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Thursday, 11 November 1948

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- As this clause deals with the application of moneys for housing purposes, I submit that honorable members will be in order in suggesting ways in which the money may be more wisely spent or distributed than those which the Government proposes. I believe that the Government, in expending approximately £2,000,000 on the construction of administrative offices in Canberra, is utilizing valuable labour and material which can be employed to better advantage in building houses. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) praised his department, and claimed that a record number of houses was built in 1947-48. He overlooked the fact that the building programme i9 only keeping pace with the number of homes which the Commonwealth Housing Commission regards as the normal requirements of Australia, mid is not overtaking the leeway of 300,000 homes. The Minister stated, in effect, that the Government does not propose to use labour to pull down homes for the purposes of slum clearance. The corollary to that statement is that the Government should not use valuable labour on public works when the manpower and materials are urgently required for housing the people. I do not deny that the Government is assisting in the construction of many homes, but private enterprise is doing even better. Doubtless the Minister will reply that the materials required for the administrative offices are different from those required for homes. In some respects, such a statement will be correct, but the honorable gentleman will not bo able to convince any person that bricks, timber and skilled labour which will be used in building the administrative offices could not be better employed in the construction of homes for the people. We have obtained artisans from the United Kingdom to accelerate the Government's building programme, but some of them are employed in patching Parliament House. To-day, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the Minister for Works and Housing to inform him when the new Parliament House would be built.

Mr Conelan - That is not true.

Mr WHITE - The honorable member asked a question about the new Parliament House.

Mr Conelan - That is different. The honorable member for Balaclava should tell the truth.

Mr WHITE - What was the purport of the honorable member's question?


Mr WHITE - The honorable member for Griffith is not sure of what he said.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The Chair will not permit the honorable member for Griffith to interject in order to reply to the honorable member for Balaclava. Incidentally, the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava are somewhat wide of the clause.

Mr WHITE - I am emphasizing that the Government should practise what it preaches. It should not waste labour, imported and local, on the construction of administrative offices when the housing programme is of greater importance. Who will say that the demands of any department are of greater importance than the need to provide shelter for people without homes? I agree that departments in Canberra should be properly accommodated, but the Government should not construct administrative offices until the leeway in housing has been overtaken.

I now wish to make some practical suggestions to the Minister. I know that he is enthusiastic, and if he will adopt my proposals, the money to which this bill relates will be spent to greater advantage. Recently, I directed the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to the shortage of zinc oxide which is required for the manufacture of paint and of spelter for .galvanizing iron. Paint and galvanized iron are in short supply because substantial quantities are being exported. I also asked a question about the shortage of electrical fittings, large quantities of which are being exported. Australia makes sufficient electrical fittings to meet the needs of the local market, but because of large exports, the local demand is not being satisfied and houses cannot be completed. The Minister has also stated that sales tax has been removed from practically every item used in the building trade. I consider that all items required in the building trade should be exempt from sales tax. Thi9 impost is still applied, I understand, to certain lines of builders' hardware, and is a factor in preventing the reduction of building costs. The Minister should also explore the possibility qf permitting the importation under customs by-law of goods required in the building trade. Oregon is an instance. In South Australia, there is a great demand for that timber which is not, in a sence, competitive with our native timbers. The entry of baths and sinks should also be permitted under customs by-law, because the shortage of such fittings is preventing the completion of many houses. The importation of such fittings can be closely watched so that it will not injure Australian industries. The Governmentshould also take a strong stand against the Building Workers Industrial Union. The Communist secretary of that organization has visited joinery shops in Melbourne and has scattered the .skilled staffs. The organization unsuccessfully submitted certain claims to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, .and to a Commonwealth conciliation commissioner, but disrupters and saboteurs in the building trade went to factories-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss that subject.

Mr WHITE - The Government must deal with that industrial problem, and ensure that thousands of ex-servicemen, who are awaiting training as plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, receive their instruction and obtain employment in industry as quickly as possible. Of course, the Communists are delighted when many people have no homes. Discontented people - and homeless people are often discontented - suit the ideology of those disrupters. 1 strongly advise the Minister to retard the activity on public works in order that it may not interfer with the housing programme. If I misrepresented the honorable member for Griffith, when 1 stated that he wanted the new Parliament House built-

Ma-. Conelan.. - The honorable member .misrepresented me.

Mr WHITE - I hope that the new Parliament House will be forgotten until the leeway in housing has been overtaken.. The provision of homes for the people must be the first consideration. The amount of £14,000,000, which this bill will make available to the States, should be expended wholly on the construction of homes, .and should- not be wasted on other projects. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) has urged workers not to over-produce-


Mr WHITE - Such advocacy should not be tolerated. I urge the Minister to heed the suggestions which members of the Opposition have advanced during this debate because their adoption would help the Government to obtain greater production.

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