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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3022

Senator MAGUIRE —Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether the Government believes that the new building approvals figures indicate that the housing industry is operating at satisfactory levels? How do building approvals in South Australia compare with those of recent years? What would be the impact on the housing industry and on home buyers of the Liberal Opposition's policy of deregulating housing interest rates, principally by scrapping the 13 1/2 per cent ceiling on bank home loan interest, compared with the policies of this Government?

Senator WALSH —The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on building approvals for October, which were released earlier this week, show that in October 1985 some 14,783 approvals were registered compared with 14,031 in the previous October-that is, an increase of around 5 per cent nationally. However, in South Australia, which Senator Maguire mentioned, I think it is even more important to look at the enormous increase in the number of building approvals over the longer term and, in particular, to the quite remarkable improvement that has taken place in the last three years. For example, in the three years from November 1979 to October 1982 some 23,700 approvals in total were issued. In the three years from November 1982 to October 1985 some 38,800 approvals were issued. That represents an increase of 64 per cent for the three years ended October 1985 as against the figure for the three years ended October 1982.

It is certainly not, of course, coincidental that for the second period when the figure for building approvals was 64 per cent higher, there was a Labor government in South Australia and for the earlier period there was a Liberal government, as indeed there was nationally. So the South Australian economy, along with the economies of the rest of the country, with the possible exception of Queensland, has of course benefited a great deal from the recovery which has taken place over the last three years and the very satisfactory growth rates which have been recorded over the last three years under the joint management of the Bannon Government in South Australia and the Federal Labor Government in Canberra.

That recovery would be placed in jeopardy, however, I regret to say, if a Liberal government should be re-elected and the Liberal Party was given the opportunity to implement its policy of lifting the ceiling on housing interest rates. Indeed, the present Leader of the Liberal Party lifted the ceiling on housing interest rates on three occasions in the last 18 months during which he was Treasurer-by a full 3 per cent, from 10 1/2 per cent as it was prior to 2 December 1980, to 13 1/2 per cent in March 1982. Over that period of less than 18 months the ceiling on housing loan interest rates increased by 3 per cent through three separate increases.

I can only say again to Senator Maguire that it would be a tragedy to South Australia and the nation more generally if this man should ever get the opportunity to implement the sorts of policies he implemented when he was Treasurer, and even more so the sorts of policies which he is now advocating-policies which not even the Government of which he was a member and not even Malcolm Fraser actually advocated or implemented when they were in government.