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Tuesday, 26 March 1957

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) in his new capacity has made a very bad start with this statement, which he began by saying that housing is a human problem. Then he completely deserted that tack for a diatribe against the Labour .party. He knows perfectly well, even if he had kept to his brief, that the Government's case is indefensible. He should remember that the Labour party is not on trial. The question that we are debating at the moment is:

What has the Government of the day done in .regard to housing the people of Australia? I should like to bring the Minister back to that. His was a hysterical outburst full of all the nonsense you read about, but it had no basis and certainly had no relation whatsoever to the debate which we are waging here to-night.

I support the Opposition's amendment to the Address-in-Reply in relation to the housing problem, and I would bring the Minister back to the statement of his own leader, the most fatuous, stupid and completely un-understandable statement ever made by a leader of any party in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made that statement in reply to questions by the press concerning housing. He said, " I admit no crisis. I admit no slump ". Earlier, on 7th March, when the housing problem was referred to him by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), he said, " The problem is not a question of finance, but of man-power and materials ". In the land of egg-heads he has laid the largest egg in captivity. He has been out of this House, and not prepared to debate the matter, because he is so at variance and out of touch with the problems of the Australian people. The Menzies statement, the Spooner statement, the Cramer statement completely indicate that the Government has lost all touch with reality and with the problems that face the Australian community. The Prime Minister says, talking off the cuff in one of those statements for which he is notorious, that there are not any problems of finance, that the problem is man-power and' material. That has become almost as' much a bromide as was his statement that he would put value back into the fi.

The support for our contentions is coming from the Liberal party on the other side of the House and from the Liberal party outside the Parliament. It comes from people like the Liberal president of the Building Industry Congress, from the Liberal Minister for Housing in Victoria and from other representative Liberals who say that the Prime Minister is wrong. Why has the Leader of the House kept away from the subject of the housing problem and given us a serious lecture on where Labour is going and why? What has that to do with this debate? If 1 were the Speaker, I say with all humility,

I should have ruled him out of order because he was never on the ball at any stage of his remarks.

The Prime Minister's statement is notorious and does not require reiteration. He said, " I admit no crisis. I admit no slump ". The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in another place, was pleased to be amused at the activities of the Labour party in appointing a fact-finding committee. We found it was imperative for us to meet ordinary people who are unhoused, dismayed at the future, and see no hope from the banks or other institutions to get themselves housed. They came to us quite frankly, and on a non-political basis, and the members of the committee, with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) as chairman, heard their stones - and we heard plenty. Never mind what this House has heard about the housing problem. It is what the people outside feel about it that matters. And if the answer of the Government and the answer of high finance to the problem of housing is the fowlhouse we think it is an unutterably tragic situation. We do not want to make any exaggerations. We do not want to over-state the case because the basic facts of the case are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposition that we put. In Sydney " Truth " last Sunday appeared the following statement under the heading of " No Exaggeration ": -

Truth this week found a family of nine living in a disused fowlhouse at Berowra. They pay £2 a week rent for the fowlhouse They would not give their names to Truth because they, were frightened they would be evicted.

Perhaps the original holders, that grand old English breed, the Buff Orpingtons. wanted to get their home back. Surely the Minister, who has spent 25 minutes denouncing the Labour party, if he has any instincts of decency ought to be worried about the housing problem. We have stated over and over again, until it is boring even us. what the position is in this country. That position has been amplified bv one speaker after another from this side of the House during this debate, which has lasted over a week. We say that 300.000 homes are required in this community to catch up the lag and meet the current demand. We say that 70.000 houses are needed each year; yet the Prime Minister says. " I admit no crisis. This exaggeration can be ignored ". How long can one live in an ivory tower? How long can one forget the demands of the Australian people to be housed according to civilized standards? The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who ought to know better, gives us a diatribe about Labour's difficulties. It is the Government that is in difficulty, and he should know it better than we.

