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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 423

Mr CADMAN(9.35) —It is fascinating to hear the Australian Labor Party try to justify some of the terrible decisions it has made and which affect 70 per cent of Australian families. Those families are Australia's home buyers. They have lost a great benefit and it was not within six months, it was within a few weeks of this Government coming to office that the Treasurer (Mr Keating) made the announcement on 19 May that home rebates, the subsidy for interest rates, would be scrapped. That abolition of the income tax rebate for interests in the first year will save the Government $80m and in a full year $395m. The incredible thing is that the Government has presented this decision as an advantage to Australian home owners. The removal of the tax rebate represents another broken promise. It ranks with the types of promises which were broken just after the National Economic Summit Conference when the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) gave assurances that there would not be lump sum taxes for people who were retiring. He told many representatives of the union movement and the assembly at large that he would not be taxing lump sums on rebate and here is another broken promise.

Mr Howard —Barry Unsworth knows about this.

Mr CADMAN —Barry Unsworth could tell the story. Barry Unsworth is still fighting this measure and Barry Unsworth will win it because it shows the hypocrisy of announcements made prior to the election. The tax rebate on home interest rates is another broken promise. Throughout the election campaign the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Hurford) who is at the table, the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren), went around the country saying to the Australian home buyers that the Liberal Government was not doing enough for them, that the Australian Labor Party would improve the situation and that it would increase the size of the rebate people could have when they purchased their own home. Of course, on 19 May that promise was broken . As I said, on 19 May the decision was taken to take away from the Australian home buyers $80m in this financial year and $395m in the next financial year. That came into effect from 1 July. From 1 October the Government has decided to readjust its first home buyer scheme. It was a scheme introduced by the previous Government. What it has done is take the same money and use it differently. The Government is acclaiming this as a new scheme, a more advantageous scheme, a scheme that will give more to first home buyers. In fact it takes the same money and uses it differently. There is no gross, there is no net advantage to any first home buyer in Australia. What it has done is to remove the general assistance to the home buyers in Australia and it is claiming that it can do that with the prospect of falling interest rates. I notice that the Treasurer in the Budget did not take the risk of making those predictions and if that is the assumption on which the rebate to the Australian home buyers is being removed, then I think he is running a grave risk if interest rates should happen to rise in the months ahead. The first home buyers are the ones who will be squeezed. They are the ones who will be pinched. They and their families will be the ones who will suffer.

Mr Braithwaite —He is hedging his bets.

Mr CADMAN —Who, the Treasurer? I would think that the Minister for Housing and Construction would be fascinated by some of the remarks made by the Treasurer at the Summit Conference. The Treasurer said:

It is the central objective of the Government's economic policy to ensure that economic growth spreads through the private sector and that the recovery is therefore sustained and unemployment markedly reduced.

In fact the measures we are debating tonight have the impact of taking funds from the private home buyers and redirecting those funds to the public sector. There is no commitment to foster the private sector and to encourage people to buy homes. Exactly the opposite is happening. The Treasurer made those statements and another promise is broken. This is stimulation through tax collection, through cutting benefits and through putting greater pressure on Australian families.

The cost of money to home buyers is still the most important factor, and it is still the most important factor preventing people from purchasing their own homes. There is plenty of money in the market. All the lending institutions have adequate supplies of funds. They are not lending them because the borrowers cannot cover the cost of repaying those funds. One has only to check the categories of people who are borrowing to build their own homes to see that there has been a dramatic shift over the last few months from the categories that were purchasing this time last year. The people who are purchasing today comprise far more professional people, far more semi-professionals and skilled people, people who have an assured income at a high level. The average workers about whom the Australian Labor Party talks are not buying homes to the same extent today as they were 12 months ago. What the Government is doing by this measure is further discouraging the average Australian worker from purchasing his own home.

If one were to look at the extra funds being allocated to public housing, I think one would suspect that, as in 1972, the ALP is saying: 'People do not need to buy their own homes or to own their own homes. What we shall do is reduce the stimulus, reduce the incentive, and redirect those funds to the public sector.' That is a traditional approach from the ALP. In 1972, the first thing it did, after making similar promises that it would retain the home savings grant scheme , was immediately to cut it. In that way, the ALP provides a deterrent to Australians who want to own their own homes. The rebate, together with other measures, is one of the reasons why this Budget, plus the 19 May decisions, is costing many average Australian families up to $16 a week. The cumulative effect of the Government's decisions is costing Australian families $16 a week. If one adds in Medicare, the cost of fuel, the cost of getting to work, the effect is even greater.

