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- Start of Business
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY - JOINT COMMITTEE
- NATIONAL HEALTH BILL 1964
- HOMES SAVINGS GRANT BILL 1964
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Education in New Guinea. (Question No. 197.)
(REYNOLDS, Leonard, JOHNSON, Leslie, BARNES, Charles, WEBB, Charles, HAYDEN, Bill, MENZIES, Robert, GRIFFITHS, Charles, CHANEY, Fred, FAIRHALL, Allen)
Housing. (Question No. 143.)
(CAIRNS, Jim, BURY, Leslie)
Department of Housing. (Question No. 188.)
(DALY, Fred, BURY, Leslie)
Construction Contracts. (Question No. 216.)
(FRASER, Jim, WHITLAM, Gough, MCMAHON, William, ANTHONY, Doug)
Status of Women. (Question No. 164.)
(WEBB, Charles, MCMAHON, William)
- Education in New Guinea. (Question No. 197.)
- ESTABLISHING THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
- PART 1- ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
- PART II- DUTIES OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
- PART III- REMUNERATION AND EXPENSES
Tuesday, 12 May 1964
Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) .- Mr. Speaker,we have now heard three Opposition speakers, beginning with the Deputy Leader of the Oppositon (Mr. Whitlam), who led for the Opposition in this debate. I listened closely to all of them, but I have found it difficult to discover any constructive suggestions in what they have said. Indeed, they have not even disclosed whether the Opposition intends to vote in support of the bill. They have not revealed whether they like it or just what they think about it. They have rambled all over the field of housing and have discussed ail sorts of matters not related to this measure. One would have expected the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to state the Australian Labour Party's policy on this bill, but he merely resorted to a disclosure that Labour still sticks rigidly to its idea that the socialization of the ownership of land and the imposition of controls are the cure for all ills that can beset the economy. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) described this measure as miserable. In effect, he said: " I shall not discuss the bill at all. It is miserable." This approach just goes to show how foolish honorable members opposite can be. I respect the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) very much, for he is a moderate man. But even he went so far as to say that the bill was insignificant, although he admitted that it had some merit. Indeed, from the remarks of the Opposition speakers. I have gained no impression that the Labour Party has any set policy on the aspects of housing with which the bill deals, Mr. Speaker.
I believe that it should be said, as some Government supporters have already said, that the present Government is to be heartily congratulated on this forwardlooking measure. It breaks new ground. and I believe that it is one of the most inspiring measures that we have discussed in this House for a very long time. Apparently, none of the merits of this bill has appealed to Opposition members. They do not seem to have understood its purpose or what will be its effects on the young people of Australia and on housing generally. They have no ideas about that aspect of the bill. I assure honorable members opposite that this measure will be of great benefit to the economy as well as to those who receive home savings grants.
As we all know, the policy to which this bill will give effect was announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech for the last federal general election. That policy immediately caught the imagination of the young people of Australia, who showed their support of it simply by voting for the Government. Their attiude showed that they trusted the Government to introduce this measure and to give effect to the policy that had been enunciated. I agree, Mr, Speaker, that the Government's housing policy helped to win the election. This is a sore point with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who said that Labour, if it had put forward such a policy, would have been charged with bribery. The fact is that Labour did not think of this policy and has never in its history introduced forward-looking legislation such as this in relation to housing. This measure is based on sound common sense. Labour has never advocated legislation to encourage home ownership in any way. I shall prove that a little later when I touch on other matters.
This bill is in accordance with the basic principles for which both the Liberal Party of Australia and, I believe, the Australian Country Party stand. It is designed to encourage the young people of Australia to support that great principle of home ownership for which we on this side stand. We, as a government, believe that the home is the focal point in the building of our national character. We are trying not merely to provide shelter. We believe that the home is, as it were, the cell that is the basis of our national body. It is the foundation on which the whole national character is built. We believe that home ownership encourages family life. Indeed, family life and home ownership are integral parts of our national character. We believe that family life is basic to the God-given right of the individual to enjoy the basic freedom for which we stand. These principles are inherent in the measures that we are now discussing. It should not have been subjected to the carping and foolish criticism that has been voiced by the three Opposition speakers who have taken part in this debate so far. We on this side, Sir, believe that home ownership is the hall-mark of better citizenship. We believe that people who own their own homes cannot help being better citizens. They may have been good citizens before, but they become better citizens when they reach the stage of owning their own homes.
