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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1672

Mr BEALE —Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that some major savings banks have stated that, unless they receive a $200m subsidy as from next Thursday, housing interest rates for new loans are expected to rise from their current level of 15 1/2 per cent to 16 per cent or higher or that alternatively they will ration funds for home lending? What does the Minister intend to do about this further financial imposition on Australian families?

Mr WEST —As far as the 13 1/2 per cent interest rate on loans made before April last year is concerned, the Government and the Prime Minister have made it perfectly plain that that rate will remain. As to the subsidy, the Government is considering its position and will make known its decision in due course.

As far as the attitude of the savings banks is concerned, I make this point to the House: The banks do not seem to be acting in accord with each other. They do not seem to have a measure of unity on the issue. It is true that some savings banks have been making reference to what might happen in the event of the 13 1/2 per cent regulated rate remaining in place, as indeed it will. If, in tandem with that, no subsidy were offered, some banks have been making statements about what might happen in regard to both interest rates and lending levels.

But my attention is drawn to the point that the banks are not acting in accord on this issue. I draw the attention of the House to the statement by Mr Bob White, Managing Director of Westpac Banking Corporation, on the World Today program, made today, Monday, 30 March. The announcer said:

Yes, so Westpac would continue its current level of lending without a subsidy?

Mr White said:

Yes. We see no problem in continuing our current level of lending and we see no need, at this stage, to increase the rate that we're now charging those new borrowers.

So the point that I make is quite obvious: The banks are not in accord with regard to what might happen in certain eventualities.

I just conclude my answer by drawing attention to the total lack of integrity and credibility in the housing and economic policies of the Opposition. It seems to be in total confusion, in total disarray. For instance, it has promised $16 billion worth of tax cuts and has made other promises, but at the same time it demands a lower deficit. The Opposition would abolish the public housing program-that is, abolish Federal funding to the States for public housing-and yet at the same time members of the Opposition weep crocodile tears for those who are on the waiting lists. They complain about the number of housing starts in a year.

Mr Sinclair —On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I draw your attention to the fact that the honourable gentleman is responding to a question relating to the subsidy for home loan interest. I suggest that his answer has nothing whatsoever to do with the question and therefore should be ruled irrelevant.

Madam SPEAKER —I have found the Minister to be in order. He was concluding his remarks, and I ask him to do so.

Mr WEST —I was drawing attention to the fact that everyone in Australia knows what our housing policies are, but we cannot say the same about the Opposition. As I was saying, members of the Opposition complain about the number of housing starts and yet they would abolish public housing. They have raised a question mark over whether or not they would continue with the first home owners scheme. They are unbelievably bad. They cannot agree on any policy whatsoever; their policies are in confusion. They are divided. The National Party is split, the Liberal Party is split and the coalition is probably about to split.

Mr Sinclair —Madam Speaker, I again rise on a point of order. Once again this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the question. The question related to the failure of the Government to maintain the subsidy for home loan interest rates. The answer is entirely irrelevant and I suggest that the Minister be ruled out of order.

Madam SPEAKER —I have found the Minister to be in order. I presume he is now finishing up.

Mr WEST —Yes. It is perfectly obvious that the Opposition has no policy. It is split on its economic and housing policies, it has a lame duck leader and members of the Opposition hate each other with the most unbelievable intensity and ferocity. They will never be accepted by the people of Australia.