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Tuesday, 15 March 1932

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- J. also urge the Government not to proceed with this legislation hastily, particularly as it is expected that the act will again have to be amended after the investigating committee has lodged its report.

Mr Francis - The committee will have to visit all the States, and the exhaustive nature of its inquiry will necessitate at least four months being occupied in the investigation.

Mr MAKIN - It is unfortunate that such a long period must elapse before existing anomalies can be rectified. The disabilities of the occupants of war service homes are patent to all, and surely with the assistance of returned soldier organizations, the Government could obviate much of the travelling and questioning that it intends shall be done by the proposed committee.

There are certain features of the bill to which exception cannot be taken. I recognize that the responsibility of ownership must be acknowledged, also that it would be wrong to allow these homes to fall into serious disrepair through neglect on the part of the occupants. At the same time, we should not allow legislation of this description to be hurried through in an ill-digested state, as that could only result in hardship being inflicted on the occupants of war service homes. The

Government would be well-advised to delay action until it is better informed on the subject. From time to time I have been asked to place before the Government the case of occupants of war service homes in my electorate, and I must admit that on every occasion the most sympathetic consideration and assistance has been extended to me. For that I express my appreciation. I realize that the War Service Homes Department is confronted with one of the most difficult tasks associated with the affairs of returned soldiers. The haste with which the war service homes scheme was originated has resulted in many anomalies, which cause the department much concern. These houses were "constructed at a time when building costs were abnormally high, and land values were excessive, and so it is essential to do something to reduce valuations. The committee should deal specifically with that problem.

I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that every encouragement should be given to the occupants of war service homes to remain in possession of them. Because of unemployment and other adverse circumtances, these unfortunate people have incurred arrears of rents which amount, in the aggregate, to an alarming figure. The Government would be well-advised to disregard those arrears for the time being, and allow the purchasers of war service homes to deal only with current commitments, leaving the arrears to be dealt with as part of the capital cost and extend the period of repayment. That would be preferable to forcing the tenants out of their houses, which would merely result in additional loss in expenditure to the Government. A similar idea was propounded by the originator of the " thousand homes scheme " in South Australia, but, unfortunately, the Government of that State was unable to appreciate its wisdom. I also think that this Government should reduce interest rates on war service homes by another half per cent., which would be in conformity with the action of the Stare Governments in its treatment of returned men.

I ask the Minister to recognize the claims of honorable members on this side, as well as those of honorable members opposite, in this matter, and to adjourn the debate. While I certainly cannot oppose the second reading of the measure, I feel that certain amendments should be incorporated in it to make it more comprehensive and sympathetic towards the purchasers of war service homes. At present, the benefits appear to be all on the side of the commission. Homeowners are to guard against disrepair, and make good arrears. Let them be given some quid pro quo. If that and certain other anomalies were adjusted, the measure would be more to my liking.

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