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Thursday, 11 November 1948


Mr HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government in must take responsibility for any advice it accepts. If it accepts wrong advice it is obviously culpable. Professor Copland may have been the Government's economic adviser, but he was not its adviser on housing. He has pointed out its ineptitude and smug complacency. The m-nth of his statements is aptly illustrated by statistics which' show that 1.7,100 buildings were erected in New South Wales in 1939 and only 16,825 in the year ended the 30th June, 1948. So instead of going forward we are falling back with the housing programme. The lack of houses will remain as a continuing crisis unless the Government is willing to tackle the problem strongly and with common sense. The failure to build more homes can be attributed basically to the failure of the Government to ensure sufficient output of essentials for the production and transport of building materials. We have been drumming that fact into the minds of members of the Government ever since the war ended. Nothing can be said about it now that is not already trite. But however trite the statement may be, it must be repeated that every ton of coal lost affects the production of some essential for housing. Let us consider three of these essentials - bricks, tiles and steel. I do not propose to say anything about galvanized iron at the moment because I cannot even think of galvanized iron and remain calm. The production of bricks is 20- per cent, less than it was in 1938-39, the year that preceded the war. That is an indictment of the Government. Il is useless for it to try to defend itself by saying that it cannot reach its target because of the lack of basic materials. The provision of sufficient materials is its responsibility. Three years ago we emphasized the primary need for the production of a stock-pile of buildingmaterials. We still have no stock-pile. The output of terra-cotta tiles for the seven months of 1947-48 was only slightly higher than that of 1938-39. I know that in reply the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) will say something like this: "At least we are doing something about housing, but what did you do? Nothing!" Doubtless that will be his opening gambit, but the present production of essentials like bricks and tiles does not approach the production in 1938-39. Then,, the output of steel is less than 100,000 tons monthly compared with 97,500 tons in 1938-39, which means that the production of such an essential foi home building is only comparable with that of 1938-39. The restriction of the output of coal by the Communistcontrolled miners' federation is becoming a part of our national production set-up. Industries. including those producing building materials, have to adjust themselves to these set-backs. Production difficulties will not be solved by the Government's waiting until the miners are out on a limb, and then using brave words and threats, well knowing that it will not be called to back them up with action. Surely, the Government realizes that the acceptance of coal production hold-ups in industry as a regular occurrence is bringing into being a psychology that is reflected in lowered output generally. The success of the Government's housing scheme depends on production. The Prime Minister ha9 belatedly recognized this, although we have been hammering it into his mind for years. He showed his recognition of it last month in an address to a conference of trade unions in the Sydney Trades Hall convened by his Government in the hope of persuading the workers to increase production. The conference was attended by 140 delegates of 64 federal trade unions.

In the issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 6th November, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said at that conference -

I think it is a disgrace to the trade union movement that, when there are differences between unions, they cannot find- some way to settle the disputes without depriving the community of things it should have.

I am not always, able to see the reason that they drive mcn to strike.

The newspaper article continued -

Mr. Chifleysaid it would be a long time before people could get. many of the. things they wanted..

The great need, for houses, public works, electric light undertakings, schools, and other modern amenities could not be met, no matter how much money was available.

Mr. Chifleyadded ;

What is short to-day is not- money, bub willing hands.

Those strong words were wrung from the Prime Minister in extremis after he had at; last realized that increased production, w-as essential for this nation's welfare. No sooner- had those words- been uttered by the right' honorable gentleman than the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) came into' the arena. In an article published over his> name in the Australian Worker, the official organ of the- Australian "Workers Union, on the 3rd November, Senator Cameron said-and I. ask the House and the country to note that this was not a chance observation, but a- considered statement prepared for publication -

If, as the result of- workers increasing the productivity' of the: soil and increasing the production of- materials and. commodities of ill kinds, the wealthy continue to be made wealthier and more powerful economically and politically, and the expenditure on preparations for war in times of peace continues to be increased and military conscription or slavery to be extended, workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by increasing production beyond' what would be necessary to maintain themselves and their families . . . Increasing strike action,, however, by workers nowadays in most countries in the world would indicate that the dangers of producing surpluses is being realized' by thom where the necessary provision is not being made to raise their standards of living and to provide for co-operative and peaceful trading among, the nations. Coal-miners, for example, have few. if any, illusions about the matter.

I ask the House and the' country to note the class hatred expressed by the Minister in that statement.

