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Thursday, 11 November 1948

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - I like the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). He is full of youthful enthusiasm. Whatever he says, he says with real vim. Although he occasionally delves into the past, generally he looks around about him, keeps his ear to the ground and makes a remark or two that he hopes will be acceptable to his constituents. From that stand-point, I thought that he did remarkably well in the speech that he has just delivered. However, from the stand-point of the argument that has been advanced by honorable members opposite over a long period of time, he made a mistake. Since I have been a member of the Parliament, I have frequently heard Government supporters relate the history of the last twenty years in order to show how infinitely better conditions are under this Government than they were under any other government. En relation to the housing problem, I have heard supporters of the Government say to honorable members on this side of the House, " What did your government do in the 1930's when the people wanted houses? Nothing". This afternoon the honorable member for Martin told us the reason for that. He said that there was no constitutional power to do it. That disposes once and for all of that argument, and I am delighted that it should have been disposed of by a Government supporter. However, I have not the slightest doubt that the same old ghost will appear again.

What surprised me very much was the rather feeble use that was made by the honorable member of the good old referendum argument. It is a remarkable fact that in every debate that takes place in this House honorable members opposite seize upon the referendum on rents and prices as the cause of the many ills from which we are suffering. If they do not say that the cause of our ills was the last referendum, they say it was the referendum of 1944. If ever two referendums were thoroughly and completely dealt with by the Australian people, it was those two. If the Australian people, are as gullible as honorable members opposite seem to believe they are, the outlook for the future of this nation is not very bright. If honorable members opposite consider that the people voted at the last referendum in the way in which they did solely because of the eloquence of members of the Opposition, they have not a very high regard for the intelligence of the Australian people. It is sheer moonshine to lay at the door of the referendum on rents and prices the blame for all our housing difficulties. This Government controlled prices until the 20th September of this year. The increase of building costs since then has not been noticeable, so far as I know. It certainly has not been ascertained precisely. The increase during the previous twelve months, however, was a very remarkable one. There were several reasons for it. One of them was the failure to produce the needed commodities. Another was the failure, until quite recently, of this Government to encourage, at any rate by words, proper production by those engaged in industry. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) recently appealed for an increase of production, and that appeal was overdue. Last week the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), in an article in the Australian Worker, urged the workers to be careful not to produce too much and to produce only sufficient for themselves and their families. I should like to know how that doctrine can be interpreted. How can any worker in any industry, unless he be a primary producer, limit his production to the needs of himself and his family? If the proposal of the Postmaster-General is carried into effect, production will be limited generally. I regard that statement as being one of the most serious and damaging statements that have been made by a member of the Australian Government for many years, particularly in view of the fact that the Prime Minister had only a few days previously made a plea that was completely opposed to it. It is a blot upon the governmental record of the occupants of the treasury bench.

Whenever a bill is introduced in this House, I make it my business to find out first what is good about it. That may appear to some people to be a peculiar attitude for a member of the Opposition to adopt, but it seems to me to be the only practical one. In relation to this bill, there was one passage in- the Minister's second-reading speech that caused me some satisfaction. I was about to say it caused me considerable satisfaction, but that would hardly be a correct statement, because my satisfaction is limited by the Minister's words. At the end of his speech, the honorable gentleman, said -

Although the agreement is primarily intended to make provision for rental housing, it is also provided in the agreement that the houses may lie sold subject to certain conditions, and negotiations with the States to settle the administrative procedure in this connexion are now in train.

That shows that at least there is a realization of the need for some provision for the purchase of houses to be included in ti re Common wealth and State Housing Agreement. We are told that the administrative machinery is about to be established. When the agreement was first discussed in this House, it was pointed out that any housing scheme that did not provide for the possibility of ownership was not a good one. I believe, -is all honorable members on this side of the House believe, that in the ownership of their homes by the people lies the greatest possible security for the future welfare of this country. A person's own home is a much clearer place to him than is a house that he rents. There is something in the knowledge that a man's home is a place from which he cannot be turned out which gives him confidence to face the world, and which provides his family with the background of security and stability which is necessary to produce good citizens. Nevertheless, in most government housing schemes to-day the emphasis is on houses to rent, or, in other words, on ownership by governments. In my view, the more home ownership is in government hands the less likely we are to achieve that freedom and splendour of citizenship that makes a free and splendid people. A great point of difference between the Opposition and the Government is that we believe in the diffusion of ownership throughout the community, whereas honorable gentlemen opposite believe in . the concentration of ownership in government hands.

Mr Lemmon -: - Every one of those 17,000 houses is for sale.

Dame ENID LYONS - They have not hitherto been offered for sale. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said -

The agreement is primarily intended tomake provision for rental housing.

If the houses are for sale, why did the honorable gentleman make that statement? The honorable gentleman alsosaid -

It is also provided in the agreement that the houses may be sold subject to certain conditions.

When the Minister is replying to thisdebate, I invite him to state the terms and conditions under which private ownership may be achieved. I ask him to furnish to honorable members full details regarding the price and the terms under which the houses are to be made available. The provision in the agreement enabling thehomes to be purchased gives me somehope. I sincerely trust that that principle will be extended and that in laterschemes greater facilities will be provided for people who desire to possess their homes. There can be no real stability in the community unless that is provided for.

Mr Lemmon - The moneys sought tobe appropriated under this bill are to be utilized for the purpose of makingfurther advances to the States, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The agreement sets out the conditions under which houses may be sold.

Dame ENID LYONS - That in noway sets aside anything that I have said, nor does it set aside my view that thesuccess of all housing schemes lies in concentration on ownership rather than-, on rental. If the Minister contends that all hone-Table members on the Government side of the House believe in private ownership, all I can say is that their published utterances tend to belie his belief. Not long ago a man whose name I believe is Bulmer, who is the secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union in New South Wales, made a statement tothe effect that he was opposed to theownership of homes because the ownership of a home tended to rob a worker of" his militancy. What a frightful thing it would be to rob a man of his militancy, to give him contentment where previously he knew only discontent, and to give him a feeling of peace and happiness where otherwise he might have led a life of discord and unhappiness ! . The opinion held hy Mr. Bulmer is shared by many honorable members on the other side of the House. It is against that view that [ register my strong protest. For that reason, I applaud the words in the Minister's speech which I quoted as they give us hope for the future, that under these government housing schemes some people will be able to purchase their own homes.

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