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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2276

Mr REITH —I refer the Minister for Housing and Construction to the remarks made this week at the national conference of the Housing Industry Association by the Chief Economist of the National Mutual Royal Bank who said that home mortgages were now harder to afford than for at least the last 17 years and possibly since World War II. Has the Minister's Department carried out any calculations which reach a similar conclusion? If so, will he table them? If not, why not? Does he agree with Mr Marsden's conclusions, and do the remarks provide undeniable evidence that the Prime Minister's 1984 promise to bring home ownership within the reach of ordinary Australian families has been resoundingly broken?

Mr WEST —As the Prime Minister has said, this Government does not want to see high interest rates remain for one single day longer than is necessary. We know that the economic policies are in place for interest rates to fall. Indeed, we have seen bank bills fall over the last few weeks to their lowest rate for nine months. Furthermore, the other factors, such as the stability of the dollar, the current account deficit which, of course, is trending down, the tight fiscal policy, which will be encapsulated and further developed by the Treasurer in the May statement, and the acceptance in general of the Government's tight wages policy will all lead in due course, as general interest rates trend down, to a reduction in housing interest rates. As the Government continues with these economic policies that will get the desired result we will treat housing as a priority area. Let us take as an example our statement on 30 March which, in very stringent economic times, has put forward a policy, in contrast to the Opposition, of continuing Federal funding for public housing.

Let us look quickly at the policies of the Opposition parties, such as they are, on housing. The only specific thing that we can find out about their policy on housing is that they intend to abolish Federal funding. The Opposition will take out 20,000 commencements from the housing industry equation straight away and as a result it will destroy 40,000 jobs in the housing industry. At a time of tight fiscal policy, in the implementation of the first home owners scheme, we have been able to provide a rise in the income limits for eligibility for the first home owners scheme that will benefit another 26,000 families across Australia and create another 5,000 to 7,000 housing starts. We are getting general interest rates down. In due course, that will mean a reduction in housing interest rates. In the meantime, unlike the intentions of the Opposition, we will continue to treat housing as a priority area.