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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1542 ..

MR STEFANIAK (12.02): As the opposition housing spokesman, I will add a few comments. The opposition supports this bill. It is very important to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to own their own homes. One of the beauties of Australia, one we need to do all we can to keep, is that 60 to 70 per cent of people-certainly 70 per cent in the ACT-own their own homes.

With the huge escalation of prices, however, especially in places like Sydney, this is in danger. Therefore, I was very happy to see the extension of the scheme by the federal government. Indeed, it is a scheme resumed after a number of years in abeyance. Perhaps some of us benefited many years ago from earlier schemes. I can recall a long time ago getting $2,000 towards my first home. That was probably the maximum then. It helps immensely. It is crucially important that we do all we can to ensure that as many people as possible are able to realise the great Australian dream and own their own home.

That is something all governments will have to continue to grapple with, especially as a result of the huge price increases, to an extent in Canberra but specifically in places like Sydney. How on earth could an average person afford to buy a home along the seaboard belt in Sydney? It is beyond me how people on normal pay packets can afford $500,000 mortgages. It must be very difficult.

I look forward with interest to what Mr Wood might say on Thursday. My office gets a large number of complaints about people at the lowest end of the spectrum having great difficulty getting into government housing and getting access to a roof over their heads.

The more that can be done to help as many people as possible realise the great Australian dream, the better. Some years ago a scheme encouraged tenants of government houses to purchase their homes. Schemes like that need to be encouraged.

MR CORNWELL (12.05): I rise to make a few comments in relation to the First Home Owner Grant Amendment Bill. My comments arise, to some extent, from the words of wisdom spoken by Mr Wood in relation to the difficulties faced by people in New South Wales, particularly in Sydney. I too read the article, Mr Wood, and I was concerned at the information it contained showing that the bottom 40 per cent of people could not afford to purchase housing. That may see a drift away from Sydney of various professional people, including teachers. Even the Premier has indicated that the ever-expanding city of Sydney is now too large and cannot continue to grow, because of infrastructure problems.

The first home owners scheme, I put it to you, will not necessarily address this problem. The opposition has no problem with the scheme. I think it is a very commendable one. But we need to be aware that there is a very good chance that in future people will not be able to realise the dream of our parents to own their own home at all costs. I am not convinced that people in future will be able to enjoy that luxury.

Already in Sydney and in Melbourne, as my colleague Mr Stefaniak has indicated, the cost of housing is such that it is beyond the realm of most people ever to own a property. People are paying $400,000 or $500,000 for housing-not luxury housing but housing in inner city areas. After all, real estate is position, position, position.

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