We believe that there is great merit in affording the individual the right to select his own home and to have a say in its design and location and the details of its construction. These things give personal expression to the characteristics of the human individual. A nation can become great only because of its people and the way in which they express themselves. Therefore, this bill allows for the individual to select his own design and the location of his home. We recognize that the human factors of the love and affection of the family in the relationships of its members one with another influence the decisions in these matters and cannot lightly be brushed aside. All these factors are inherent in the encouragement of home ownership, as we see it. We reject the dead hand of socialism that is inherent in the attitude of the Australian Labour Party towards such matters as this.
This bill will do more than merely provide financial assistance to enable housing needs to be met, Mr. Speaker. In the first place, it will stimulate our young people to save. This is the first occasion in the history of Australia on which legislation of this kind has provided a stimulus to saving by young people for a definite objective. This bill will provide an incentive to further effort by the individual in his job and his personal conduct. This encouragement and stimulation to greater effort will run right down the line. This measure will encourage young people to accept the responsibility of home-ownership - a factor that is of great importance in the building of a great nation.
The Prime Minister gave a broad outline of our proposal in his policy speech. The proposal is to pay a subsidy of £1 for every £3 saved over a period of three years up to a maximum contribution by the Government of £250. The subsidy is payable only to married people, one of whom must be less than 36 years of age and who have saved for the purpose of building or buying a home costing not more than £7,000. Some Opposition members said that this is 9 rich man's bill. However, a limit of £7,000 is placed on the cost of the home and I do not think that this can be said to favour entirely the rich. Surely it is proper for people to aspire to a home valued at £7.000. After all, this is quite a modest home.
I remind the House that no previous legislation of this kind has ever been put forward or enacted in Australia. This has brought its problems to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) and 1 congratulate him on the way that he has handled this matter. Opposition members have complained of delay, but. of course, it was not very easy to frame the legislation, make all the inquiries, build up a department and so forth. I think the Minister has handled these difficulties splendidly.
I think it is about time that some one said something about the bill itself. No one has done so yet, as far as I know, except my friend, the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). Clause 5 of the bill sets out the object quite plainly. It is -
. . to encourage and assist young married persons to purchase or build their own homes and, in the administration of this Act, regard shall be had to that object.
Of course, the bill provides that these young persons must have saved for a period of three years with the intention of getting a home. This is not unreasonable when one looks at the purpose of the legislation. They are eligible if they entered into a contract to buy an existing home or to build a home after 2nd December, 1963. The Government could hardly have started this scheme at an earlier date; 2nd December was the first day of business after the election which was held on 30th November, 1963. lt is encouraging to note that the Government has made the scheme easy in its early stages. Wide discretion is given to decide that certain savings made up to 31st December, 1964, are acceptable.
Whilst savings made before 31st December, 1967, are more plainly identifiable, a certain amount of discretion is still allowed. Money used for the purchase of land or materials will be accepted as savings.
The bill permits the purchase of a flat or home unit either by strata title or by shares in a company, and this is important. Opposition members have criticized the legislation because homes are not eligible if they are being purchased with money provided by a State housing authority, which it has received under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This is really very reasonable. Money provided under this agreement is very much subsidized. The interest rate on it is 1 per cent, below the long-term bond rate. Therefore, people who are using this money to purchase a home are already receiving a subsidy and surely they should not be entitled to a further subsidy under this legislation. The bill provides that only one grant will be given in a lifetime. That is a fair proposition.
