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Friday, 25 November 1938

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- I have already asked a number of questions of the Minister for Works (Mr.Thorby) concerning housing conditions in Canberra, and the last reply I received was to the effect that a survey was being made of housing conditions, and of the works proposed to be undertaken here, and that 1 would be advised later. I do not wish unduly to hurry the Minister, because I realize that he has only recently taken over his position. As a matter of fact, within the last fifteen months, these activities have been handled by three different Ministers. As I have stated previously, housing conditions in Canberra are going from bad to worse, and the position has now become so acute that if it be not attended to immediately slums will arise. Married people are living in hotels and boarding houses; others are either sharing houses, or living at camping grounds. In other instances, because of the lack of accommodation, men are unable to bring their wives and families to Canberra. Notwithstanding these conditions, the Prime Minister to-day gave a broad hint that the Government had under consideration the provision of additional accommodation at Government House, in anticipation of the Duke and Duchess of Kent coming to Australia next year. I have no objection to providing adequate accommodation for the Governor-General, whoever he may be, but I have a decided objection to money being expended in providing mansions for one section of a community whilst for other sections no accommodation at all is provided. While housing conditions generally in Canberra are so unsatisfactory, the proposal to expend £25,000 on the remodelling of Government House is scandalous. I impress on the Minister theurgency of this matter, and ask him to bring it under the notice' of the Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) in order that the investigation which he promised may be expedited, and a statement may be made to this House. During recent months the press has contained numerous references to this subject, and promises that something would be done have been made in this House. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) gave to the press an outline of the policy which he intended to implement, and promised to make a statement to Parliament, but before he did so, the Cabinet was re-organized and a new Minister was appointed to deal with house construction in this territory. Consequently, Parliament still awaits information on the subject. I ask that a full statement be presented to Parliament at an early date, so that members may know what policy is being pursued.

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