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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1645

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories and Local Government and relates to the current shortage of housing in the Australian Capital Territory and the prohibitive prices for house and land packages. To what extent did the inaction of the previous Government in the provision of serviced land contribute to the current shortage? What steps has the Government taken to alleviate the shortage of land and housing in the Australian Capital Territory?

Senator GIETZELT —When the Australian Labor Party came to government in March 1983 the Australian Capital Territory had some clear problems associated with both serviced land and accommodation. There was an acute shortage of land and housing and this, as I think I have indicated in response to a question previously, resulted in prohibitive increases in the price of land and rented accommodation.

One of the reasons for this, I think, is that for the seven years of the Fraser Administration there was a deliberate policy of neglect in respect of providing serviced land in the Australian Capital Territory. For example, when we came to office only 549 standard residential blocks were available for sale, compared with 5,000 blocks which were available for sale when the Whitlam Government left office in 1975.

During the seven years of the Liberal Government construction was started on only 2,500 standard blocks and between the 1977-78 and 1981-82 financial years servicing was started on only 18 blocks. By comparison, between March 1983, when we came to office, and August 1984 servicing started on 3,870 standard residential blocks and 1,200 medium density unit blocks were also available. During the same period over 2,000 standard residential blocks and sites for 560 medium density units were completed, which indicates, of course, that something in excess of 5,000 blocks and allotments had become available in our first 15 months of office.

In addition the Government began negotiations with the Housing Industry Association and the Australian Gas Light Co. for the development of an additional 130 standard residential lots and 13 medium density sites at Latham and 179 standard residential lots at Evatt. Approval in principle has also been given to the Housing Industry Association to undertake a further development at Florey, comprising 287 standard blocks and 279 medium density sites. We have increased the number of public housing commencements in 1982-83 by 73 per cent in 1983-84 and a further 25 per cent increase is anticipated for 1984-85. Over this period we will have commenced construction on almost 1,200 public houses compared with only 470 commenced by the Fraser Government in the four financial years 1978-79 to 1981-82.

Senator Missen —Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Minister is obviously reading a ministerial statement which should be made at another time. Surely Question Time is for honourable senators and this is an example of why we are not able to ask questions. Surely the Minister can incorporate this information in Hansard without tediously reading what is obviously a prepared answer to a dorothy dixer.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator GIETZELT —I thought the Senate would be interested to know that since we came to office we have increased by 37 per cent the number of dwelling commencements and we are anticipating in the next financial year a further 50 per cent increase, which compares with a 20 per cent decline in dwelling commencements under the previous Government in 1982-83. So it is clear that the shortage of land and accommodation and increased prices can be directed solely at the inaction of the coalition Government in the seven years in which it was in office.