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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2143

Mr BLANCHARD(10.04) —Last night before the House adjourned I was speaking about the poor quality of defence forces housing. I was pointing out to the House that many of the homes in which members of the defence forces live were built in the 1950s and were allocated from the State public housing programs. Often they lacked amenities available in privately owned homes. I pointed out that it was no wonder that this situation has not encouraged some former members of the defence forces to remain in the Services with a consequential loss to the nation of skilled personnel which takes time and money to replace. It is because of the poor quality of the housing stock available that many service personnel are renting or buying their own homes. Of course, if they purchase their home in Perth they are disadvantaged compared with their service colleagues in other capital cities who purchase homes in those cities. As the cost of housing and land is much cheaper in Perth than in other capital cities, when it comes to selling their properties because of an eastern State posting they get less in resale value for their property and thus have less capital to purchase a home on the eastern seaboard. On the other side of the coin, those buying in, say, Sydney or Melbourne have more capital to purchase a home in Perth.

The frequency of postings aggravates the problem of housing defence personnel. Whilst one accepts that the exigencies of service life require postings from one part of Australia to another, I consider that these postings are often far too frequent and do not take into account sufficiently individual circumstances which should negate the postings. I have had a number of representations made to me on this issue and I am sure that most honourable members in the House would also have received such representations.

I am not alone in this criticism of too frequent postings. Between September 1982 and April 1984 the Armed Forces Federation of Australia conducted a survey of 459 officers who resigned from the Army in an attempt to identify reasons why officers were resigning. The most cited reason given which had some influence on their resignation was that they wanted to live in one location. Of those interviewed 67.5 per cent gave this as a reason for leaving the service. This is a lesson which must be learnt by senior officers responsible for postings. There is a strong argument for longer postings in peacetime. Obviously wartime creates a different ball game; we all accept that. Longer postings allow a person to develop his professional skill or trade and a team spirit to develop. As well, it allows his family, his wife and children, to establish themselves in the community in which they are living. As the Armed Forces Federation has pointed out, frequent postings result in frequent changes of schools by the children of service personnel. It cites one case, admittedly extreme, of one child who had been to 13 schools in seven years and required specialist counselling because of that. There is a need for additional funds to schools in defence areas for extra tuition and counselling of children of service personnel to assist in removing some of the trauma of posting. I trust that the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) will take the opportunity to discuss this matter with the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) so that the issue can be addressed.

If those living in rental homes under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement service personnel scheme are transferred to rental accommodation in another State they have a better than even chance of getting inadequate and inferior accommodation. Of the current stock of service homes about 8,000 were built pre-1966; 5,200 were built post-1966 and pre-1972; and 1,500 were built post-1972. One can see from those figures that, in terms of the total percentage of Defence Force homes, very few were built post-1972. According to the task force report, 62 per cent of CSHA service personnel houses are classified at least as significantly deficient in standards. The task force has commented, in the main, that they do not warrant upgrading. The establishment of a Defence Housing Authority, coupled with the Government's plans to spend $750m over the next 10 years on new housing for the Australian Defence Force, show that this Government is prepared and determined to overcome the neglect. It is for these reasons that I strongly support the Bill before the House.