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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5042 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

and the legislature, as the Treasurer himself has commented on a number of occasions, so it is not the role of the Assembly to endorse the comments of the Treasurer as a matter of course, and this view should not be facilitated by legislation such as we are debating today.

In the broader context of the act, we should note that the first home owners grant is a Commonwealth initiative administered by the territory and fully funded by the federal government. The territory does not have much choice in implementing this scheme, and we are unable to direct the funds to other purposes.

I note that the scheme has received criticism in both economic and social welfare circles and there is evidence that the scheme has contributed to the rise in housing prices. Consequently the grant may end up being passed on to property sellers, rather than helping first home buyers. It is not much help to receive $7,000 if housing prices rise by the same amount or more. Equally the grant tends to help those who have the resources to invest in housing which, in the current housing climate, tends to be those on high incomes. So, in a sense, the grant is almost a form of middle-class welfare.

From a social perspective there simply has not been the same emphasis placed by the federal government on developing methods for addressing homelessness, public housing, or making the private rental market more affordable. That would assist those in far greater need than people able to buy their first homes. That being said, we will support the legislation as put forward today.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (4.54), in reply: I thank members for their support, and for their dissertations on their support. I would like to respond to a couple of things Mr Smyth said, but I cannot because I missed them. I suddenly heard him say he was concerned about my concern for affordable housing. I do not know how he got into that.

The legislation did have a deficiency in it. It was brought in during a previous government. I do not think there is any blame to be laid on that. We do stretch the envelope every now and then in this place, but this is purely a technical deficiency. I did mention in the Canberra Times that one case was considered to fit the criteria and that was it. That was done at an administrative level. As soon as I found out about that, I determined to do something about it here. Not only that, I wrote to all Treasurers across Australia and suggested that we seek consistency, which we achieved. I did raise a couple of other matters in relation to the first home owners grant. We do not have consensus on those, but I will be working on them.

In relation to retrospectivity and my public comments, it is only commonsense, when a loophole like this receives publicity, to advise the public via the media that the loophole is closed. The only way I could make that clear was to say I would be bringing forward legislation at the first opportunity, and that that legislation would be retrospective to the day I was making the announcement. That was only commonsense for administration purposes. It may have avoided a mini rush of applications for the grant between that time and the time we were able, at best speed, in this place to get this simple bill to the point of being passed. Thank you, members. I hope we do not have to revisit this bill.

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