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Tuesday, 15 March 1932


Mr McNICOLL (Werriwa) .- Speaking as a returned soldier, I should like to express my appreciation of the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He described the bill as being sympathetic as far as possible to the occupants of war service homes; I hope it will be. The Minister, when introducing the bill, described it as largely a machinery measure. The present is no time to do anything which will bear at all harshly on the occupants of war service homes. This bill deals with, among other matters, the taking possession of homes, and the effecting of repairs. I happen to know something of the construction of many war service homes, and while the commission should be given credit for exercising close supervision, there is no doubt that, during the early stages of war service homes construction, many homes were badly built. One series of homes of which I know were found, a few days after completion, to have been so badly built that it was necessary to ask for an inquiry.


Mr Makin - Were they built by contract?


Mr McNICOLL - Yes. I inspected some of the houses, and found that the bricks were of such poor quality that they could be rubbed away with the finger. I ascertained that for myself. In some cases, the window sashes were as much as 1¼ inches out of plumb. It must be evident that the cost of maintenance and repairs for houses built in such a fashion must be unreasonably high. In another instance which came under my observation, the verandah was constructed by the contractor in such a way that rain water instead of running off it, ran back towards the door. This piece of work had been visited by the inspector, and had, apparently, been passed by him.

The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) said that payments on war service homes were only 3 per cent. in arrears.

That is a particularly good record. It is possible that the percentage will increase, because returned soldiers, like every one else, are under great disabilities at the present time. Many of these men, when they entered into obligations regarding homes, were earning four or five pounds a week. They are now earning, perhaps, two pounds a week, or are out of employment altogether. Many expected that when their families grew up they would be able to contribute something towards the cost of the home, whereas they now find that the members of their families are unable to get employment, an'd have to be maintained. Clause 36 of the bill gives the commissioner power to take possession of homes, cancel contracts, and sue 1 for money if payments are three months overdue. This is not the time to pass a measure of that kind.

Last week, I asked a question in the House regarding sewerage for war service homes. If the War Service Homes Commissioner has constructed houses in areas which are sewered, it is not right to leave them -unconnected with the sewerage system. In one instance, the municipal council has agreed to do the work of sewering the houses, and allow the occupants to pay the cost over an extended period. The council merely asks that the War Service Homes Department shall guarantee the cost. The Minister, in reply to my question, said that no money was available to make such a grant. I remind him that no grant is necessary. From its experience, the department need not expect a greater percentage of default than two or three per cent, at the most. Not only would the occupants of war service homes obtain tha benefit of sewerage if this plan were followed, but the work provided would go some way towards relieving unemployment. I also direct the attention of the Assistant Minister to the serious losses which occur when houses which revert to the control of the commission are left untenanted. Unfortunately, a practice has grown up in New South Wales, and, I suppose in the other States, among certain persons, to enter unoccupied houses and remove whatever they can, either .for their own use or for conversion into cash.


Mr Martens - That does' not apply only to war sendee homes.


Mr McNICOLL - I did not say that it did. If these homes are to be protected, so that they may, if necessary, be sold at a reasonable price, it is bad policy on the part of the commission to allow them to become untenanted. It would pay to leave a tenant in possession, even if he is temporarily unable to meet his instalments, to keep the property in order, and prevent the wilful destruction which so often happens.


Mr Scullin - Does the honorable member know of any unemployed men who were put out of war service homes within the last two years?


Mr White - Yes.


Mr Scullin - My Government issued the instruction that no men who were out of work were to be compelled to vacate their houses.







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