As I have said, there is need for elastic administration, particularly in the first year or so of the operation of this scheme. This is particularly so in the identification of acceptable savings. I am sure that the Minister is fully aware of this need. Of course, anomalies will arise and we will all meet situations that are not covered by the legislation. After all, this is new legislation and no comparable bill has ever been enacted before. Difficulties will arise and they will be dealt with in the light of experience. I agree that the Minister should give wide publicity to the scheme, particularly to the savings requirements. People must know what to do and honorable members will be saved a lot of trouble if wide publicity is given to the way that the scheme will be administered and to (he rights of young people.
I know something about the building society movement in Australia. It has been sponsored by this Government and was originally introduced by the Stevens Government back in 1930. The building society movement, because of its cooperative character, is the natural home for the savings of people who intend to participate in this scheme. I say that because I know the way the building societies are being conducted and the services that they provide to the people.
I appreciate that this legislation is not complete in itself. The Prime Minister in his policy speech announced that there was a second string to the bow. This is a guarantee by insurance of loans up to 95 per cent, at reasonable interest rates. This guarantee is essential if people are to bridge the deposit gap. Opposition members have spoken about the deposit gap. They should wait until this further legislation is introduced and then they will see how the complete picture presents itself. I understand that the Minister is at present working on the legislation and that we should have it by the Budget session. It is a very important scheme and it must be fully investigated. I hope that it follows very much along the lines of the Federal Housing Administration scheme which has been highly successful in the United States of America. Under this scheme, there is no possibility of loss to the government. I believe that the amount of premium payable in relation to a scheme of this kind is extremely low. I hope that when these two pieces of legislation are operating, many troubles will be cured.
In my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies of the past - it was inspired very largely by Labour legislation - is the enormous amount of public money that has been diverted into housing. This money is raised by taxation and by loans. In the past fourteen years, over £1,000,000,000 has been spent in the housing field. Much of this is justified, particularly in relation to such matters as war service homes. But much of it has been spent because private money was not available, due to the fact that the incentive to invest had been destroyed by Labour legislation of the past. This applies not only to the legislation of the previous Labour Government in the federal sphere but also to the legislation of many of the State Labour governments. The Labour governments completely destroyed the incentive of private people to invest their money in housing, otherwise the Government would never have had to spend the amount of money that has been drawn from the public purse.
Now, these two housing measures - we are dealing with one to-night and the other, which is complementary to it, will be dealt with later - will bring back millions of pounds of private money into the housing field because they will again create the incentive to build.
As we all know, the traditional policy of the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the encouragement of home ownership. Many Labour members have denied that policy to-night, but one only has to refer to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945, which was mentioned here to-night, to realize the truth of what I am saying. In the schedule to that agreement the following words appear: -
Whereas at Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers held during the months of August, 1944, and August, 194S, proposals were agreed upon relating to the carrying out of rental housing projects by the States:
That paragraph refers only to rental projects. Then this statement appears at clause 3 (1): -
Each State shall ensure that adequate legislation exists in the State to enable it at all times to control throughout the State -
(a) rental housing projects under this Agreement;
No provision was inserted in the agreement of 1945 by the Labour Government to provide for the sale of homes or the creation of home ownership. Clause 14 of the schedule to which I have referred reads as follows: - (1.) A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule to this Agreement: Provided that the total repayments of principal (included in the annual amortisation allowance mentioned in subparagraph (a) of paragraph 4 of the First Schedule to this Agreement) in respect of the dwelling may be regarded as part of the purchase price. (2.) The State shall pay to the Commonwealth the full purchase price of the dwelling payable by the purchaser.
In other words when the Australian Labour Party had this opportunity to express itself in relation to its housing policy it prepared an agreement under which it deliberately turned its back upon encouragement of home ownership and provided only for rental projects.
Therefore, I charge members of the Australian Labour Party with not being consistent in now saying that they would like to see home ownership. That charge is letting the Australian Labour Party off lightly because all honorable members well know that in relation to this matter, Mr. Dedman stated, "We don't want to build a nation of little capitalists ". That remark has gone down in history. It illustrated the policy of the Australian Labour Party in relation to these matters.
