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Thursday, 28 March 1957

Mr BRUCE (Leichhardt) .- The remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) have reminded me that, although for many seasons past Queensland has exported wheat, this year it has had to import wheat to meet its domestic requirements. That being so, it would appear that there is a lack of energy on the part of the Queensland primary producers. 1 can understand the attitude of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party to the question of housing, because no member of either of the Government parties has been without a home, and so cannot possibly understand what it means not to have a home. I suggest that our economists might consider the fact that the provision of homes constitutes a great advantage, not only to the people themselves but also to the Government, because its revenue is increased thereby. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would agree, I think, that there is a demand throughout the world for greater production. The building of homes means employment for timber cutters and hauliers, and for workers in the saw-mills, the railways and the shipping companies. It increases the demand for trucks for delivery of materials, for cement, galvanized iron, tyres, bathroom fittings, glassware, bricks, paint, nails, fibrous plaster and many other items. It stimulates activity in other directions, such as the advertising and distribution of the various articles that I have mentioned, and in the production of machinery for the repair and upkeep of the houses and their contents. In addition to these advantages, the Government collects income tax and sales tax from the employees engaged in home-building. Therefore, from the point of view of government revenue, the building industry is the most important of all our industries.

Certain Queensland supporters of the Government, together with the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), have been playing party politics in regard to this matter. I know, of course, that party politics are continually brought into these debates, but I believe that this matter is above party politics, because it affects the employment of many men and it concerns the very important problem of the provision of homes for the people. All honorable members, no matter what party they belong to, should be interested in this matter, because it concerns the employment and housing of our people. From time to time we boast of the wonderful country that we are living in. No doubt it is a wonderful country, but many of the evils that afflict the older countries also afflict us in Australia, although it is a new country with many opportunities. The Minister for National Development and the Prime Minister cited figures to show the number of persons in the United Kingdom and the United States of America who are without homes, and they compared those figures with figures showing the number of people in Australia who are without homes. Such arguments provide no great comfort to homeless people, no matter which country they live in. The Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development mentioned also the percentage of people who are without homes, and we should remember that this has a most important bearing on our economy, and on the social well-being and general living standards of our people. An argument as to whether the Commonwealth or the State governments are responsible for the housing lag will not provide an additional house for homeless people, but the argument was raised by Government supporters, and Opposition members were forced to reply to it.

Thousands of Australian people are without homes to-day, and because the Government appeared to be taking no action to improve the situation it was necessary for the Opposition to bring the matter before this Parliament, as it has done by moving an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The Australian Labour party has considered the question of housing and has decided that it is so important that the attention of the Parliament should be directed to it, so that the matter might be properly aired, and so that the people of Australia generally might appreciate the true state of affairs. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) showed colossal ignorance of the position when he stated that the difficulty was one not of finance but of man-power and materials. It is almost incredible that a member of this Parliament, or even, for that matter, a member of the general public who took an interest in public affairs, could support such a contention.

The position in the building industry to-day is that a thousand or more men have been put out of work because money for housing has not been available. Yet we hear in this place frequent references to full employment. It cannot be denied that both man-power and materials are in full supply. If the Prime Minister is concerned for the interests of private enterprise, I remind him, getting down to tin tacks, that the people who want to rent or build houses, and who cannot do so, are the ones who have to pay the piper. It is actually private enterprise, not government enterprise, that suffers because of the housing shortage. There is no doubt that timber mills and brickyards have closed. Honorable members on both sides of the House know that that is so, and that they have closed because insufficient money has been made available by this Government to carry on housing projects. It is surely a part of the policy of the Government to ensure that industries which are reasonably sound and which are helping the economy, such as the brick manufacturing industry and the timber industry, are kept in operation, and that their employees are kept in employment. Yet, we have the Prime Minister saying that it would not matter how much money was made available, that more houses would not be built, because materials and man-power would not be available. As T say. that is incredible. Apparently, the right honorable gentleman has failed to study the matter, or else he has been badly advised.

It has been generally accepted that we need to increase our population, and I suggest that if we are to do so we must consider the facts. We must see that we do not embark on fancy schemes that will not result in the population being increased as it should be. Some people accept immigration as the answer to our population problem, but what is actually happening is that, after we have spent a great deal of money to bring immigrants to this country, many return to the countries from which they came because they have not been able to obtain a home in Australia. The requirements of the human race are food, clothing and shelter, and after those requirements have been met, people need health services, educational and cultural facilities, sport, recreation and the other activities which go to make up our way of life. We often have heard the proud boast that an Englishman's home is his castle, but like Australians, relatively few Englishmen ever own a house. If ever an opportunity existed to help Australians to obtain homes, this Government has that opportunity at the present moment by pursuing a vigorous housing policy.

