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Wednesday, 27 March 1957

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) .- 1 join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and all other members of the Opposition in supporting wholeheartedly this move to censure the Government. We are not alone in believing that the Government should be censured, because every State Premier, whether Liberal or Labour, has identified himself with our amendment.

Mr Turnbull - They have not.

Mr MINOGUE - Yes, they have. The Liberal Premier of Victoria and the Liberal Premier of South Australia have told the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in no uncertain terms what they expect this National Government to do. It is deplorable that such a housing crisis should have come about, but it has been coming for the last five or six years. If I am accused this afternoon of repeating statements and warnings that I have voiced in this House year after year, I shall not apologize for doing so, because ever since this Government came into office it has been apparent that the housing shortage would eventually become as acute as it is to-day. We of the Labour party agree with the Government that there must be immigration to this country, but we do not agree that hundreds of thousands of immigrants should be sent to all States of the Commonwealth without making preparations to house them.

Honorable members opposite blame the New South Wales Government for the housing shortage in that State, but the responsibility for the shortage lies on the shoulders of the National Parliament. I thought that the Prime Minister had been misreported when I read recently a press report to the effect that he had said that in two or three years things would balance themselves out in the field of housing, but apparently the report was accurate. When the Parliament was opened a few days ago, I heard the Governor-General refer in his Speech to arrears of housing; so, evidently, the advisers of His Excellency were well aware that there was a shortage of houses in Australia.

The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said that everything is all right in Western Australia, but when I was there a few months ago I heard dozens of people complain of the difficulty of obtaining accommodation. I have a cousin who is employed by the Rural Bank in Geraldton, and I visited him. He is paying £5 5s. a week for a verandah and one small room. Friends of mine who have approached the Hegney brothers, two members of the Western Australian Parliament, have been waiting for two or three years for the chance to get a home. Therefore, it would not appear that there are homes empty to-day in Western Australia. It does no credit to the honorable member for Perth when he says that plenty of homes are available in that State. There is unemployment in the building industry in Western Australia, and men engaged in the industry have been told they should be satisfied with two days' work a week. Possibly some of those men will go to Sydney to look for jobs there, and the shortage of houses in that city will become worse than it is now.

We have heard spokesmen for the Government make promises in this Parliament to ex-servicemen that they would be helped to obtain homes. I ask the Prime Minister this afternoon: When will the time come when an ex-serviceman can obtain a loan from the Government to enable him to buy a home on a cash basis? Honorable members opposite say that the Government gives ex-servicemen this and that, but many thousands of ex-servicemen are unable to obtain housing loans. I have in my hand a letter written to me by an exserviceman who has just signed a contract for the purchase of a home. He was short of £1,000, which he had to borrow. He was obliged to agree to pay interest on that money at the rate of 10 per cent. His interest payments on the loan will be £1 18s. 3d. a week. That case is typical of many others.

This Government will, of course, bc defeated at the next general election. When Labour is returned to office then, it will have to provide finance for the loans which members of this Government, sticking out their chests, say they are giving to our ex-servicemen. The Government is not giving loans to the ex-servicemen. An ex-serviceman who applies for a loan from the War Service Homes Division is told that, if he wants to build or buy a house within a short time, he must borrow the necessary money from a private bank, an insurance company or anywhere else that he can raise it, because the Government cannot make him a loan for eighteen months. In eighteen months, this Government will not exist. When a Labour government has come into power, it will be forced to make provision for lending the money that honorable members opposite claim that this Government is lending to ex-servicemen now. Ex-servicemen who wish to buy houses are being forced to raise loans for sixteen or eighteen months from private sources at high rates of interest. In the name of justice, how can an ex-serviceman with a wife and family to care for carry on under those circumstances?

There are 30,000 homeless people in New South Wales. Last Monday, at the Glebe magistrate's court a woman with a child of eight months of age in her arms was given 24 hours' notice to vacate the premises in which she was living. The magistrate said to the police, " You had better take this woman to see her member of Parliament. It is his job and the Housing Commission's job to find her a home ". She was classed as a trespasser in the place in which she had been living. It was owned by the Perpetual Trustee company, which had put in a caretaker. He had let in the woman and her husband and had charged them £3 10s. a week in rent. When that was found out, proceedings were taken and the couple were given 24 hours' notice to vacate the premises. When my daughter telephoned me at the Commonwealth Bank building in Martin-place. Sydney, and told me of the case, I said. That is a State matter". A policeman had taken the woman to see her State member at Parliament House in Sydney. Honorable members opposite say that the New South Wales Government should provide homes for homeless people in that State, but I say that it is this Government which should find the homes. It is taking 15s. of every £1 of the taxes collected in New South Wales. Honorable members opposite boast that the Government is giving money to the States at 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, interest, but that money has been raised from the taxpayers.