Honourable members should come to the western suburbs of Sydney and find out how people manage under this Budget and the Government's decisions. The way in which the ALP treats the people it claims to represent is dreadful. In the western suburbs of Melbourne it is exactly the same. First, the ALP hits people in the pocket for buying their own homes. It promises them tax relief, which it immediately denies them. It increases the cost for them of getting to work. Then the ALP says: 'We shall charge you through your tax for your medical coverage'. The Government does not even know what that will be. So, there is the $16 a week for the average Australian family. How much they have benefited by the Government's administration! I am looking forward to the next election. We have so many issues on which the ALP has broken promises. It will go to the people next time and the people will ask: 'Which of these promises are real promises, and which are not real?' The ALP will not be able to justify its position in that regard because the people will not believe it. It will not be believed by the Australian community.

I find it fascinating that linked with this rebate is the decision about changes in many other areas of Government activity. The decision to subject pensioners to an assets test will affect them in their own homes. The decision to tax lump sums is a duplicating and confusing decision when one considers assets tests. It is a redirection of resources away from-

Mr Cunningham —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is wandering far and wide from the Bill. He has not yet even mentioned what the debate is all about. I think that it is time he came back to the Bill.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr CADMAN —It is a money Bill, so I think I am entitled to wander a bit.

Mr Braithwaite —The honourable member was talking about broken promises.

Mr CADMAN —Yes, I am talking about broken promises, and about the way in which the Australian Labor Party, with a gilt-edged election campaign, has made promises and has then broken them. The most serious aspect of those broken promises is their effect on Australian home buyers and Australian families. What about Australian families? On 19 May the Government threw Australian families aside. The Government threw them on the scrapheap. I will read what the Budget says about this, the way in which it describes these measures. It says that the 'savings' following the abolition of the mortgage interest rebate scheme were estimated at $50m in 1983-84, rising to $175m in 1984-85. The Budget Papers, the Government's own documents, talk about them as 'savings'. If we try to present to the Australian community the proposition that by taking money away from it we are saving it money, we will find that it will not accept that sort of argument. It feels that if we are taking money away from it we are stealing from it because having made promises we have then taken away funds that are rightfully those of the community. Yet the Government, in its papers, calls such action a saving.

With regard to first home buyers, the same term is used. The 'savings' in 1983- 84 were estimated at $30m, rising to $155m in 1984-85, and $190m in 1985-86. Again, the term 'savings' is used. That may be a Treasury point of view, but surely it is not a government's point of view. Why does the Government consistently claim that it is helping people and use the term 'savings' when it is taking money away from people? If it is saving money, as the Budget papers say, why have those savings not been given back in the form of tax cuts? Why has the Government not lived up to its commitment of giving tax cuts? It has saved money. Where has that money gone? Where are the tax cuts? Where are all the other good things that were promised during the election campaign? The Government cannot treat the Australian community in that way and expect it to forget it. If the Government says that it will save people money by taking it out of their pockets, they want to know how they are to get it back. There is not one element in the 19 May decisions or within the Budget which people would regard as beneficial.

The average Australian family is anxious to improve its lot and its way of life . Owning a home is an important part of that ambition. It gives the family a stability and a sense of reason for continuity and for family attention to the details of day to day life. It gives a security to children. It provides a sense of continuity in family life for teenagers. Such a sense of continuity is essential if teenagers are to pass satisfactorily and healthily through those years. Yet the Government has tonight introduced the first piece of its promise- breaking legislation. It has introduced legislation that will take money out of the pockets of average Australian families and will not assist them in any way. In fact, the whole thrust of the Budget takes from each Australian family a sum of roughly $16 a week. It is dreadful that the Australian Labor Party can represent these measures as ones that are beneficial. It is the height of hypocrisy.

The Minister at the table, despite his huffing and puffing when he found that there were three or four months during which no funds were going to the housing area, cut everything off. He did not realise that he had done it and then he had to backtrack to decide what he was to do and to make some interim arrangements for first home buyers. It is dreadful administration and similar to that which will apply to pensioners when they come to consider what their future will be when they look at their assets test. It will take them 12 months to find out just where they stand. It took Australian home buyers five months to find out where they stood after the Government made the decision. Nobody knew where they stood. The same applies to the 10 per cent withholding tax. Those to whom the tax will apply do not know where they stand. The tax at source is another area in which the Government has failed to understand the Australian community. The Government had better listen to its back bench and have its back bench hold regular meetings in which frank statements are made. The Government might even need a new Minister or two because it is short of Ministers of ability. I should think that many candidates in this chamber would adequately fit the role of the new Minister. Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that if you were to take over the portfolio of housing we would see some great benefits. Whilst indeed you made some unusual decisions in the years that you were in government, you were more consistent than the current Government has proved to be because it has made promises but has failed to deliver them to Australia's home buyers.