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Tuesday, 22 November 1938


Mr BARNARD - Honorable members from the industrialized States are not ready to take a national view of things. When decentralization is mentioned by representatives of one of the less populous States, it is immediately assumed by honorable members opposite that they wish certain industries to be transferred to Tasmania. ' When there appears to be a feeling, particularly amongst Government supporters, that the enemy is at our doors, action should be taken to decentralize many of our defence activities. With the bulk of our population living in the capital cities and important key industries established on the coast, the risk is much greater than it would otherwise be. The removal of Hoskins' works from Lithgow to the coast resulted in 2,000 men being forced on to the unemployment market. Hoskins contended that it was uneconomic to retain their works at Lithgow, and probably it was, from their point of view. Such problems should be tackled by the Government, which should realize that defence establishments should be decentralized so far as is possible. The Government should realize the danger which confronts Australia in having so many people living' in the cities while the country districts are inadequately populated.

As we have almost reached saturation point in the matter of markets, greater attention must be paid to an expansion of our home market. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to explain in detail the way I feel that can be done, except to say that consumption in Australia must be increased by seeing that the people are more adequately housed, clothed and fed, and generally have a much higher standard of living than prevails to-day. If the Treasurer would depart from his restricted financial outlook, the standard of living could be improved and our home market extended. For instance, the introduction of a 40-hour week throughout the Commonwealth service would provide additional employment, and, consequently, the purchasing power of the people would be increased. On a number of occasions, I have mentioned the subject of housing, and I make no apology for bringing it forward again.. All that the Government has done in the matter of housing has been to erect a residence for a resident Minister in Canberra.

Mr Pollard - It is a nice little house.

Mr BARNARD - Yes. I have inspected it from a fairly close range. When the Prime Minister was on the hustings in 1934, he is reported to have said-

Mr Drakeford - That was a day of great promise.

Mr BARNARD - It was not a day of great promise for the country, but it was a day of great promises. On the 14th August, 1934, the Prime Minister, speaking at Randwick, said -

We propose to secure money and expend it iu co-operation with the States on a policy of home-building for working men and women.

This will serve many purposes. It will improve the health and general well-being of the people by providing modern houses for them, and it will directly employ hundreds of mcn in actual construction.

Mr Pollard - The only house the Government has built is that which is to be occupied by the Treasurer.

Mr BARNARD - If the Government makes as good a job of the houses which it should erect for the masses as it has made of the fourteen-roomed residence for the Treasurer, we shall have nothing to complain of. Despite the promises given on the hustings we still have disgraceful slums at Molonglo in Canberra. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred at length to constitutional difficulties with which the Government is confronted, and we shall doubtless hear the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) discussing the same subject; but the Government cannot say that constitutional difficulties prevent it from engaging in a vigorous housing policy in Canberra. As the Government has complete control of this Territory, there is no reason why buildings which were erected for workmen's camps should now be used to house the people. In June last, 310 people were waiting for houses. During the recent European crisis it was reported in the press that the Government considered it essential to transfer the Defence Department from Melbourne to Canberra and that,should it doso,accommodation would have to be provided for 1,000 officers. Although this Government has been in powerfora number of years, it is still in a holy mess in the matter of housing. Even if 500 officers - not 1,000 as mentioned in the press - were transferred, there would still be a waiting list of 339, or a total waiting list of 839. The natural increase absorbs about 50 houses annually, and, therefore, at the present rate of construction it will be about 25 years before the demand has been met. The responsibility rests upon the Government, and it cannot be said that private enterprise should share some of that responsibility. A return prepared discloses that in October last, 339 persons were waiting for houses. This number includes 27 permanent Commonwealth officers, 95 other than government employees, 89 relief workers, and 12S in private employment. Fully 146 persons were waiting for four-roomed cottages, 1S1 for fiveroomed cottages, and twelve required sixroomed houses.

Mr Baker - What of the number required by the staff of the Defence Department?

Mr BARNARD - They are not included in the figures which I have given.

When I asked the number of persons who will be unprovided for under the Government's proposals for 1938-39, the Minister said -

It is estimated that all permanent and temporary government employees will be accommodated in houses by the 30th June, 1939. The number of persons other than government employees without housing accommodation at this date will be affected by the accommodation provided by privatebuilders.

The Government knows that very few, if any, will be accommodated in houses built by private builders. While I share to some extent the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) in regard to the cost of building in Canberra, I still contend that the cost of constructing houses in Canberra is somewhat disquieting.

Mr Blain - It is due to the price of bricks.

Mr BARNARD - It may be to some extent; but there are other reasons.

Mr Stacey - There is a gentleman's agreement amongst the builders.

Mr BARNARD - If such an agreement exists the Attorney-General should see if it is not practicable to induce other contractors to tender for the work that is offering here and test the actual cost by building a few houses by day labour under departmental supervision. The Government is not doing all that it should to meet the shortage. I have already stated that on the 14th August, 1934, the Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to secure the money and to expend it in co-operation with the States on a policy of home-building for working men and women. But, in contrast to the " broad national view" expressed by the Prime Minister on the hustings, we find that in 1938 the Government has no view at all. It has built no houses outside of Canberra. In fact, all that it has done in respect of housing beyond Canberra has been to alter certain residences to suit the Governor-General. Not one house has been built under the Commonwealth Housing Act since 1927. The State governments are fully alive to the necessity to do something to provide houses for the people, but the Commonwealth

Government has no policy whatever on the subject. Its attitude is in direct contrast to the attitude of the Government of New Zealand.

Mr Lane - Oh ! Leave New Zealand out of it.

Mr BARNARD - I quite appreciate that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) does not wish to hear anything about New Zealand. The' record of the Labour Government of that dominion is not pleasing to him. I point out, however, that in two and a half years the Government of New Zealand has done a great deal to improve the housing conditions of the people. The Lyons Government is not willing to deviate one iota from orthodox methods of finance, and so it has not been able to do anything to meet the needs of the people.

Mr Lane - It has made available £15,000,000 to State governments for various purposes. -

Mr BARNARD - And the hulk of the money has gone to New South Wales! The Minister for Finance in New Zealand, Mr. Nash, was asked a question in Parliament by Mr. Sexton on this subject, and, according to the Parliamentary Debates, his reply was as follows : -

Under existing legislation, the State Advances Corporation is empowered to lend money to farmers on the security of lands for building cottages and for other purposes. As the honorable member is doubtless aware, legislation has been passed which will extend the facilities for loans by the corporation. The question of priority of charges for the cottages referred to would have to be the subject of negotiation with those who are already holding the land as security, but, subject to a reasonable arrangement, the question could be further considered.

The Government of New Zealand has not only actually built houses and provided money for private citizens to do so in city and town areas, but it has also provided money for persons on small farms to build houses for themselves. It is hardly necessary for me to .refer to the effective action taken by the Government of Great Britain to deal with the housing problem, but I may remind honorable members that, from the Armistice to the 30th Sep tember, 1936, over 3,146,000 houses have been built in England and Wales, of which. 89S,000 have 'been erected by local governing authorities. Of the balance, approximately 500,000 have been built by private enterprise with varying degrees of State assistance. The governments of other countries overseas have also embarked upon housing programmes to meet the needs of their people. In this connexion, I direct attention to a chapter on housing in a book entitled, Denmark - The Co-operative Way, by Fred. C. Howe. The writer says that there are no slums in Copenhagen. I regret that time does not permit me to deal further with this matter, but hope that the Government will take some action.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member's time has expired.

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