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Wednesday, 10 May 1989
Page: 2196

Senator MAGUIRE(4.18) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This is the 1987-88 Annual Report of the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust. The highlight of this report is that the Trust completed some 546 rental dwellings last financial year and it now has a total stock of rental dwellings of some 11,700. Quite a significant part of the Australian Capital Territory housing market is accounted for by the ACT Housing Trust.

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the wider housing picture in relation to this report because it is about time some facts were put and misconceptions about housing were answered directly. In recent months the Opposition has been painting a picture of gloom and doom about the housing sector in Australia. The Opposition's current housing spokesman, Mr Alexander Downer-I understand he may not be the housing spokesman later in the week-has been making a lot of strident claims about the housing industry in Australia in recent months. He has continued to talk down the housing industry, he has continued to talk down home buying opportunities, and he has continued to denigrate the achievements of the Hawke Government in the housing area. Those achievements are very substantial achievements.

Before I get on to those I would like to point out a couple of facts about the record of housing under the previous Liberal Government, and also comment on some of the policy statements which have been made by Mr Downer who, as I say, is the present housing spokesman but, I understand, will not be when Friday of this week comes round. I noted in the Weekend Australian over the Christmas holiday period an article in which Mr Downer attacked the Federal Government's housing record. It was very interesting that when Mr Downer was questioned about what the Liberals would do about housing, he was less than forthcoming. For example, in the same article in which he attacked Labor's housing achievements he was unable to guarantee that under a Liberal government housing fund levels would be maintained. He was unable to guarantee that under a Liberal government levels of public housing funds-that is, for the State housing commissions-would be maintained.

Statistics for the Australian housing industry simply do not confirm the gloom and doom painted by the Liberal Party on housing. The reality is that the Australian dream of home ownership is alive and well at present. I point out that in the last financial year there were 136,000 housing commencements throughout Australia. That figure represents real bricks and mortar-136,000 housing commencements. In the last year of the Fraser Government-the last year of Liberal administration-there were not 136,000 housing commencements, 126,000 housing commencements or 116,000 housing commencements; there were 105,000 housing commencements compared to the most recent figure available under the Labor Government of 136,000 housing commencements.

The Indicative Planning Council, which is an independent body which monitors trends in the housing sector, has forecast that in the current financial year, 1988-89, there will be 165,000 new dwelling commencements. That will bring the average figure for commencements during the period of the Hawke Labor Government to about 140,000 per annum, as compared to less than 130,000 under the previous Liberal Government. In other words, about 10,000 more new dwellings are being built every year over the life of this Government than under the previous Government.

I refer also to the achievements under the first home owners scheme which was introduced in October 1983 by the Hawke Labor Government. It is widely regarded as having been the most successful home ownership assistance scheme ever introduced in this country, yet it would appear that the Opposition plans to do away with it, should it ever achieve office in Canberra in years ahead. Since it was introduced in 1983 over 320,000 families have been helped to buy their own homes at a cost to the taxpayer of $1.4 billion. That figure represents direct assistance by the Hawke Labor Government to boost home ownership. It has had a major impact on the housing sector. Many tens of thousands of Australian families have roofs over their heads as a result of this scheme pioneered by the Hawke Labor Government.