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Tuesday, 15 March 1932

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) (Assistant Minister) . - In the main the supporting explanation of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is correct. At no time in the history of the commission has it sued separately for the cost of repairs. Where a mortgage has been executed, and the purchaser is in arrears and leaves his home, either voluntarily or by ejectment, the property is repaired and sold. If it should be sold at a profit the borrower has an equity which goes to him. If, however, a loss is sustained the commission foots the bill. The position is different when there is a contract for sale. The power to call upon the soldier for the cost of the repairs exists, but in no instance will the commission pursue any soldier whose circumstances prevent him from meeting his obligations. In no instance is it done. This provision exists in all the housing legislation of the States.

Mr Beasley - Does the Minister say definitely that if the soldier has no equity he is free 'from the responsibility of meeting the cost of these repairs?

Mr FRANCIS - Absolutely, so far as a mortgage is concerned. I appreciate the motive that has actuated the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in moving his amendment, but it would be impracticable to administer it. The principle upon which the amendment is based is observed by the department wherever practicable; but it is impossible to embody it in any statute. It would be impossible to give a correct interpretation of any provision covering it. This bill has been brought down mainly to overcome legal difficulties caused by the interpretation placed upon our legislation by the Full Court of Victoria. We cannot run the risk of getting out of one difficulty and stepping deeper into another.

Mr Makin - If the soldier has no equity in the property he has vacated, can he be sued for the cost of the repairs to it?

Mr FRANCIS - Where the property is subject to a mortgage, and the home is sold at a profit, the department pays to the soldier his equity; but if the price realized does not exceed the amount owing to the department, the cost of repairs is borne by the department. I hope that the committee will not agree to the amendment.

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