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Thursday, 6 May 1920

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) . - I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Ade laide (Mr. Blundell) by making a comparison between the styles of houses built in South Australia and those built in Victoria. I have inspected many of the latter, and if the Minister for Repatriation will send to Adelaide a competent expert from his Department, I shall be guided by his decision as to whether the State authorities there are. not making a better job than is being made in the other States. The State Bank in South Australia is operating on eighteen different designs of houses. I have here a sample plan which shows one large bedroom 15 feet 6 inches by 12 feet, a second bedroom 12 feet by 11 feet, a drawingroom 13 feet by 12 feet, a dining-room 15 feet by 14 feet, a kitchen 12 feet by 11 feet 6 inches, and a bathroom, laundry, and conveniences. I ask honorable members to compare the sizes of those rooms with the sizes of the rooms in the houses we inspected in Victoria a few days ago. In every one of the South Australian houses, there is a clear height of 10* feet from floor to ceiling in each room. I believe that the height in Victoria was 9 feet, but it is being raised to 10 feet. The South Australian blocks of land would average at least one-third larger than the blocks on which the houses in Victoria have been built.

Mr Poynton - That is because of the difference in land values.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Land values may be partly the explanation, but a good many of the houses in Adelaide are within 2 miles of the General Post Office. .

Mr Poynton - We could not get land for this purpose within 2 miles of the Melbourne Town Hall.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - The houses we inspected in Victoria were 6 or 7 miles from the General Post Office, and there ought not to be a very great disparity in values between land 2 miles from the Adelaide General Post Office and land 6 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office.

Mr Page - There is no comparison between the populations of Adelaide and Melbourne.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Neither is there any comparison between the prices of the land, nor the solidity of the houses erected in the two cities. I call the attention of honorable members to photographs showing the finished work that has been put into the houses in Adelaide. Of the houses which have been provided, half have been constructed and the others have been purchased. I call attention to the fact that as soon as the Commonwealth Bank's officers stepped into the business of buying houses the value of similar houses rose within a week nearly £100 each, and as the honorable member for Adelaide said, the presence of two big competing parties for buildings led to an increase in every item of building material. The State Bank, as the agent of the South Australian Government, was engaged for eight or nine years prior to entering upon this work for soldiers in building houses for civilians. So that its officers have had a great deal of experience of housebuilding. During those eight years, and also during the last three or four years, since they have been building soldiers' cottages, they have employed continuously a number of small contractors. From the beginning the Department weeded out any contractors who showed a tendency towards "jerry" building, and only kept those in whom it had the utmost confidence - men who could be left to complete a house from foundation to roof, with absolute confidence on the part of the authorities that no bad work would be put into it. That is the reason why the State Bank has been able to erect these houses at an average cost of £577 10s. lid each. There is no comparison between that cost and the cost of houses built in other States.

Mr Gregory - Much depends upon the date on which the houses were built.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - All the soldiers' homes have been built since the 15th November, 1917, when the Act came into operation. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has rightly said that the entry of the Commonwealth Bank upon the scene has led to every contractor withdrawing from the service of the State Bank. They have said, '''"We have two strings to our bow now, and we shall get better prices."

Mr Tudor - Have they done so?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Yes! Unless this competition is discontinued, the South Australian Government will have no alternative but to withdraw from the work.

Mr Gregory - There are three governmental construction authorities now. That is preposterous.

Mr Tudor - I thought the honorable member believed in competition.

Mr Gregory - I desire competition, but not three construction authorities.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - The honorable member for Dampier does not believe in a firm competing against itself, but that is, in effect, what is being done to-day. In regard to the objection that the State Bank does not build for soldiers receiving an income of more than £300 per annum, I know that the State Bank is prepared to submit to-morrow to the Minister for Repatriation an offer to build all the houses he requires at a charge of only \ per cent, for supervision.

Mr Riley - What is the honorable member's policy in regard to soldiers who have no money?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - My policy is to do one thing well at a time, instead of starting impossible things. The charge of half per cent, for supervision covers everything. There are no architect's fees, neither are there any agreements, registrations or anything else to be paid for. I appeal to my honorable friends on the Public Works Committee to say whether a charge of half per cent, for the supervision of such work is not a very small one.

I wish now to make a few observations in commendation of the attitude of the State Government. It undertook this work in fulfilment of a pledge made long before the Commonwealth scheme was suggested', and, in accordance with that pledge, ' it charges interest on deferred payments at the rate of only 4$ per cent, per annum, which ds considerably less than what it has to pay for its money. If this competition between the Commonwealth and the State is to go on, with the result that prices of building material continue to go up, the State Government will not be able to continue the work. It is a question whether the Commonwealth should not find the money for the State Government of South Australia just as it is findings the money for the erection of war service homes in the other' States; but on this point of overlapping and competition \ am satisfied that I shall not appeal in vain to the opinion of the House. I ask honorable members to examine the photographs of buildings erected by the South Australian Government and to carefully consider the whole question. I have only to say in conclusion that I feel fairly confident that the Minister for Repatriation does not desire to continue this unjustifiable competition.

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