The Government has boasted of the loan moneys that it gives to the States. Let me tell honorable members of another case which will illustrate the present position in New South Wales. I know of a young couple who have been married for fifteen months. They acquired a very small business in Leichhardt and then they tried to find a house or a room near to their place of business. Having bought the business, they had little money to spare, so they had to look for rented accommodation. Eventually, they had to go to South Hurstville, 15 miles away, to get a room. The landlord was a wool classer, who was going away into the country, and he told the young couple that they could stay for four or five months. That period will be up within two weeks. On each of the last two Saturdays, they have inserted an advertisement in the " Sydney Morning Herald ", seeking accommodation. The cost of each advertisement in that paper is £5. They have also inserted advertisements in local newspapers. They are prepared to pay at least £6 a week for accommodation within 5 miles of the Leichhardt Town Hall. The wife is working and, as they have no children, they would not cause much inconvenience to any one who gave them the shelter they require. Nevertheless, they cannot find a room within a radius of 10 miles of the centre of Sydney. Yet we have to listen to the cries of the Menzies-Fadden Administration, to the excuses of the men now in office who have starved these people time and time again over the years.

Ex-servicemen in Sydney come to me day after day pleading for a shortening of the time that they have to wait for finance for a war service home. But they cannot be helped. They still have to wait sixteen or eighteen months for finance to build or buy a home through the War Service Homes Division. If they do not want to wait so long they have to borrow the money from private financial institutions and pay on it the tremendous interest rate of 10 per cent., until their money eventually comes to them through the official channels. Not only are they involved in a high interest charge on the capital, but they also have to pay solicitor's and mortgagee's fees, which raise the rate of interest, in effect, to 12 per cent, or 15 per cent. This is what the men who fought for this country in war are forced to do because of this Government's do-nothing policy.

The Government has not done the job that it promised in 1949 it would do. During the 1949 election campaign the parties now in office promised, through the present Prime Minister, to bend all their energies to seeing that young married people got a home to live in. But ever since then the housing position has been going from bad to worse. The Chifley Labour Government entered into an agreement with the States in respect of housing, and honorably carried out that agreement. It said to the States. "We will find the money if you will build the homes ". Today, in this great nation, timber yards, brick-yards and saw-mills are closing down, and hundreds of men are being thrown out of employment because the Government's policy of drift has put the home-building industry into the doldrums. Yet the Menzies Government and its representatives and supporters have the colossal effrontery to say that there is no crisis, and that everything will level itself out in a couple of years' time.

Last week the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), the estate agent who lives in a magnificent home of seven or eight rooms, said that there are 40,000 people in New South Wales, spinsters and single men, who are living in homes not fully occupied, which could be used to relieve the housing shortage. I ask the Minister for the Army how many boarders or lodgers he has in his big house. Honorable members opposite talk about socialism and all kinds of "' isms ", but the Minister for the Army would compel a person who bought his own home, and spent his life savings doing it, to take in star boarders or lodgers. That is the estate agent speaking. He is the man whose land was acquired by the New South Wales Government on behalf of exservicemen who fought for this country in war, and, because he did not like the price offered, refused to accept the cheque, hoping that the New South Wales Labour Government would be beaten at the next election and be replaced by an anti-Labour government which would give him a higher price for the land. That matter was ventilated in this House three or four years ago. The Minister will be sadly disillusioned if he still thinks that the New South Wales Labour Government will be beaten on the next occasion it faces the electors. The next government to be thrown out of office by the electors, irrespective of whether it remains in office for another three months, six months or twelve months, is the Menzies Government. The results of the next general election for this House will be a repetition of the results of the federal by-election for Flinders and the State by-election for Ashfield. Four years ago there was no mistake about the fact that the government of this country was being so badly managed that the people wanted it changed.

Mr Cleaver - Does not the honorable member know that we hold the Flinders seat to-day?

Mr MINOGUE - You may hold Flinders to-day, but you will not hold it to-morrow, and I can assure the honorable member that when the opportunity arises we will march to our places on the treasury bench, and there will be homes for the people. The immigrants we are bringing to this country to help provide us with a population more appropriate to the area we inhabit are deserving of a home when they arrive here. But it is impossible to find a home in New South Wales.