It is most important that young couples should have homes of their own. If homes were readily available for young people, the population would increase at a greater rate. Many young couples will not accept the responsibilities that children bring if they are living in flats or sub-standard buildings, and in respect of which miserable accommodation they often have no security of tenure. We must make homes available for young couples, as a first step, if we want to increase the population. It must not be forgotten, either, that the building of houses provides employment.

If we are to continue to bring immigrants to this country with a view to increasing Australia's population, we must supply accommodation for the immigrants. It has been the general policy, in respect of immigration, to concentrate on male immigrants. In the north-western part of Queensland there are approximately 2,000 male immigrants, but hardly any female immigrants. Would it. not be better tq stop bringing male immigrants to this country for a time and to concentrate on bringing out female immigrants, with the idea of balancing the sexes? I remind honorable members who may not think that this is a serious matter, that already we have in Australia social evils which were never so apparent before, because of the numbers of male immigrants that have been brought here. The standard of Australian morality definitely has depreciated because of the preponderance of male immigrants, and that is a matter which every member of this Parliament should ponder.

Members of the clergy, judges and representatives of welfare associations are very worried because of the increase of the number of delinquent children in Australia today, ls it not obvious that the ready availability of homes is the surest cure for this evil? A home means family life, and family life means a loving family unit. Children brought up under such an influence will not be delinquent, but children brought up in sub-standard homes under deplorable circumstances run the risk of becoming delinquent, because of the circumstances of their early life.

I hear interjections from honorable members opposite, but I cannot catch the words. Is there any member ,of this House who does not agree that his early family life was the most important factor in the formation of his character? It is shocking to see youngsters who could have become fine young Australians turning into delinquents and helping to fill our gaols. That would have been avoided if their parents had had proper homes and could have established a proper family life. I am not expressing only my own opinion now. Members of the clergy of every denomination, judges and representatives of welfare associations are continually stressing the fact that practically all delinquent children do not have decent homes - that they come from places where the family has not been able to keep together and exert a good influence upon them.

I turn again to the undesirability of the Department of Immigration concentrating on the immigration of males - a subject to which I referred earlier in my speechbecause I regard it as very important. This concentration of the immigration of males is creating social evils previously unknown in Australia. The best possible way to increase our population is for the people living here to have children. I have had long experience of immigration. I have been for 35 years in the north of Australia, and I have been in touch with our immigration policy since the early days of immigration to this country. In those days, north Queensland was the place upon which immigration was concentrated. In those days, the immigrants from Europe, like the English, the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh, came here to improve their conditions. Most of them have become fine citizens, with a real Australian outlook. They were able to bring to Australia their girl friends in the countries from which they came. They married those girls and had families. To-day they, their wives and their children are fine citizens of Australia.

The important factor is the family. Any young man of, say, 25 or 30 years of age who comes to Australia from another country is still strongly influenced by his early home-life, but his children, if born and reared in Australia, will become real Australians. Australian-born children are, so to speak, the immigrants we need to build Australia into the country that it should be. I know personally many children of immigrants who went to school in this country and who now have families of their own. Immigration can be a great asset to Australia, but we must avoid this concentration upon males. The present policy is to bring boatloads of males to Queensland to cut sugar cane, but although about 1,000 men go to Cairns each year as cane-cutters, only about 200 remain. Most of the others go south to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and other cities when they have got a few pounds, but if their womenfolk were there, they would not leave. They .would marry and settle down.

That brings me to the question of housing, which I think every thinking member of the House will agree is one of the most important questions ever to come before this Parliament. It goes without saying that men must be kept in employment if they are to have food, shelter and clothing, and that in order to bring up their children in the right way and give them the educational and health facilities to which they are entitled, they must have homes. I point out that any money that a government spends on housing is returned to it eventually by the people , who occupy the houses, in the form of rent or loan repayments. A government does npt lose money over housing. It is only a matter of making the necessary credit available to meet a need that is of vital importance to the economy and the welfare of Australia as a whole. We have established a very high standard of living in this country, as is generally admitted, and all governments, whatever their political colour, should do all that they can, not only to maintain that standard, but also to improve it. Of course, we all have different ideas about how that should be done, but I do not think any honorable member will disagree with the statement that, from the moral point of view, the home and home-life are of vital importance, and that regular employment is absolutely necessary.

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