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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2590

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury (RYAN, QUEENSLAND) - Order! This is not a point of order; it is a matter to be considered in the course of the debate.

Mr WENTWORTH - I would have thought that even honourable members on the other side of the House would know what is meant by the term 'a young couple'. Perhaps I am wrong. In referring to the difficulties of these people I do not want to be facetious or take up facetious points which are being made on the other side because I believe that this is a real and human problem. We on this side of the House are concerned with it. I hope that honourable members on the other side will be equally concerned.

I am not suggesting for one moment that all the difficulties that these people face are connected with housing. But I think that honourable members will agree with me that many of their difficulties come from housing and from the amount of money they have to pay by instalments for the ownership of their houses. This is not the whole of the financial difficulties with which they are faced but it is a very considerable sector of them. The past Government, by the Home Savings Grant for example, took measures to alleviate these difficulties. The proposal I am now bringing forward is not meant as a substitute for the Home Savings Grant; it is meant as a supplement and addition to it. I believe that in some respects my proposal carries the principle further forward and in a better way.

Let me come to the proposals in the Bill itself which most honourable members are now seeing for the first time. The Bill provides that there be put on sale what 1 call housing certificates which would be of a nominal amount - they would have a small face value of $10. I suggest that they be put on sale in such places as post offices and banks so that they can be readily bought and acquired from time to time as funds become available. These housing certificates would be a normal and not terribly attractive investment. They would carry a cumulative rate of interest of 5 per cent and they would have a certain tax deductibility attached to them. They would be a reasonable method of saving. But they would have a novel feature: If they were cashed in for the purchase of the first matrimonial home, they would be cashed in not at the normal value but at an increased value. So, they would become, if they were used for this purpose and only if they were used for this purpose, bonanza certificates carrying special privileges.

The bonanza which they would carry would be of 3 types. There are 3 special advantages which I suggest these certificates should carry if cashed in for the purchase of the first matrimonial home.

The first would be that the compound rate of interest on them for the first 15 years would be not 5 per cent but 10 per cent. That is a bonanza rate of interest.

The second advantage would be that the interest which would accrue on them would not be considered taxable income if they were used for the purchase of the home.

The third advantage would be that the value of the certificates would be adjusted for the change in the consumer price index between the date on which they were bought and the date on which they were cashed in. That third advantage is one Which I think is of extreme significance because so many young people save and then find that, by reason of inflation and the change in the price level, their savings are no longer adequate to meet their outgoings on the home they want to have. I am suggesting that where these bonanza certificates are used for the purchase of the first home, and only for that purpose, they should be adjusted for the change in the consumer price index so that they would have an in-built hedge against inflation - a protection against inflation. I believe that this is something that many young couples would really appreciate.

I am not suggesting that these certificates should be available in their bonanza capacity in big quantities. I am suggesting that the certificates which could be used for the purchase of any one house should not attract these bonanza conditions beyond a total cashable value of $25,000. That is the price of a modest house - not the cheapest type of house but a reasonable type of house. I am not suggesting that this measure should be used to help the big man, or the wealthy man. I suggest that it could be used to help the little man or the person of moderate means who is looking for a moderate type of house. Therefore, I would limit the bonanza conditions to a total drawing of $25,000.

The Bill sets out the details of how ibis is to be done. The Bill is entirely self-contained. Honourable members will notice that clause 14 enables the Treasurer to guarantee these certificates. I have had to take this method of drawing the Bill because of the provisions in the Constitution and the Standing Orders which prevent a private member from proposing any appropriation. What I have put in the Bill is something which, when the necessary appropriation was made by the Parliament, would enable the Treasurer to guarantee the repayment of these certificates in the same way as he guarantees the repayment of a Commonwealth bond or a Commonwealth loan. That mechanism is included in the Bill. It is not thought that this will put any unreasonable strain on Commonwealth revenues. It is true that anything that is done to help a deserving section of the community must put some strain on Commonwealth revenues. If money is being paid out it must be paid from somewhere. In this case there are compensations from the point of view of Commonwealth revenues because the Bill will generate additional savings which will go into the antiinflation pool. The certificates which are not cashed in under bonanza conditions and are cashed in under normal conditions will bring some profit to the Commonwealth because the rate of 5 per cent is at present below the normal bond rate.

