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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4617

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) - In the first place let me congratulate the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is the Opposition's spokesman on the Australian Capital Territory, for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. It is very important and I am pleased to be associated with him and to be taking part in drawing the attention of the House to the housing deficiencies that exist in the Australian Capital Territory, as I am the Opposition's spokesman on housing. I listened carefully to what the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) had to say. I was interested to hear him list amongst his achievements a heated swimming pool somewhere in the Australian Capital Territory. Nobody can live in a heated swimming pool. It is housing that is the big deficiency in the Australian Capital Territory. Only yesterday I spoke to a Commonwealth public servant here who is forced to live in a caravan park. It costs him $20 a week just for the space plus power. He has to provide his own caravan.

What the Opposition is saying is that the difficulties which young people endure in trying to secure accommodation here have been compounded by this Minister and by his predecessor in the 2 years of Labor administration. The Government has given preference to building office accommodation for its public servants rather than living accommodation. The honourable member for Corangamite and I put out a release a month or so ago in which we made the point that the Government has started a 3-year $80m program to provide office accommodation for, I think, 12,000 public servants, but this year's housing target is only 1 ,400 units. That is a reduction from the 1,550 provided last year.

Mr Bryant - How many millions are involved?

Mr McLEAY - The Minister always wants to talk about how many millions of dollars are involved. What he does not realise is that with the present rate of inflation money is becoming of less value and the millions he quotes today will be worth only thousands next year. I suggest that the Minister should examine the Commonwealth hostels in Canberra as he travels around during the weekends. Conditions in these hostels vary from barely tolerable to downright disgraceful. I have attended meetings and have eaten meals at these hostels. I spent 10 years of my school life as a boarder. At that time I thought the accommodation in the boarding school was rather spartan but I realise now that it was vastly superior to the accommodation provided by this Government at some of its hostels in Canberra. Commonwealth public servants have no choice; they have to come to Canberra to work and must live here or near Canberra. The Opposition believes that the Government has an obligation to provide decent accommodation for its employees but this Government is, in a sense, exploiting its employees.

Labor policies have created the highest escalation in building cost since Federation, a grave shortage of houses, flats and units both for sale and for rental, and the most unsatisfactory and yet expensive boarding house type of accommodation in Australia. My recollection is that the tariffs for hostel accommodation in Canberra have increased by 55 per cent in the last 12 months. The establishment of the fair rents board, or whatever it is called here, has further diminished the chances of Canberra people obtaining rental accommodation. Home owners are not encouraged to let their houses at the rentals assessed by this board- rentals which frequently do not even cover the cost of servicing present high interest charges. The interest rates prevailing today are the highest in Australia's history. This situation was desperately created by the Labor Government which claims, I believe falsely, to be a low interest party. The Government recently introduced a concessional interest rate scheme for home buyers. This concessional rate is determined on a proportion, I think 90 per cent, of the average wage. As a result of this ordinance a public servant or anybody else in the Australian Capital Territory receiving a salary of $136 a week is entitled to a concessional interest rate of 5 Vt per cent. If his friend is earning $ 1 3 7 a week, or $1 more, he will be liable to pay 9lA per cent interest. On a weekly basis this means that the penalty for the first person increasing his income by $1 a week from $136 to $137 is $15 a week in increased interest. Of course this removes the incentive for people to improve their situation.

Against all this confused background of Government control and Government incompetence, which has left Canberra with a grave shortage of accommodation, there is now revealed the positively shameful behaviour of the Attorney-General. Senator Murphy has sought to break all the rules and in a most improper way to wangle for a friend- a business associate I believe- the top position on the waiting list for one-bedroom flats in the Australian Capital Territory. The waiting time for these flats at present is slightly more than 5 years. It would be 105 years if all those who are eligible to apply did apply and thought they had any chance of obtaining one in their lifetime. There is also a means test applied to applicants for this accommodation. Anyone earning more than $110 a week gross is ineligible for a government flat. In spite of these provisions, not only the AttorneyGeneral but also the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the former Minister for Immigration are falling over each other to secure for this young lady, a Miss Morosi, subsidised government accommodation.

Mr Bryant - It is not subsidised.

Mr McLEAY - Of course it is. A person cannot go to the private sector and get this sort of accommodation for what the Government is charging.

Mr Bryant - Rents in Canberra are determined on an economic basis and include provision for construction costs, amortisation and interest payments.

Mr McLEAY -That is not so. This is all the more reprehensible and I am surprised at the Minister for defending it when we consider this person's salary.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I do not think this matter is relevant to the motion before the Chair.

Mr McLEAY - Of course it is. We are dealing with low cost accommodation in Canberra, and I am making the point that here is someone on a high salary who has been appointed by I do not know whom -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -The motion before the Chair refers to young people and I think the matter the honourable member is attempting to raise is not relevant.

Mr McLEAY - It is, because young people are on the waiting list for these flats. This is the reason why we altered the motion. The Deputy

Prime Minister came into the House after question time and said that this young lady's salaryshe is a young person- was not $17,000 but $12,200, plus overtime and presumably plus fringe benefits. I know that there are private secretaries employed in this place who are earning $23,000 a year. I wonder whether the fringe benefits include the appointment of her husband to the Film Censorship Board at $1,000 a year. I wonder whether the Minister will tell us what qualifications her husband possesses. What has happened to the Government's professed concern for the lower income groups- the widows, deserted wives and those whose only hope of obtaining accommodation is through government housing? I know that the Minister had received a letter from the President of the Single Mothers Association, I think it is called, expressing concern that none of her members can get accommodation because this sort of thing is taking place. I think the Australain public is entitled to know all the interesting details.

Mr Bryant - This is not true.