Now, look at the enormous potential of new private money which will come into housing projects from this scheme that we are debating. There were 1,355,436 males and 1,268,290 females, a total of 2,623,726 persons, aged between 18 and 35 years at the 30th June, 1963. I have not the figures for 1963 in relation to single people but I have them up till 1961 and at that time there were 612,846 males and 325,598 females between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
While tens of thousands of young married people will avail themselves of this scheme, if only the single people saved on the basis of £250 a year it would amount to £235,000,000 per annum. I do not suggest that all single people will save but it is a possibility. I know, and everybody knows, that with this offer of £250 every young man and every young woman who intends to marry will start a savings account to get the housing grant. All these people, or the great majority of them, will, in my opinion, avail themselves of this opportunity.
Other interesting figures are available. The average number of marriages per year in the past three years where both parties were under 36 years of age was 67,882 out of a total average of 78,940 marriages; so that in 86 per cent, of all marriages both parties were under the age of 36 years. Therefore, it is safe to say that over 90 per cent, of all newly married couples could qualify for this subsidy. I think those are outstanding figures.
This scheme could cost the Government at least £17,000,000 a year- I do not know what amount the Minister has calculated - in a very short time and that would mean that £51,000,000 per annum in private deposits would be provided for home building. These figures cannot be denied. They are from the Commonwealth Statistician.
Mr Curtin - Those figures will not even stand up.
Mr CRAMER - They will stand up to any inquiry you like to make. I mentioned those figures to show the significance of this bill and how it must affect the young people of Australia. It must affect their imagination and their preparation for their future. To those people who allege that they are not able to save, let me say that the average weekly earnings of all industrial groups in Australia in 1962 - and they are higher now -were £24.70 for males and £14.98 for females. Therefore, savings are possible in all the industrial groups, apart from any other groups in Australia.
The bill is intended to provide for a period of seven years and any young persons who start to work during that time should establish their own savings account to take advantage of the provisions of this measure. Then, in the years to come, we shall see the effect of this magnificent, forward-looking legislation on the promotion of home ownership in the manner I described when I first began speaking.
I should like, now, to deal with matters concerning building activity but I shall not have sufficient time. It is interesting to note that nearly 27,000 homes were built in the last quarter, which is equivalent to a rate of about 108,000 homes per annum. This far exceeds any estimate of the probable demand for housing in this country. Doctor Hall, who has written two books on this matter of housing requirements in the future, has revised his estimates in his latest book and has now estimated housing requirements at possibly 100,000 units per annum. So, the activity in the building industry is very great at the present time.
There are, of course, three important factors to watch. These are, first, the cost structure in the economy. We must handle this very carefully so that it will not get out of hand. If we were to adopt some of the suggestions made by honorable members opposite as to how the funds of the Reserve Bank should be used the cost structure in the economy soon would get out of hand.
Secondly, the availability of land at a reasonable price is essential to a balanced housing programme, whether it be in relation to home units or houses. I do not have sufficient time at my disposal to let honorable members opposite know the fundamental causes of the situation we are presently experiencing in relation to housing. Those causes are not what honorable members opposite think they are. On no subject discussed in this House is greater ignorance displayed, by too many honorable members opposite, than on the subject of housing. They should do some research into the basic reasons for the present housing problem.
The third aspect to watch is the training of tradesmen to meet the increased demand which we must expect for housing. In this regard the Government has recently made an announcement. This is an important aspect of the problem because at present we cannot meet the demand for skilled tradesmen in certain categories. The States as well as the Commonwealth have a responsibility in relation to the three matters that I have mentioned as being fundamental to the problem. These matters are not solely a Commonwealth responsibility. They are the responsibility of every State government, as well as of local government bodies, whose activities impinge upon matters which are of such vital importance to the growth of our country.
The Government has a great record in housing. That claim may easily be proved. If I had time I could tell the House of what the Government has done in the field of housing. This bill is one of the finest pieces of legislation the Government has ever brought down. I am sure that the people of Australia appreciate the Government's action in providing this incentive to our young people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.