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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2472


Senator NEWMAN(12.11) —I must make a few comments on the speech of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) because clearly he was not in the chamber when I started speaking or he would not have suggested that I did not recognise that the problem with defence housing is long standing and all governments stand condemned for their inaction over the years. That does not mean to say that his Government is in any way absolved because it has made the right noises. Noises in this Government, plus advertising campaigns, seem to be the method of governing. It is just not good enough. We have had a housing authority which has been trumpeted around the defence forces for months. They are now getting restive; they do not believe it will happen. We have had a defence service home loans scheme review which has been trumpeted around the defence services area for months but nothing seems to be happening there.

The Minister referred in his answer a moment ago to the answer-or non-answer I should say-which he gave in this chamber the other day to my question on defence service home loans. If the Minister thinks I am satisfied by that answer he must be very much mistaken. I wish he would stay and listen because he might learn something about it. Obviously, he will run away and leave the chamber rather than learn something about the dissatisfaction in the Services over his inaction on the defence service home loans scheme. Over the last few days we have seen in this chamber how the Minister takes little or no responsibility for the matters in his portfolio. The defence service home loans scheme is clearly within his responsibility. He is taking no action on it and the matter is being allowed to slide.

One of the problems with the lack of adequate housing for the defence forces could be considerably improved if he would take some action whereby a review of that scheme would provide for servicemen to buy and sell homes when they were re-posted and would allow them to take up more defence service home loans. In other words it would enable them to provide their own home. But as the Minister said as he was finishing his remarks, his Party and mine have a different philosophical approach to many matters. We would like people to feel that they do not necessarily have to belong to a service ghetto if they have the option of assistance to borrow money to provide their own homes. For example, the British Services are also allowed to rent privately through a scheme whereby the Department of Defence is the head tenant and defence housing is re-let to defence tenants. This brings in a lot more housing of good quality in mixed areas throughout the country for servicemen who are not condemned, as I have said, to live in ghettos. The Government is not required to put too much capital aside in an area where obviously capital will always be scarce. These are positive things which this Government, if it really cared about the defence services and their housing, could do. But does it do anything? No. It makes announcements but it does nothing. In the meantime 60 per cent of service houses are regarded by the Department as sub-standard. That means in some cases we have servicemen in houses without hot water services, servicemen in houses with splits in the floor where cockroaches come through. A rat could walk through some fibro houses in Albury-Wodonga and one could put several men's hands through the holes. It is disgraceful and the Minister's reply just does not come to grips with the matter. I am glad he recognises that we can get more than one price for a house, and some of the evidence that I have given today clearly demonstrates that. I have to ask: Why does not the Department of Housing and Construction manage to come up with better prices than the ones it comes up with now? Why is it that its client department, Defence, produces specifications which add so unduly to the cost of Army and service housing when what we need is good quality average housing, and plenty of it?