Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Questions without Notice
My question is the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Conroy. Can the minister tell the Senate whether any modelling has been undertaken on the impact on house prices of the increase in the first home owners grant?
The government is taking decisive action to manage the global financial crisis and the inevitable impact that it will have on the domestic economy. Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer announced the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy to strengthen the Australian economy.
From yesterday we introduced a residential housing sector boost through the first home owners scheme. From yesterday until 30 June 2009 first home buyers who purchase a new home will receive a grant of $21,000, or $14,000 if they purchase an existing home. Housing investment accounts for about six per cent of the Australian economy. It is important that we support this sector in these uncertain economic times.
Expanding support for first home buyers through the first home owners boost is right for the conditions we currently face. It will help shore up housing activity in a sector that may otherwise slow. That is why this is a time limited measure that comes into effect immediately. Over the longer term, the government has put in place a strategy to increase the supply of affordable homes and to help young Australians save for a first home. The importance of these measures for ensuring that Australian’s are protected from the global financial crisis is such that these measures will be introduced immediately.
We have had extensive discussions with the sector and with public officials in the Reserve Bank and Treasury and with international organisations like the IMF. We have had extensive conversations right through all the impacts of this and we continue to say this is a necessary and important measure to protect Australians. The first home saver accounts will help young Australians save for their first home. If you are not going to support it, come out and say it—stop nitpicking and come out and say it.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure that the minister heard my question. I asked whether modelling had been done on the impact on house prices. Is all the work that he is talking about inclusive of modelling? Could I please have an answer to that question?
Thank you, Mr President. Those opposite have to make a very important decision. We thought their leader had said that they were going to support the package, but the indications we continue to get from those opposite today is that they are not going to support it. It is time to flush them out. Either you are going to support this package—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Either those opposite are going to support the package, Mr President, and get behind these measures, which will protect Australians and will deliver young Australians—
I raise a point of order, Mr President, on relevance. If the minister wants bipartisan support on these measures he might actually address the questions we are seriously asking. On this occasion we asked whether or not any modelling has been done. Surely, Mr President, the answer is either yes or no and not this four minutes of obfuscation that we have had to suffer.
Mr President, on the point of order, Senator Abetz may like to grandstand with points of order but clearly the minister was indicating the advice and the consultations that had taken place in the formation of the package. He was right on the question in terms of his reply. He is not required to say yes or no to a proposition put by the opposition. He is allowed to explain the work that went into the design of the package. He is doing that and I think he ought to be allowed to finish his answer. If the questioner is genuinely interested, the opposition ought to allow the minister to complete his answer.
There is no point of order and I say, repeatedly, that I cannot instruct a minister on how to answer a question. I also draw the chamber’s attention to the fact that time has expired for the answering of the question, and I will be interested to see if there is a supplementary.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister does not appear to be aware of any modelling. I wonder, instead, if he might be aware of measures that have been proposed at the state and territory level in Australia to abolish stamp duty as another way of stimulating housing affordability, such as that put forward by the Canberra Liberals for this coming Saturday’s election.
Government senators interjecting—
I spent many years in opposition, as you would know, and on the odd occasion there have been attempts to draw state politics into this chamber. I have never yet seen it successfully win a single vote, but you are welcome to keep trying to enhance the ACT Liberals in the chamber. It is not going to make one zack of difference to the ACT election. Let us be clear. Those opposite, Mr President, have to decide: are you going to back young first home buyers or not? It is that simple. Are you going to put your hands up to vote for this measure or not? It is time to come clean. Your leader has said you are going to—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Those opposite really do have to decide. Are they going to continue to be economic vandals or are they going to get behind Labor’s economic security package so that it can protect those who need it in these difficult times? It can deliver to young first home owners who are being—(Time expired)