The Governor-General told us in his Speech - possibly he was told to do so by his advisors - that the aged people in Australia would be looked after. But what chance have aged people and pensioners of competing in the market for homes, when young couples in the prime of their lives are able to offer £6 a week for a room or two? What chance has a pensioner living on the paltry pittance of £4 a week, which this Government gives him, of competing for a home? Yet the Government is boasting that it is providing accommodation for aged people. It introduced a measure to encourage the building of homes for the aged, and that was all very well. On the occasion of the introduction of that measure I gave full marks to the Government for the principle inherent in what it proposed to do. But I said at the time that the total subsidy of £1,500,000 a year, to assist institutions throughout the whole of

Australia to build homes for the aged, was too little, and that the conditions attached to the granting of the subsidy were too restrictive. My contention that they are too restrictive is borne out by the fact that although for two succeeding years the sum of £1,500,000 has been voted by this Parliament for the purpose, scarcely half of it has been used, the reason being that the provisions of the law make it impossible for institutions which care for old people to qualify for a subsidy. The institutions have to find 50 per cent, of the cost of any home that they wish to build before the Government will subsidize them with the other 50 per cent. They have to own the land on which the home is to be built. Many people give their whole adult lives to the charitable work of finding accommodation for the aged and helping them in other ways, yet this Government offers a mere £1,500,000 a year in assistance, and only on condition that the same amount is raised by the charitable workers.

Municipal councils are doing a good job, and I was pleased to see in the press this morning a report of a meeting concerned with housing which was attended by many prominent social workers and officials. This is a cause in which I have interested myself for many years and which, as honorable members know, has been the subject of many of my speeches in this House. The report reads -

The Old People's Welfare Council of New South Wales was formed at a meeting in Sydney Town Hall yesterday."

The main object of the council is to investigate and promote better living conditions for old people in New 'South Wales.

In this work it will co-operate with existing Governmental, municipal and voluntary organizations.

It will help provide facilities for physical and mental recreation, and the relief of ill-health, poverty and distress.

The important persons who took part in that meeting include Sir Hugh Poate, who was elected chairman of the council's provisional executive committee, Miss M. Halse Rogers, who was elected secretary, Dr. A. Ungar, who was elected Treasurer, Bishop R. C. Keile, Monsignor F. McCosker, Reverend W. D. O'Reilly, Mr. M. C. Alder, Mr. P. J. Baldwin, Mrs. W. H. Cullen, Mr. J. Luscombe, Mr. G. D. Mackay, Dr. O. Mater, Mr. S. Morrell and Miss K, Ogilvie. Dr. Mater is Health Officer of the Sydney City Council. Four years ago he was a Liberal. He went to England for surgery for a throat infection, and since his return he has given all his time to trying to improve facilities in Sydney to bring them into line with those he saw in England.

In Sydney we have great benefactors like Sir Edward Hallstrom, who is famous as the father of Taronga Zoological Park and, for the good of the nation, has brought many animals from overseas. But he has never forgotten the human side of life, and donates a refrigerator worth £130 every year for disposal to assist the pensioners of West Sydney to help whom a dance is held annually in Sydney Town Hall. This year's dance will be held on 27 th September, and 1 invite all members of the Liberal party who can do so to attend it and help to swell the proceeds, which are to be devoted to the cause of the pensioners.

The Menzies-Fadden Administration has ruined this country. Years ago wages in Australia were, only a few pounds a week. How could the people who are now elderly have made provision for their old age? Surely it would not be too much for the Government to give a decent home life to poor aged folk who have sent their sons and daughters overseas to fight for your home and mine. Inflation would not be aggravated by giving them a little more with which to buy nourishment in the coming winter. When tea, sugar and everything else goes up in price, the pensioner must pay, just as does any one else. Any extra money that was given to the pensioner would be back in circulation a week later.

I have previously mentioned a certain organization and, though I do not think the people concerned would thank me for doing so, I intend to mention it again. I refer to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which every month helps 18,000 people. Every day, especially in the last two or three days before pension day, unfortunate people flock to the society for assistance. Honorable members know the price of clothing and boots. How can these people be expected to clothe themselves on the present pension? Honorable members calmly sit here and give money to Asian countries - though I admit that the Labour party has supported this - and allow their own kith and kin in this great country of Australia to starve.

We of the Labour party have the support of every State in censuring this Government. We have the support of at least two Government supporters in this Parliament. Last night the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) made a similar appeal to my own, and condemned the Government for its inactivity. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) similarly denounced the Government. If one were to have a private conversation with any Liberal party member who possessed some degree of humanity one would have further confirmation of the real feeling on the Government benches.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came here the other night and said, in his coldblooded way, " In a couple of year's time this will balance itself out ". The impression he gave was that it was not more money that was needed - if necessary this could be provided - but more materials and labour. He was afraid that giving more money would accentuate inflation. I remind him that in Sydney to-day hundreds of men are looking for jobs, and 18,000,000 bricks are stored at grass, awaiting use. How can any one say that Labour ought not to condemn the Government? I hope and trust that Labour's opportunity will come. Labour will remember the good work that servicemen did for this country overseas and will treat them as they should be treated. They will no longer have to go to pawn shops or elsewhere and borrow money at 10 per cent., 15 per cent., or 20 per cent. The Government makes ex-servicemen wait eighteen months for the money that they need if they are to get a home. It is the Labour party that will be paying out that money, and it will be more shame to supporters of the present Government.

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