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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2232

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has he seen the recent statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, in South Australia during the State election campaign that he would scrap the 13 1/2 per cent ceiling maintained by this Government on bank home loan interest rates? What impact would this policy of the Liberal Opposition have on home buyers compared with the Hawke Government's policy on bank home loan interest rates?

Senator WALSH —Fortuitously I have in front of me an extract from the House of Representatives Hansard of 13 September, when Mr Keating said to the Opposition Leader:

Let me just get this right. What the honourable member is saying is that we should lift the housing rate ceiling.

Mr Howard replied: `Yes'. At least that is one of his answers which was unequivocal. He said that we should lift the housing rate ceiling. As further evidence of the disarray and confusion in the Liberal Party, with it running hither and thither, Mr Olsen, in an attempt to repair the damage done by that and other statements from the temporary Leader of the Opposition, is reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of 15 November as follows:

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Olsen, said yesterday he agreed with the Federal Government's policy of retaining the 13.5 p.c. ceiling, despite being ``in conflict'' with his Federal leader, Mr Howard.

Of course, Mr Olsen is trying to run away from the Federal Leader's policies. But the facts are that it would not matter what Mr Olsen or any other State Liberal Party leader did. If there were a Federal Liberal government, the policies of the Federal Liberal government would prevail and there would be no ceiling on bank housing loan interest rates. That is even more astonishing, given that the South Australian Liberal leader said last week, I understand, that a State Liberal government-which fortunately will not appear-would seek to renegotiate the financial arrangements with the Commonwealth with a view to getting more Commonwealth money to pay for proposed State government tax cuts. The position of the Federal Liberal Party on that question was, of course, spelt out a couple of weeks ago by the shadow Treasurer, Mr Carlton, who called upon the Federal Government not to proceed with the proposed 2 per cent real increase in general purpose payments to the States. So, if there were a Liberal Federal government, the financial agreements with the States would be renegotiated, but they would be renegotiated in the opposite direction from that in which Mr Olsen says they should go.

Finally, this extraordinary run-around and this succession of contradictions and backings and fillings that we have seen within and between the South Australian Liberal Party and the Federal Liberal Party are indicative of the sorry condition of this once great Party. It gives me no satisfaction at all, as a member of the best government that Australia has had at least since the 1940s, to see an opposition and a once great party in the State of disarray that it is now in.