Mr McLEAY - The Minister suggests that what I have said is not true. Let us know the truth of this whole affair. It already smacks of bourgeois political patronage. For example, which office does employ Miss Morosi? First we heard that she was to be the Deputy Prime Minister's private secretary, but only last night -

Mr Bryant - I suppose this has something to do with the motion. Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I sat down to enable more time to be given to this debate on the assumption that it would proceed in accordance with the motion. If some honourable member wants to take up the matter to which the honourable member is referring with me outside, I am the man for him. I will go to Boothby and discuss it but it is wrong for such discussion to occupy time that this Government by grace has given for this motion, especially as I will have no chance of answering the honourable member.

Mr McLEAY -The Minister says -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Let me rule on the point of order first. I think the honourable member for Boothby is straying from the motion and I should be pleased if he would return to it.

Mr McLEAY - These facts may be unpalatable to the Minister and to the Government but they are entirely relevant to the motion, which the Opposition altered last night so that they would be. The position is that someone is being given an unearned priority which means that someone else will be unable to get accommodation of the type I have mentioned. If that is not relevant to the motion, I do not know what is. I think we are entitled to know the position. Senator Murphy wrote a letter to the Minister for the Capital Territory and I seek permission to table it. May I have permission from the Minister?

Mr Bryant - I suppose so.

Mr McLEAY -The Attorney-General said that Miss Morosi 's work was extremely important in the field of human rights.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is the honourable member seeking leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard?

Mr McLEAY - Yes.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? Mr Bryant- No.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Leave is not granted.

Mr McLEAY - The Minister has changed his mind. I do not know why.

Mr Bryant - It is not relevant to the debate.

Mr McLEAY - The Minister does not need to help the Deputy Speaker. He knows how to run this place. This letter is entirely relevant. In it Senator Murphy said that Miss Morosi 's work was extremely important in the field of human rights, yet within a week she is to leave this job. This work is to be abandoned and her skills will be used in the office of the incoming Treasurer. Last night I appeared on 'This Day Tonight' and was followed by Mr Grassby. He said- I quote precisely- in referring to this young lady:

She joined me on 1 September. She is still working for me.

I emphasise that this was said last night. Mr Grassby was asked: 'Is she going to the Treasury?' He said: 'I could not tell you that, Richard.' So the story continues. We do not know what has happened. I believe that the appointment of Mr Grassby as $25,000 a year community development officer, or whatever his title is, is in itself a sickening example of jobs for the boys. Many Australians are wondering whether we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. This Government, which delights in establishing royal commissions and committees of inquiry, should immediately investigate this whole affair or at least refer it to the Commission currently investigating the administration of the Public Service.

As I said previously, I have received hundreds of complaints from disadvantaged peopleyoung people in the terms of this motion- and I know that my colleague, the honourable member for Corangamite, has received similar letters.

Mr Street - There is a 4-year waiting list for this type of accommodation.

Mr McLEAY -Actually at present it is a 5-year waiting list and the way this Government is going it will become a 6, 7, 8 or 9 year waiting list until we get rid of this Government

Dr Forbes - That is not really so, is it?

Mr McLEAY -Yes, it is entirely correct. The people of Canberra ought to know what is going on and what is happening in high places. I think we are entitled to know and the Australian people are entitled to know what Miss Morosi's qualifications are. The Attorney-General has described her as a most engaging employee. But, as far as I know, ministerial staff, certainly those working for Treasurers, traditionally have always had academic qualifications as well as being most engaging employees. I ask the Minister: What is the truth about this? What is the truth in the allegation of a flat being allocated? Was the lease signed or was it not signed? I believe that it was. The Minister would not let me table a copy of a letter which confirms that the lease was signed. My information is that the lease was signed. We are entitled to know when and what subsequently happened to it. Charges have been made in respect to this young lady and her husband which concern the New South Wales Commissioner of Corporate Affairs. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not want to transgress your obvious generosity by going into that matter.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin -I have been letting the honourable member stray -

Mr McLEAY - I have been straying, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think that these matters should be investigated and not swept under the rug. For example, I would like to know what use has been made of VIP aircraft by Ministers and whether this young lady has been a passenger.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -The honourable member is straying a lot now.

Mr McLEAY - I am straying, Mr Deputy Speaker. But I am concerned on behalf of the great majority of Australian people who I believe have an interest in this matter. We want a frank and open investigation. I can assure the Government that there are serious and farreaching implications to this whole affair. Let us bring them out into the open. The style of government domonstrated in recent months is totally unacceptable to honest and fair minded Australians.

In the short time left to me, I wish to comment on what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had to say after question time today. He complained about a matter. He did not mention my name, but it was I who placed questions in regard to this matter on the notice paper. I was not in the chamber but I heard what he had to say over the public address system. I think he said that we should write to him about such matters. Is that what he said? I think he said that we should write to him. What he is really saying is that we should keep this kind of thing quiet and not bring it out into the open. He objected to my putting the questions on the notice paper. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would know the forms of this House require that any question which includes a person's name must be placed on the notice paper. It would be contrary to the Standing Orders for an honourable member to ask in this House a question which raised a person's name. Mr Deputy Speaker, you know that, I know that and so does the Prime Minister. That is the reason why this was done.

I suggest to the Government, the Prime Minister and to anybody else who is interested that they have a look at the notice paper today. These questions no longer appear on the notice paper. This is because the Opposition wanted to leave the matter free to be debated and because we were told that the Minister was going to reply to those questions and issue a statement to the Press at 5 o'clock last night. This did not happen and has not happened, so far as I know, up to this moment. Of course, the questions will be placed back on the notice paper. I support very strongly the motion moved by the honourable member for Corangamite and thank him for taking the initiative in this matter.

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