We need 300,000 homes in all, and 70,000 a year, but what are we building? In 1955, the peak year, this Government built 78,299 homes. In 1956 it built 69,909 homes. There has been a drop of nearly 10 per cent. If that persists the housing crisis will be not a crisis but chaos. The Government should consider that fact. It cannot get away from the facts in this matter. Added to the accentuation of this problem is the insane attitude to immigration of the Minister for Labour and National Service. How in the name of God, or in sweet reasonableness, can we provide for the Australians who are already resident in this country if we keep pushing in 115,000 new Australians each year? There has not been a more loyal advocate of immigration than myself. Under the Chifley Government I was chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Council. I was sent abroad to study the position and I do not idly destroy the principle of migration; but I would not stand by and see the old Australian displaced from his home. Nor would I see the new Australian fooled about the prospects in this country. That is what the Minister has to consider, not some sort of by and large devotion to immigration. It is not a sacred cow. If it does not bring the productivity that we need, where must it end? The Minister, realizing this, baled out of his portfolio and gave it to a junior. Now it is being run by apprentices and nothing comes of it.

On the one hand we have the impelling and urgent needs of Australians for homes, and on the other the insolence, arrogance and stupidity of the Prime Minister, as well as an attack from the Minister for Labour and National Service on what Labour is doing. Labour is bringing the Government back to a realization of what politics really means. It is an established principle that the urgent needs of the people should be looked after.

Mr Hasluck - The honorable member

Mr HAYLEN - The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) would be better employed looking after his aborigines. He has a rotten history in that regard. He should have a look at the starving, sun-blinded natives of the Warburton Ranges, and do something about his own portfolio. We demand homes for the Australian people and we will not be content to listen to any sophistry from the Government. Its leading protagonist to-night decided to spend his time talking about the future of Labour instead of homes for the Australian people. It was a complete dereliction of duty. Behind the Prime Minister stands a fearful group of followers. When he says a word on banking or anything else, they obey meekly. We know exactly where they stand. The operative statement of government policy on housing is that of the Prime Minister. What the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) or any other Minister says is unimportant. The Prime Minister said " I. admit no crisis. I admit no slump ". We think that he is completely wrong.

The Minister for the Army is the most fantastic character outside of a Disney film. The other night he said that there were umpteen thousand empty or near empty homes in Australia, in the crowded cities especially, and that we ought to fill them. I thought that this sort of talk was communism. I thought that it was red work. Does the Government intend to take all the unhoused people in the electorates of East Sydney, Watson and Dalley to Vaucluse, Pymble, Wahroonga and other s.!ch salubrious suburbs and say to the inhabitants, " You have a lot of spare room here; you must fit these people in ". Is the Government going to do a house-rationing job in the community? Of course, every one knows how completely ridiculous and wrong that is.

Mr Ward - The Minister for the Army wanted to force the spinsters to take in boarders.

Mr HAYLEN - Not only that, but because he has a key-money mind he is thinking, " What a lovely lot of double housing units we can have. Where one house was before we can now have two ". The whole thing is completely wicked. I cannot believe that the villain of the piece is the poor little old lady, who lives alone in a cottage in

Hillcrest-avenue, because her husband has died and her son, who was previously at the war, has married and gone to live in another suburb. Are we to believe that she, sitting with her aspidistras, and knitting a sock for the Red Cross, is the villain of the housing crisis? How utterly absurd and ridiculous that is, and the Minister knows it! This Minister for sub-division is completely confused by his attempts to make two houses sprout where one grew before. The only way to do that is to find finance for housing, and have a plan. But this Government has no plan. Member after member from the Government side of the House talks about what has happened, and produces statistics. But this is not a statistical debate. If ever a debate were on a human subject it is this one. What does the Government intend to do for all the people who are crowded into emergency housing? What does it intend to do for people who, eleven years after the war, are still living with their in-laws? What does it intend to do for the people who are in fowl houses? It has been established that there are such people.

