were needed for the housing industry. It is interesting to compare what the Australian Chamber of Commerce put out with the document that is supposed to represent the Opposition's policy statement on housing and construction. I note that the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale), the shadow Minister, has not been in the House today. I believe that he is travelling around Australia trying to flog this policy. He has an unenviable job, because I do not think anybody will really believe it. It lacks substance and does not give any alternatives, and the debate today has indicated that. All the same old, tired stories have been rolled out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) and the honourable member for Moreton. But there is not much substance or much detail about what they will do so we have to turn to their policy on housing and construction.

What are the first two things that we see despite the debate here about what are described as failed Hawke Government policies? The first thing to note about this policy document put out by the Opposition is that the Opposition will continue to support the 13 1/2 per cent ceiling on home loans entered into before 2 April last year. Despite all the huffing and puffing of the honourable member for Deakin on behalf of the New Right we see in the document statement that those opposite have decided that their course of action is exactly that taken by the Government. Secondly-and again we have had a whole host of suggestions that the first home owners scheme would be done away with under a coalition government-the policy document says that a coalition government would continue the first home owners scheme. I will read straight from the document. It says:

Maintain the present First Home Owners Scheme with particular emphasis on families and continue to honour existing entitlements to that Scheme.

That is quite incredible because it is now acknowledged by the Opposition that what the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) has been saying day in, day out to this House about the success of FHOS as a scheme to assist first home owners was correct. The scheme has assisted over 220,000 Australian families into their homes. Now at least we have some acknowledgment that it is an appropriate policy to continue.

Further into this document, this new policy statement on housing by the Opposition, as the Minister informed us earlier, we see that the Opposition would terminate the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. What compassion! What those opposite are about to do is wash their hands clean of any involvement in public housing. So there we have it from the honourable member for Deakin-the Pontius Pilate of public housing. What did he say in his statement which accompanied the release of the policy document? He was talking about the States not becoming involved in public housing. He said that if they do not provide adequate funds for public housing they will have to answer to their constituencies.

What about the Federal Government's role? Why should we not have a role to ensure that the State governments are doing their bit in public housing? Let us look at the record as indicated by the Minister. Of the 118,000 starts this year 22,000 will be public housing stock. Let us consider increases in funding. Earlier we heard a contribution from the honourable member for Moreton, an honourable member from the State of Queensland. What does he think will happen if the Federal Government withdraws from public housing and we allow the State Government of Queensland to dictate policies and efforts in the public housing area? Under this Government, Queensland has done quite well. This year there was an increase in funding of 25 per cent over last year, the largest increase in funds of any State. If we compare the amount of money put in this year as against the last year of the previous Liberal Government, we see that there has been a 166 per cent increase in funding for public housing in the State of Queensland.

Why does the Hawke Labor Government see a need to give that support in Queensland? Simple statistics show that Queensland has only 10 housing commission houses per thousand of population compared with the Australian average of 18. It has the worst per capita ratio of all States. What does the honourable member for Moreton think would happen if, as under the policy enunciated by the honourable member for Deakin, a Federal coalition government were to get out of the State public housing arena? It is not very appetising to think what would happen, especially in States such as Queensland. We then look further into the policy document. Another thing which it is suggested that those opposite would abolish is the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. It insures housing lenders against loss on housing loans and thus encourages lenders to lend to those on low incomes with low deposits. But although the Corporation has a charter which is of great social value it is interesting to note that last year it made an after tax profit of $6.8m. It paid a total of $9.3m to the Federal Government. It paid $5.9m in tax and $3.4m in dividend payments. What of the suggestion of the Opposition? We are being told that by allowing this Corporation to be taken over by some form of private ownership the profits presumably and most probably would go into the hands of the rich-another illustration of a policy being put up by honourable members opposite to protect the rich and work against the interests of the poor.

Mr Saunderson —Shameful!

Mr JENKINS —It is shameful because it is not the appropriate way to act. We hear the diatribes of the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Moreton who say that there is a need to do this and that but do not come up with anything concrete. They do not come up with anything that has a glimmer of compassion or thought for those who are disadvantaged, who are in need of shelter or who need such things as public housing. So we get to the nitty gritties. This matter of public importance suggests that this Government in some way has failed in the housing arena. As the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said in Question Time and as the Minister emphasised in his contribution to the debate, this Government is quite proud of its record in housing.

We can easily trot out statistics that support this but that is just a glib attitude. It is really a matter of looking at the underlying policy and support for those in need of support-those in need of adequate housing. When we compare our record of housing finance with that for the last full year of the Fraser Government, even under the lower figures announced last week of 118,000 commencements, we see how it stands against the all-time low figure of 105,000 commencements in 1982-83. Since the Hawke Government has been in power we have seen an increase in the number of commencements. Hopefully, if economic conditions are favourable and allow for improvement, we will see a predicted upturn of between 124,000 and 128,000 commencements in 1987-88. That is an important aspect.

We look at the value of loans under this Government, the increase in their value and the increase in number of commencements. But the main thing that I want to come back to-it needs to be touched on in any debate on what the Opposition considers it will do and what this Government is doing, whether in housing, taxation or welfare and whilst the Opposition is quite disjointed and reluctant to reveal its full policies-is that the Australian public knows that, underlying any policies put forward by the coalition or the two separate conservative parties at the next election, they can be sure of one thing: That those policies will militate against the disadvantaged and ensure that the wealthy and the greedy--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! The discussion is concluded.