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Thursday, 6 May 1920

Mr POYNTON (Grey) (Minister for Home and Territories) . - I am rather glad that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has brought forward this question, since the position of the Department will stand the test of investigation. I shall deal first of all with the comparison which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard' Foster) made of the cost of war service homes here and of those built in Adelaide by the State. He touched the spot, although he did not seem to realize it, when he said that the price of land ' in the suburbs of Adelaide is much cheaper than in the metropolis of Melbourne. I think there is a difference of about £100 between the cost of the war service homes built in Melbourne and those erected in Adelaide, and it will be found that the higher cost of land in this State fairly well accounts for the difference.

There is a good deal to be said in favour of the building scheme which is carried on by the State Bank of South Australia. The scheme, however, was never intended to apply to the building of soldiers' homes. It was originated someyears ago to provide for the erection of homes for workmen who were not in receipt of more than £300 per annum. Under that scheme a deposit of something like 40 per cent, is required, and the authorizing Act fixes the rate of interest at 4£ per cent.

Mr Blundell - Returned soldiers have not to pay a halfpenny by way of deposit under the State scheme.

Mr POYNTON - The honorable member is mistaken.

Mr Blundell - I introduced the Bill in the South Australian Parliament, and I ought to know what its provisions are.

Mr POYNTON - At all events, .some time ago it was suggested to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that the Commonwealth should finance the State Bank of South Australia in the building of homes for returned soldiers, since it had undertaken rather more than it could carry out in connexion with the State housing scheme. His reply was that he could not, having regard to the limitations imposed by the State Act. For instance, we erect homes for soldiers, soldiers' dependants, sailors, and nurses, as well as for munition workers and war workers.

Mr Blundell - The South Australian Act covers all, with the exception of munition workers and war workers.

Mr POYNTON - That being so, it still leaves a number unprovided for. We have to-day applications for the erection of no less than 893 houses in South Australia. Of these applications, 375 have been approved.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How many of the applicants aTe in receipt of more than £300 per year?

Mr POYNTON - I do not know. Oan we support a scheme which is limited to persons in receipt of not more than £300 per annum?

Mr Richard Foster - But the State has offered to do the work at a charge of i per cent, for supervision.

Mr POYNTON - I do not dispute that. Honorable members must realize that it would be impossible for the Minister to support a scheme adopted by one State which differed from that in operation in another.

Mr Richard Foster - Why not, if it is a better scheme?

Mr POYNTON - I venture to say that the South Australian scheme is not better than our own. Under that scheme, when houses are built for persons in receipt of more than £300 per annum, deposits are insisted on.

Mr Blundell - The statement that a deposit is required of returned soldiers is incorrect.

Mr POYNTON - Then the Minister must be misinformed.

Mr Blundell - He. is. A telegram to the South Australian Government will prove that my statement is correct.

Mr POYNTON - I have received from the Repatriation Department, since the honorable member spoke, a statement, in which it is said -

Another important circumstance contributed to the decision to open a branch office. Under the South Australian State Housing Scheme, the Government advances money for the purpose of home construction at the rate of 4* per cent, per annum, where the applicant receives a salary not exceeding £300 per year. .Where the salary of the applicant is in excess of £300 per annum, 5 per cent, interest ia charged, and the applicant is required to furnish a deposit 6£ at least 40 per cent, of the value of the property.

Is that correct? t

Mr Blundell - So far as it relates to persons in receipt of more than £300 per annum, it is correct.

Mr POYNTON - We fix no limit to the income of a returned soldier, and we charge 5 per cent, interest, because we cannot obtain the money for less. In charging 4i per cent., the State Government are making a loss. The Minister for Repatriation will be very pleased to meet representatives of South Australia on this question, and to arrive at a settlement.

Mr Blundell - I am satisfied with that statement.

Mr POYNTON - We started building operations in Adelaide iri October last. We opened a branch on the 8th August, 1919. That branch office remained open two months, when it was closed. In consequence of the agitation for the building of war service homes - 893 applications for houses being received - and the State authorities making no effort to amend their Act to bring it into line with our own-

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Everything could be adjusted by an amendment of the Act.

Mr POYNTON - The Minister would be only too glad to meet the South Australian authorities, and to advance money to the State. They have applied to him for money, but, because of the want of uniformity between their housing scheme and that of the Department, he does not feel justified in advancing it.

Mr Gregory - The Department could have utilized the State organization to do the work, but instead of doing so it placed two sets of authorities in the States in addition to the State authorities.

Mr POYNTON - It is all very well to blame the Commonwealth, but I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has done all that he could to arrive at an arrangement with the States. He told me that it would be mole to the advantage of the soldiers, under certain conditions, to do so, because the States got money at 4$ per cent.

Mr Richard Foster - And look at the character of the houses built by the State authorities!

Mr POYNTON - Some of them are not so large.

Mr Richard Foster - None of them are so small as those here.

Mr POYNTON - I think it will be found that the difference between the cost of the South Australian homes and that of the Victorian homes is due to the difference between the cost of land in the two States. If a deputation representing the State Bank and the Government can come to Melbourne, the Minister will meet them, and try to arrange for a housing scheme to be carried out under their supervision.

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