The statement on housing that the Prime Minister heaved off his chest was the worst boner that has ever been heard in this House. Labour was proud to have a factfinding committee under the impartial chairmanship of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The Liberal party was so worried about it that it sent along a stooge. I personally examined him and when he left he said, " Mr. Haylen, you are an awfully charming fellow but I think that what you told me is perfectly right ". The Prime Minister had told us that it was a question of man-power and materials but we refuted that, and that is why the Government did not like our fact-finding inquiry. There is nothing wrong with a group of parliamentarians, or any citizens, ascertaining facts. Indeed, there is too much whimsy in this House and Labour wants to replace it with fact.

We found out that there were 80,000,000 super, feet of timber at grass and 50.000.000 bricks and a similar quantity of tiles waiting to be used. We found that there was this frightening stockpile of bath heaters, sinks and P.C. items, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has already referred. We found that unemployment in the building industry was between 5 per cent, and 12 per cent. How then could the Prime Minister's statement have any validity? It was the greatest joke in history, and showed him up in all his isolation. The press was kind enough to talk about his being in an ivory tower. He was not even in that, but rather in a state of mental relapse, when he made the statement, because obviously there are men wanting work, and there are resources waiting to be used in the building industry, but this has been prevented by the financial policy of this Government.

Then came the sneer. The Prime Minister is noted for the sneer, but not for performance. He said -

Tt is not surprising thai if one sets out to have a judicial inquiry designed entirely to produce a result one should get (h;it result.

Was he thinking of the Petrov Commission? That is the only judicial inquiry that I have seen since I have been in this House that has deliberately set out to reach a certain decision, and has done so. Ours was not a judicial inquiry. It was an inquiry by a group of Labour men, representing half a million voters in the electorates most concerned by the housing shortage. We sat down to find a formula, and to find a reason for it all. Was there anything wrong in that? I think that the public of Australia will concede that we did a good job, and that it is not we who have to make out a case in defence. It has been made by the Liberals against the Government of the day.

I will give examples from three States. We had a witness before us, called Mr. Kraagen. He is the manager of the New South Wales Sawmillers Association. He does not want all the timber resources of this country to go by the board. On Saturday last, in the " Daily Telegraph ". he issued a challenge to the Prime Minister to come into New South Wales, where the crisis is deepest, and said that he would show him 83 timber mills closed. 80.000,000 super, feet of timber at grass, and 500 unemployed timber workers. In view of those facts, will the right honorable member tell me how man-power and resources can be said to be lacking?

Let us deal with Queensland. Remember what happened last week! In the gallery of this chamber were six members of a Queensland union who came to plead their cause for a job, and a job only. They were employees of the Queensland Housing Commission. They said that if the Government did not change its policy, did not find some money and did not put more blood into the economic bloodstream of the country, they would be dismissed. I was touched by their case. They interviewed a Minister, without result. This is what happened. It is in cold print. This item, which is also from the " Daily Telegraph ", reads as follows: -


Brisbane, Fri. - The Qld. Housing Commission to-day dismissed 452 men working on housing projects in the Brisbane suburbs of Zillmere, Groveley, Stafford, Holland Park, Chermside, and Mount Gravatt. The Housing Commission dismissed the men because of lack of funds.

Yet the Prime Minister dared to tell us that it was a matter of man-power and materials!

In New South Wales, a representative businessman who is more likely to be a Liberal than a Labourite has asked the Prime Minister to have a look at the problem in his State. Unionists have come to Canberra from Queensland at their own expense to plead with the Minister to try to get them jobs with the housing commission. And still the Government persists in saying that the crisis is one of man-power and materials only. How completely stupid! Then, as if to make the position completely firm, as far as our attitude is concerned, the Victorian Housing Minister, Mr. Petty, hit the Government harder than any Labourite when he said -

Australia's home-building industry would disintegrate unless the Commonwealth made more money available.

He said also -

Even a few more months with insufficient work would seriously harm the industry. The industry could deteriorate so much that it would take five years to regain its present production standards.

Therefore, out of the mouths of the Liberals in the community, the Liberal Government in this Parliament is condemned in regard to the housing position. The condemnation does not come from the Labour party. It does not come from the fact-finding committee of which my friend and colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), was the chairman. It comes from an anxiety among the Government's own supporters. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service has said that he will attack the Labour party because it is split into component parts.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The Opposition is the alternative government.