It is true, of course, that the Commonwealth will be involved in additional expenditure by reason of the anti-inflation provision that the certificates will be escalated in value for future rises in prices. But this should not really strain the revenues because as inflation proceeds, as every Treasurer well knows, Commonwealth revenues also increase. From the Commonwealth's point of view, this charge on Commonwealth revenues is in a sense self-liquidating. What we are doing by this anti-inflation provision is not just taking Commonwealth revenue and giving it away; we are protecting the people who have invested against an injustice. For that reason I think that the House might well accept this kind of principle. I know that in the Treasury there are people who live on inflation and who will oppose this kind of thing, but I suggest that theirs is an illogical argument because the Commonwealth's revenues do respond to the rise in prices. The Treasury should take that into account.

Let me go into some further details. It is suggested that the certificates could be bought only by or for people under the age of 30 years. This is meant to confine the bonanza opportunities to those in the younger age group. We have to think of those in the younger age group. But the certificates could be bought by other people for people under the age of 30 years. For example, parents might well buy them for their children. If so, the income tax deduction would not accrue to the parents; it would accrue only to the holder - that is, to the person in whose name they were bought. So there is no possibility of misapplication in that regard. They could be bought by parents. If parents decided to invest on behalf of their child $100 every year from birth, at the age of 22 or 23 years that child would be able to buy a house absolutely, without putting up any other money or having any debt on the house, because the value of the certificates would have thus accumulated. I think that this is not an unreasonable kind of thing. It is true that the parent would not get an income tax deduction in respect of those purchases because the income tax deduction could be taken out only in the child's name. But by a comparatively modest investment yearly a child's future could be assured. The increase in prices, in the consumer price index, would not affect the future purchases because the value WOUld be automatically escalated. Certificates could be bought for others, but particularly 1 think of young people buying them for themselves, whether they are married or unmarried, whether they own a house at present or not. With the present equality of wages which is coming in for male and female workers and the very heavy wages which are payable to people in the lower age brackets who are unmarried, there are considerable saving opportunities. The saving can be done either by a man or a woman. They do not necessarily have to be married people at the time they make the savings. They may be people preparing for a marriage with somebody whom they have already selected or it may be that they are just preparing for marriage in general at some future time without any engagement at present. The Bill defines 'purchase of a house' to include the outright purchase, the payment of deposit on a house or the reduction of indebtedness on a house already bought. So these bonanza conditions would be available to all people under 30, whether married or unmarried and whether or not they are at present home owners.

Of course, I cannot pretend that the Bill can give the same advantages to everybody in the past that it would promise to those in the future, but it will give some equity to those who are now married or home owners or in the age brackets approaching 30 years. I believe that this is a Bill which puts a premium on self-help and incentive. I believe it fits into our existing system. It is not meant as a substitution for any kind of financial arrangement which at present exists; it is meant as an addition and supplement to it. I believe that it will reward initiative.

Let me say something about the mechanisms of the plan - and the mechanisms are important. Basically they are very simple because the certificates will be appropriated to the financial year in which they are bought. Certificates bought in any financial /ear will have a set value in each succeeding year. So that at the beginning of every financial year, on 1 July, it will be necessary to publish a table with only 2 sets of figures in it, the normal value and the bonanza value of a certificate bought in each of the preceding years during which this scheme has operated. The mechanism is very simple and it is adapted for use by a computer so that the accounting can be made quite negligible. The mechanism will simply mean that a certificate will be obtained and the counterfoil will go into the computer as a record of it so that if the certificate is lost or mislaid .here will be some kind of redress, but there will not be the opportunity to forge or misapply certificates. I have had some experience of this and I can assure the House that the mechanics of this scheme are very simple and can be worked very adequately by the existing computer arrangements. There can be simplicity, convenience and security in the mechanics I put forward.

