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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr J R FRASER (12:38 PM) . - I think that the suggestions made by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and those of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) deserve the commendation of the House and the consideration of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), lt is customary when a war service homes measure is before the House for members on either side to claim, " We built so many war service homes ", and for members on the other side to claim, " We built more than that number ". But the plain fact is that after the end of a war a government does not receive many demands for the provision of housing for ex-members of the forces. I think it is perfectly true to say that in the years immediately following the two major wars, building materials and man-power were not readily available. But those years were the years in which the ex-serviceman was returning to civilian life and had not established himself in his civilian occupation and civilian way of life. So I think that the demand for war service homes comes, not in the several years immediately following the cessation of a war, but in the years after that period. The responsibility falls upon whatever government is in power at the time to see that the needs of the ex-servicemen in this regard are reasonably met.

Also, claims are made concerning sums of money that are made available, year by year, for the provision of war service homes. Sometimes the claims are made in terms of the number of homes provided, and at other times in terms of the sums of money that have been made available. I think that we should have in mind that, in the main, we are providing money and that it has been provided on terms, repayable over a period of years. The money that is so spent is not money lost to the community. It is not money lost to the revenue of the Commonwealth, because immediately the home is completed that money starts to come back to the Government. I believe that there should be some way of recog nizing that return as an offset against the expenditure each year. But the government has many pockets, and what goes out from one may flow back into a different pocket.

Clause 3 of the bill sets out the conditions under which financial assistance towards the purchase or building of a home may be made available to men who have served in a particular sphere of operations. Those conditions - and this easing of conditions - I commend; but I regret to find that the overriding consideration is retained in this measure as it is retained in the principal act itself. That is that, having complied with all the other conditions, the ex-serviceman is required to satisfy the Director that he is married or is about to marry. I make the plea to this House that I have made on previous occasions-

Mr Whitlam - As a bachelor?

Mr J R FRASER - I have established my eligibility for war service homes assistance and I am in the process of building a home. But 1 make this plea to the House as I have on previous occasions.

There are many single men or women who served in the various branches of the services, who do not desire to marry after their return to civilian life but who do desire to have a place of their own in which to live. The provisions of the War Service Homes Act are, in the main, financial provisions only. It is an enactment which only enables the Government to make money available to ex-service men or women to purchase a home. It makes provision, also, for that money to be repaid over a period of years. I can see no reason why that money should not be made available to a single man or woman who has given service to the country in time of war. The single man or woman who served in time of war served as well - with equal vigour - as the married man. And, of course, the single man was a cheaper serviceman. He did not cost the Government quite as much to maintain either during or after the war.

I recall to the House the service given by the nursing services in each branch of the fighting forces - the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. Amongst those women there are many who prefer to live single lives but do desire a place of their own in which to live. I believe that they are just as entitled as anybody else who served, to the financial assistance which this Government will provide under the measure that we are discussing. I suggest to the Minister for Social Services that consideration should be given to that aspect of the matter. I do not think it would involve the Government in a great deal of financial outlay. I do not know why it is necessary to retain that restriction that the applicant must satisfy the Director either that he is married or is about to marry. It might be that such a restriction would be necessary if we were living in times of shortage of money or building materials or building labour. But I think the conditions that obtain to-day would permit the Government to provide finance in these circumstances. I do not think the number of applicants in this category would be very great, and I believe that the Government would be doing the just and right thing if it made that provision. I can see no reason why it should not be made.

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