Mr HAYLEN - Of course we are the alternative government, and very soon we will be marching into our rightful heritage. I have only a few minutes left in which to speak, and I would like to say that statements concerning the misdeeds of the Government do not mean very much unless we have an alternative. The Labour party definitely has an alternative. We believe that there should be a nation-wide survey in regard to housing. In 1961 Australia will be a young community because of immigration. There will be a tremendous pressure on housing, hospitals and schools. A general survey ought to be made so that we can see the ultimate limit to which the drive for housing should be developed. West Germany, England and the United States of America have all found a solution to this problem. Are we so dumb and witless as we are represented to be by the Government? Cannot we break the bottleneck of housing, instead of making these "old Bill" statements that the Minister has made in another place - " If you know of a better 'ole, go to it".

What a shocking situation! The Opposition believes that the country cannot have one-brand petrol stations, cannot have luxury pubs, cannot have drive-in theatres and cannot have luxurious homes at Palm Beach if it is to have cottages for people to live in. So the Government had better come to the conclusion that it ought to licence building or suggest that the State governments should do so. Any house over £10,000 should be subject to a licence. The Government cannot know whether the country has sufficient resources to construct luxury homes until it has examined what resources are available.

Finally, the Government should examine the question of powers. I am a unificationist. I think that the Federal Government, representing the Australian people, should have supreme rights in connexion with the housing of the people. If the Government were game - which it is not - to put this matter to a referendum tomorrow, the Opposition would support it in order that it might get the power to do the job. The Opposition has also made that offer in another place, and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber agrees with me concerning it. So far, the Government has not been able to do the job. It has said that it has not the necessary powers. It is easy for the lazy man to say that, but the Government should be dedicated to its duty in this place. When it is considered that decent people are living in fowl houses and the Hargrave Park type of settlement, and when one thinks of the crowded situation in the industrial areas of New South Wales, it will be realized that we have nol done well by the people of this country.

We must get some sort of plan to deal with these matters. I suggest that we must have an overall plan which will take our capacity into consideration. We must know our resources. As I said before, it is necessary to start with the birth-rate and work up. Then those people who want to get the best out of the best of all possible worlds must be controlled. In my view, cottages dotted over the landscape look much more beautiful than a few glamour pubs, a few drive-in theatres and a few rather vulgar homes on the foreshores of Sydney, built by a profiteer. The. Government can take that or leave it, but I think it is the Australian attitude to the whole matter. A real plan has not been drawn up by the Government to deal with this matter. It is disgusting and disturbing that the recently appointed Leader of the Government in this chamber cannot even debate this urgent matter, which we think is most important. In 25 minutes an honorable member cannot encompass the whole of this matter, but I think I have proved, at least, that the Prime Minister is fatuous, foolish and failing in his mentality if he cannot see what is happening in this country. When people desire homes, what a blow it is to read that the leader of the nation has thrown out his chest at a press conference and said, " I do not think that this is a matter of finance; it is a matter of man-power and materials ", while a chap is sitting on his verandah wondering if he will get a job as a painter if he goes to the labour office. A bricklayer says, " ls it my turn next to be put off? " What sort of association with the people of Australia have Government members when they talk like that? The Prime Minister of Australia-

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Who has had a record term of office as Prime Minister.

Mr HAYLEN - All sorts of people can get records. I believe that Rip Van Winkle slept for 100 years. The Minister for National Development is known affectionately as " Old Bill " - not for his age or decrepitude, but because he is a nice bloke. What is his answer to the housing problem? He has said, " If you know of a better 'ole, go to it ". It is shocking that that should be the answer to the Australian people, who were told, during World War I., that we were making the land safe for heroes to live in and who were told during World War II. that they had a right to housing. The final shocking thing is the plight of the returned soldiers. Why should the Government, with all its constitutional power, have a back-log of 25,000 homes? There is no excuse. The Government is receiving £3,000,000 a year in rents. It has no excuse for not making a circulating fund and helping those men who have been waiting for eighteen months and two years for war service homes.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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