Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 11 November 1948

Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) (Leader of the Australian Country party) . - This bill authorizes the raising of money to be advanced to the States for home building. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has stated chat there is no scarcity of money for housing, but that the essential physical elements required in the construction of homes are in short supply. He gave all the reasons why the housing position is so acute, and dwelt unduly on the scarcity of bricks. I remind him that bricks are not the only material used in the erection of a house. Bricks, timber and fittings nf nil descriptions are in short supply, because of the industrial policy which th

There are at least two matters which the Government was happy to relinquish in favour of the States. One is housing, and the other is the land settlement of ex-servicemen. The Government transferred those two important and onerouresponsibilities to the States after it? efforts to administer them, had ended in the kind of frightful tangle which ischaracteristic of the Government's general administration.. By a National Security Regulation in April, 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who wathen Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, appointed the Commonwealth Housing Commission. That body immediately investigated the housing position, and presented its report on the 25th August. 1944. The report was not encouraging, and did not reflect any credit on the administration and efforts of the Government. In October, 1945, as the result of the bungling and chaos which then existed, this Parliament passed the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act, which transferred to the States the responsibility for the construction of homes. The Commonwealth accepted b part of the financial responsibility. Iti that way, the Government passed the buck to the States, which are now responsible for the administration of the housing scheme and the building programme. After that, according to the budget papers, £11,015,000 was handed to the States in 1946-47 and _ £13,305,000 was handed to them in 1947-4S. and the estimate for this year is £14,130,000, of which £3,126,000 was handed over in the first three months of the present financial year. The handing over of these vast millions of federal money enabled State governments and especially the Labour Government of New South Wales to make extravagant promises forecasting an early end to the bousing shortage. Ex-servicemen and others living in make-shift dwellings or trying to make do in furnished rooms or with their relatives were told during the last State general election that 30,000 dwellings a year would be completed in Yew South Wales alone.

In the middle of 1946, a Brisbane woman and her nine young children were found living in a tent. She said that although the Housing Commission had cold her she would be given a house in two or three weeks, on making inquiries she had found that she had been excluded from the housing project concerned. At Rockdale, a few miles from Brisbane, a family of six was found living in a disused fowl-house which measured 20 feet by 14 feet. The ages of the children, of whom there were four, ranged from thirteen years to nine months. The Housing Commission when contacted indicated that the family was on the waiting list for temporary housing.

It will be recalled that for 1945-46 the target was 24,000 homes throughout Australia. However, the results for the first half of the year were not very heartening, for only .192 houses were completed by the Government's administrative efforts in Queensland and the total for the whole of Australia, was a mere 1,791. Under these conditions, is it any wonder that the Commonwealth passed the whole responsibility for housing on to the State government? The States themselves were quick to see that they would have to use private enterprise on a large scale in an endeavour to overcome the leeway for which the Australian Government's apathy was largely responsible. Although some of the shortage has been caught up, the position is still far from satisfactory. Houses are needed in every city and town and, indeed, in every hamlet in Australia. Much of the blame for this is due to the Australian Government which has shown incredible apathy and complacency in dealing with Communistinspired dislocations and disruptions in the industries that supply the commodities requisite for the effective sheltering of the people of Australia.

Many military and air force establishments which had served their purpose by the end of 1945 were converted into temporary housing accommodation. Some of them in Queensland and in 'Other States although in many cases occupied only as temporary dwellings, have been in use' for almost three years and are still in use. Some at Victoria Park, Brisbane and elsewhere have been the scenes of violent crimes. Such happenings have been to -no small degree attributable to the conditions under which the tenants have had to live. A few days ago, a Sydney stipendiary magistrate described one of the New South Wales temporary housing settlements as " a den of iniquity and a centre of vice and crime because of the congestion there ". More than 5,000 people are accommodated in about 200 army huts each of which is divided into about four flats. Most people living under those conditions are decent and cannot get desirable accommodation elsewhere. But, undoubtedly, some undesirable people * congregate in temporary housing settlements. The obvious solution is to stop up production of bricks, timber, galvanized iron, builders' hardware, and other materials essential for the building of more houses. People should not be compelled to live under such conditions for two and even three years before they and their young families can hope to get a home of their own.