This mechanism can be used for various purposes. In this Bill I have suggested that this mechanism be used to help young people acquire the ownership of their own homes. I believe that this is a constructive way of doing it. But by an easy adaptation the same kind of mechanism could be used for a system of national superannuation. I am quite certain that if we had remained in government and I has remained Minister for Social Services this is the system which we would have been putting forward for examination by the committee inquiring into national superannuation. A mechanism of this character, which has now been put forward, I believe, for the first time in the world, is something which can be adapted to these various purposes. What I am suggesting now as a mechanism to help young couples could also, by a separate Bill, be used as the basic mechanism for our scheme of national superannuation. As somebody who was the Minister who would have been responsible for this kind of thing had we remained in office, I am quite certain that this is a practicable way of going about it.

Finally, let me say something about the procedure in regard to this Bill. The Bill was put on the notice paper and it was thought that it would come up today only for mention because on the notice paper in front of it was the notice for a resolution on the siting of Parliament House. Under the Standing Orders, what would have happened, is that the major time would have been taken up on that resolution and it would have been possible for me to have introduced this Bill and made it available for circulation and study by honourable members so that we could have an informed vote on it. As it happened, the day before yesterday the members of the Opposition who were to bring forward the motion on the siting of Parliament House decided suddenly to withdraw, postpone or defer their motion. That having been done my motion suddenly and unexpectedly came on for debate.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But you knew several days ago because I told you.

Mr WENTWORTH - I knew the day before yesterday. That is what I said. Suddenly and unexpectedly this motion came on for debate. It had been thought that I would be able to take the first reading only without debate and simply circulate this Bill, which is a far-reaching and somewhat complicated Bill but which I believe is constructive and of great national importance, so that honourable members could have an opportunity to study it. Because of the press of business this Bill has not yet been considered by my Party. I am told and I believe it to be true that the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) put the matter up to the Labor Caucus without the Bill and simply told the Caucus: 'We propose to vote against this Bill. Help me to kill it.' And Caucus decided to kill it and to vote against it without having seen it and without having read it. This is the kind of way in which the Government intends to treat this House and to treat private members. I am not going to stand for this and I am not going to stand for this kind of double dealing.

Mr Martin - I rise to a point of order. The honourable member is making imputations against me as a member of the Caucus. This matter was not discussed in the Caucus. It is an imputation against me.

Mr WENTWORTH - I said that it was not discussed. I do not think I would be breaking a confidence by saying that the Minister told me that the Government proposes to kill this Bill and get it out of the way today. It proposes to do just that. I do not think that the Minister could say that to me without the authorisation of Caucus. This illustrates the scandalous way in which things are being done under the pretence of giving private members a go and doing what is best for the people. That is the kind of party discipline that has been brought into this House on something which should be a national matter. What I am trying to do is not a party operation. I am trying to do this because I believe that there are so many young couples in our community who, on the birth of their first child, suffer this kind of financial hardship and that something should be done to help them. I introduced this Bill for that reason. It has been intimated to me that the Government intends to kill this Bill by pushing it to a vote now when nobody has read it and nobody knows anything about it. The Government intends to abuse the House by doing this today.

Well,I am not going to stand for this. In this regard I am going to invoke the protection of standing order 218 which says that after a Bill has been read a first time the second reading may be moved and the debate shall then be adjourned to a future date. Standing order 218 is for the protection of members. It was designed for the very good reason that when a Bill is introduced honourable members should have a chance of reading it and studying it before they are called upon to vote on it. A constructive Bill like this should commend itself to everybody concerned with these young couples and the social questions of the day. It is an absolute scandal that a Bill like this should be brought in and killed without honourable member's having any knowledge of it or any real chance to debate it. Honourable members who have not read it - they received it only a few minutes ago - are being asked and commanded to vote against it and kill it. Well, I am not going to tolerate such a thing. I am going to invoke the protection available to me under standing order 218 which is designed specifically for this purpose. I have moved:

That this Bill be now read a second time.

My seconder is the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson).

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury - Is the motion seconded?

Mr Wilson - Yes. I rise-

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