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Friday, 15 May 1942

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) . - I desire to support and amplify the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) regarding the offer of the Government of South Australia to erect 500 suitable and well-constructed Workers Housing Trust dwellings for munitions workers. This subject has been thoroughly ventilated in the press and in addresses from broadcasting stations, and the correspondence is so voluminous that I do not propose to go .through it in detail at this hour, even at the risk of condens ing my remarks to the few principal points. Last week, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a question without notice on this subject, and I received a more comprehensive reply than I expected. .1 make no complaint as to his reply, but in the nature of things, the Treasurer tender! to stress the point of view of the Commonwealth. Therefore, I propose to explain the attitude of the Government of South Australia. The Treasurer did noi make it clear to the House that the Go.vernment of South Australia requested the Commonwealth to remit sales tax on building materials used in all cottages that it erected under its housing scheme. That request did not apply only to the 500 dwellings under discussion which will be erected, 300 at the expense of the Commonwealth and the remainder at the expense of the State. In rejecting the proposal, the Commonwealth Government declared that it would not allow the remission, except in respect of the 500 houses, unless the State amended its Housing Act in such a manner as to make the South Australian Housing Trust a governmental body. The South Australian Housing Trust is, in fact, a government instrumentality, but it has been deliberately kept clear of all governmental control. The State Government is not prepared to amend its legislation in order to get this remission of sales tax.

Mr Curtin - The Commonwealth Government would have to amend the Sales Tax Acts in order to give effect to the proposal.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - That course was suggested to the Commonwealth Government, but it declined to follow it, and then the State Government said that it would not interfere with its Housing Trust because it refused to bring it under political influence. It believed that the Housing Trust of which Sir William Goodman is chairman should remain a State instrumentality free from political control. The Prime Minister (Mi-. Curtin) lias, I understand, admitted that the housing scheme in South Australia, as at present administered, is the best in the whole of Australia.

Mr Curtin - I agreed with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that, whilst we could not remit the tax under the act, we could return to the Housing Trust the amount of tax it would have paid, but the State Government would not agree to that.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES -But only in respect of those 500 houses.

Mr Curtin - That is correct; they are being built for us.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The State Government wanted a remission of sales tax in respect of all housing -undertaken by the South Australian Housing Trust, claiming that it was a governmental body similar to, though not exactly the same as, the housing trusts in Victoria and New South Wales. There is room for a difference of opinion, I agree, but that was the point at which negotiations broke down. The Commonwealth Government was to lend the State £150,000 to erect 300 well-constructed houses in South Australia, but now it is to pay the larger sum of £180,000 for 600 of what has been described by the Premier of South Australia as " contraptions ". It seems to me, as it seems to the Government and people of South Australia, to be deplorable that by governmental action there should be an increase of slum troubles in a State which has made a great effort to dispense with slums and where, in fact, the construction of ordinary houses is on a standard higher than that in other States. In place of that, this Government is to have badly constructed buildings with wretched conveniences. These are being foisted on the State by the Commonwealth even if with the best motive. When the war is over, the cabin cottages will be useless, whereas under the other proposals permanent residences would have been available. I do not want to say anything more on the subject. It is deplorable that it was impossible apparently for the two goverments, owing to amendments of acts being involved, to come to some agreement. The only good feature that I can see out of what has taken place is that I am informed that the Commonwealth Housing Trust and the South Australian Housing Trust are still on the best of terms and that they both hope that, when the war is over, they may be able jointly to resume the erection of good houses such as have been built in the past.

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