Here, once again, this Minister - as if quite customary with. Ministers in thi;-. Government - expressed, a personal view., and in expressing that view he sabotaged completely the Prime Minister's appeal for greater production. He sabotaged., not only the housing programme, but also the industrial effort of Australia. Ministers of ' the Labour Government, the socalled leaders, of the Australian Labour party, set both the time- and tempo for production in industry. On the one hand the Prime Minister appealed for increased production, because of the. great housing shortage and the need for building up the economy of this country, . whilst on the other hand one of his Ministers said to the workers, in effect, " It is all right, boys, this appeal for increased production is a fallacy and a. myth. The more you produce the worse it will be for you ,:. This is a sort of: fillip for the miners. Even while he was addressing the coalminers, the Prime Minister knew full well that somewhere the completion . of houses was being held up, and the families of workers were being deprived of the ordinary amenities and comfort.' of civilization-..

A great deal has. been said about, the Australian Government's failure to train ex-servicemen under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme so thai additional skilled, labour will be available for the building, trade. Thi? is one of the factors which has comtributed to the collapse of the government housing- scheme. Honorable mem; hers- and the people of this country are aware of the plan that the Government evolved to train ex-servicemen who had no opportunity of training prior to the war, so that they could take up useful occupations. It was decided to open the building industry to those men. As I have previously pointed, out, in July, 1939 150,900 persons were engaged in the building- industry. In 1948, 168,000 persons were so engaged - an increase of only 11 per cent. In the Commonwealth Public .Service the increase in the same period was 101,400 employees, or more than 150 per- cent. The total number of persons employed in- the service- now if 169,200. Whilst we could do without this galaxy of public servants in over inflated government departments, we cannot do without homes for the people. Although the Government has encouraged an increase in departmental staffs under its own control by no less than 150 per cent, compared with pre-war figures, it has encouraged the training of ex-servicemen and. other mechanics in industry has only increased in. the same period to a degree that has increased the total number of employees by only 11 per cent. The reason for that is the refusal of the Communistcontrolled Building Workers' Industrial Union to permit these men to be trained. The Communist policy is against the construction of houses and other- units essential to the national economy. The Government has bowed to the wishes of that union, with the result that the building trades have not gained much skilled labour. The Government's failure to train ex-servicemen for the building trades was publicly criticized by the president of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Ken Bolton, in the November issue of Reveille, the official organ of the league. In an article headed " Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Muddle! - Who is Right?' Mr. Dedman and Mr. Bolton can't Agree", the views of both the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.. Dedman) and the State president of the league are stated. With regard, to the position in New South Wales, Mr. Bolton said -

In 1939 there were 47,010 men in the building industry, while in 1948 there are only 38,710; this at a time when ex-servicemen are screaming for homes.

The Building Workers'' Industrial Union and the Plumbers' Union, whose representatives sit on the Industrial Committees which govern the intake of trainees, have said, " No more trainees', using as their excuse, that there are insufficient building materials available. Mr. Dedman endorses, this opinion, or should I say excuse.

The answer to that one is that for the month of May, 1048, Commonwealth Employment Bureau figures indicate that 1,371 unfilled applications were received from private employers for building tradesmen.

In other words, 1,371 employers already have sufficient materials to carry out 1,371 building operations. In addition, employers spend hundreds of pounds in advertising for tradesmen. Pick up a- copy of the Sydney Morning Herald and just count up the nun ber of people who want carpenters and plumbers. Now! Would they advertise, i' they did not have materials?

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said repeatedly during the debate on the Estimates thai the basic reason why these men were not being trained was the shortage of materials. If there are 1,371 vacancies in New South Wales for building tradesmen, it is reasonable to assume that thenis sufficient material available to provide 1,371 men with work: Mr. Bolton wen' on to say -

Yes, there's 3,045 still waiting to be trained . they are made up of carpentry 2,052, brick laying 064, plumbing 163, and plastering 166 These are authentic figures taken from thi> official minutes of the New South Wale,Reconstruction Training Committee, held on the 7th October, 1948. Mr. Dedman can'; explain this lot away.

There is a demand for skilled men, Ye men are awaiting training.

The greatest blight upon our young people is that they must share houses with others. Janet Kalven, in a book entitled, The Task of Women in thi Modem World, referred to the home. If I had to preach a sermon, I should use a passage from that book as my text. Il the light of the figures that I propose to quote, I urge the Minister to take not' of it.. Janet Kalven wrote -

The home is at once an economic and industrial centre preparing goods for family use; a school in which the young are introduced tithe universe; a sanctuary of rest and relaxa tion; a temple dedicated to the praise of God

That refers to the home and not to thihouse; There is ' a great difference between the two. The people of Australia want, homes., The census of June, 1947. showed that, at that time, 116,828 family groups were sharing houses. Thiaverage Australian house has two, or at the most three, bedrooms, one bathroom and one lavatory. According to that census, in 271 instances five or monfamilies were sharing a single house Can one imagine anything more destructive to the morale of those families? The shortage of houses is the major problem that confronts us to-day. The census showed, further, that four families were occupying each, of 818 houses, threefamilies. each of 4,446 houses, and two families each of 25,002 houses.







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