(1) welcomes the drop in home repossessions and the increase in housing sales in Western Sydney in the last few months;
(2) recognises the importance of the Rudd Government’s First Home Owner’s Boost and interest rate cuts in improving housing affordability; and
(3) condemns the Coalition for their criticism of this important stimulus to the economy and its opposition to the Nation Building and Jobs Plan.
In the darkness of a global recession there is a glimmer of light. In the middle of last year, 60 families in Bankstown were losing their homes every month-60 families were being evicted from their homes. Last month, this number had dropped to 20. At the same time that repossessions have dropped by two-thirds, the sale of homes has increased by 20 per cent-and 50 per cent of those are first home buyers. This is a massive turnaround. Last year, sheriffs were flat out evicting people. But now, real estate agents are flat out finding places for people to buy. The community that carried the burden of slowing the economy down only a few years ago on the back of 10 interest rate rises in a row is the same community that is now carrying a different burden in helping to stimulate the economy.
I spoke to a local real estate agent on the weekend. He told me that he has just had his best month in the last 5½ years. When I asked why, he told me it was because of the massive cut in interest rates and the first home owners boost. In January, the first home owners boost had a massive effect. First home buyers now make up 26.5 per cent of home buyers. That is the highest proportion since the ABS started collecting these statistics in 1991. If you look at the December figures, you will see another interesting fact-that is, an increase of almost 10 per cent in the number of home loans to build new homes. That means more builders building homes, more electricians, more plumbers, more carpenters and more tilers-more people who supply to the housing industry, and the multiplier effect that that creates. That is all good news. But a note of caution: interest rates are now at their lowest level in 45 years, but they will not stay this low forever. So the message for first home buyers is that they should take this into account when they are getting their first loan. They need to be able to pay the loan back, plus a bit more. Banks have a responsibility here, too. Banks have a responsibility to make sure that their customers understand this to avoid a repeat of the problems of the past.
There are still too many repossessions, and you cannot pay your mortgage without a job. That is why the stimulus packages of the last few months are so important. And that is why the actions of the opposition, which I criticise in this motion, are deserving of condemnation. The opposition are more interested in playing politics in this place than in people’s jobs. They criticised the first home owners boost-they said it would have only a marginal effect-and they now argue that it should be continued. They excoriate the December stimulus package in this place whenever they get a chance; yet in 2001 they did exactly the same thing. In the face of the Asian financial crisis, what did the then government do to stimulate the economy? They increased the first home owners grant and they gave one-off payments to pensioners. That sort of hypocrisy and inconsistency is deserving of condemnation in this place.
The opposition criticise and oppose the Nation Building and Jobs Plan. They say it will put an unsustainable level of debt on young people-the next generation of Australians. They talk about $9,500 worth of debt. But, when they come up with their own ideas, how much does that cost? It costs almost $9,000 on the head of every man, woman and child. So when they are not pretending that they are modern day Neville Chamberlains-‘Let’s wait and see. There will be growth in our time’-they are putting a debt of $9,000 on the head of every man, woman and child.
There will be tough times ahead, and it is a time for leadership and consistency, not hypocrisy and political games. The member for Macarthur knows what I am talking about. He knows the sorts of political games that are being played by those opposite. He is a straight shooter. He tells it straight. He said it straight on the weekend. We have the same problem with Work Choices. They say it is dead but then they give it the Austin Powers treatment-and we have the cryogenic seal opening up in the Senate even as we speak! We have the same problem with climate change. The Leader of the Opposition made his political career on climate change. He said an ETS was essential, but he has suddenly changed his mind and now says it is not important at all. My problem with the opposition is consistency. Love him or loathe him, at least you knew where John Howard stood. At the moment, we do not know whether the opposition are on the left or the right-it is like a game of Twister. It is no wonder that there are 28 members opposite who have decided that the better alternative is the member for Higgins.’