Even when people obtain possession of a home under the various State housing projects anomalies remain to be rectified. In a recent debate in this House, 3 proved that every shilling rise of the basic wage gave -the Federal Treasurer at least £1.000,000 more in extra tax. The story does not end there. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, certain rentals are subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. Shortly, the Commonwealth has accepted responsibility for making up the equivalent of the economic rent of the dwelling based on the basic "wage. With every increase of the basic wage under the formula, the tenant has to pay more rent and more tax and so the Commonwealth is relieved of a part of its responsibility in subsidization of such rentals. The catch is that such increases of the basic wage, are intended to cover merely the rise in the cost of living, and if .the individual .concerned has to pay extra tax and extra rent from .such increases obviously his standards of .living are lower and his family has to do without food and clothing which such . increases were given to provide. With the withdrawal of millions of .pounds in subsidy on staple foods such as milk and potatoes, the .basic wage was bound to rise. The higher prices of these commodities is a direct result .of the Australian Governments policy .in removing subsidies from them. Tie subsidies paid by the Commonwealth kept the price of commodities down. It would have been sensible to keep them in operation, but, so great was the Government's chagrin at the defeat of the recent referendum, that it took a different stand. As the States were to take over the control of prices and rents, it said, " That .being so, there will he no subsidies ".

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I hope the right honorable gentleman will connect his arguments about subsidies with housing.

Mr FADDEN - The principal act provides for the subsidization of rents, so the matter of subsidies '.is wrapped up with the subject before .us. Anyway, .1 have made my -point.

In the same way, the cost of housing, building materials, and a thousand and one other commodities has increased greatly as a direct result of Labour policy in instituting the 40-hour week at a time when production should have been increased. The maintenance of high federal indirect taxes, such a3 pay-roll tax and sales tax on many commodities, including an estimated 5 per cent, of building materials, has also largely contributed to the rise of the prices of houses, furnishings, wireless sets, food and other essentials. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), in his speech, said that certain building materials were still subject to sales tax, and he was contradicted by members of the Government, who said that that was not true. In fact, his statement was true. Many commodities used a9 building materials are still subject to sales tax. Nails, for instance, are taxable.

Mr Rankin - If they can be got.

Mr FADDEN - Yes, and I doubt whether houses could be built without them. 'Nuts and bolts, door handles brackets, coat hooks, bathroom fittings and hinges are all subject to sales tax. Structural steel is also subject to the tax, and it is used extensively in the erection of modern buildings. The cost of building a home is so high that it is beyond the financial capacity of the average man to build one. Only the rich can afford to do so. Others must obtain financial assistance from the Government or building societies. I am armed with the latest figures reflecting the increase of the cost of home-building in Australia. They are as follows: -

Surely such homes are the minimum requirement of a young man and his family !

Dame Enid Lyons - Are those the average costs in Australia, or do they relate to one State?

Mr FADDEN - They are for the State of New South Wales. They prove my argument. The cost of building has risen so high that the 53-year term for repayment set down in the bill is not long enough. The costs and the conditions that I have mentioned will, no doubt, please the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), because he has stated that it is his policy and desire not to make " little capitalists " out of home-seekers in Australia. The policy that is being pursued by this Government is assuredly implementing his wishes in that direction, which. I repeat, is to see that independency of ownership is minimized, and that "little capitalists " are not created.

I understand that under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, a certificate by the Auditor-General of a State is regarded by the Australian Government as sufficient indication that Commonwealth loan funds have been expended in accordance with the terms of the agreement. As many millions of .pounds of Commonwealth public funds are involved each year, and as the Commonwealth Audit Act may be extensively amended by a bill which is at present on the notice-paper, I should like to see provision made for a closer scrutiny of .State accounts by the officers of the Commonwealth Auditor-General's Department. I consider that there is possibly, and probably, insufficient scrutiny, or insufficient vigilance in connexion with the expenditure of these large sums, amounting to .millions of pounds. . I should like to see a tightening up of supervision and I ask that some definite assurance be given in that regard.

Food, clothing and shelter are the three fundamental human essentials. It is evidently the policy of the Australian Labour, party, by any test that may be applied, or from whatever angle the searchlight of investigation is directed, to make each person in Australia less and less self-reliant in respect of those three factors. The implementation of that policy does not go unnoticed by discerning people. The Government realizes that, in order to be consistent with its socialization policy, it must make people more dependent upon it, and, consequently, more subservient to the policy of the Australian Labour party with relation to socialization. Consistent with that policy, we find a continuation of the system of building permits, and of .control in respect of building materials. To-day, it is almost impossible for an individual to build a home on his own initiative. In any case, as 1 have said before, it is only the very rich people who can afford to acquire their own homes. Even after the average person has obtained a permit and arranged for the necessary materials, it is necessary for him to obtain financial assistance, usually through some government instrumentality, in order to put the work in hand. The present state of housing throughout Australia is not such as can result in credit or satisfaction to the Government. Rather has it been respon- sible for much annoyance and disgust to the people of Australia generally.

Suggest corrections