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Wednesday, 22 March 1961


Mr J R Fraser . - It is always a pleasure to follow the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in any debate, because his manner is so engaging that the small audience that is left by the time he h?.s finished speaking is usually in a good frame of mind. I hope that I will not unduly disturb the lessening audience.

It has been customary in recent years for the Speech put into the hands of the ViceRegal representative at the formal opening of the Parliament to contain some boastful reference to the housing achievements of the Government. I find it significant that the Speech presented by His Excellency the Administrator several weeks ago contained no reference to housing. The usual boastful reference is completely missing. It may be that the Government has realized at last that you cannot fool all the people all the time and indeed that you cannot fool all the people even some of the time. The Government's housing achievements can be judged on its performance in the Australian Capital Territory where it has complete and unfettered control, where it need seek no agreement with any State government, where indeed it owns all the land and where it is the employer of probably 67 per cent, of the working population. Moreover, in this Nation-1 Capital the Government is able to state with accuracy what the population of the city will be from year to year. The city exists only for the purposes of government and the population increases only because of decisions of the Government to transfer departments to this place and so increase governmental activity here.

The Government in its eleven years of office has had ample opportunity to plan ahead for the housing of the people of this city and to construct the housing that is required. In recent years, the population of the city has increased at the rate of 5,000 a year. The exact figures are given to us by the experts in these matters who can forecast what the population will be from year to year. Canberra now has a population of 54,000 and we are told that in 1 970 it will have a population of at least 100,000 and possibly 104,000. I ask the Parliament, the Government and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is now at the table: Where the hell will they live? On the performance of this Government, there just will not be houses for these people. We have only to look back over recent years to see what has been happening and to realize that this Government has failed miserably to provide housing for the people in a territory in which it has, as I have said, complete and unfettered control and absolute responsibility. This city exists for the purposes of government, but you cannot have a city just of public servants. You cannot build a city without the carpenters, the plumbers, the plasterers, the painters and the other tradesmen that you must have in all the branches of construction. And you will not get these people and keep them unless you can provide them with housing.

The policies of this Government not only have failed to provide adequately for the housing of the people of this Territory but also have now led the Government into a position in which it must practise discrimination between one class of citizen and another in the allocation of houses here. 1 shall develop that theme very shortly. The Government has failed, and failed miserably, to provide housing. Last year, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had occasion to raise this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is ministerial head of the Public Service Board, which administers the Public Service, and who, in that capacity, has responsibility for the decisions which bring public servants to this place as a result of the transfer of departments, and so on.

Before I deal with that, I just want to state the present position in this city. It is all very well for members of the Parliament who come here from time to time and who are occupied with their official business while the

Parliament is sitting, and for visitors and tourists, to look about this city and see how beautiful it is. If they had an opportunity, as I and other members of the Parliament have, to look behind the pretty face of Canberra and see the misery in which hundreds of families in this city are living, they would be shocked and horrified.


Mr Turnbull - Take us on a trip about Canberra.


Mr J R Fraser - I would gladly take the honorable member on a trip about Canberra and show him the misery in which these families are living. Their conditions are far worse than were those in which the farmers of the Mallee found themselves in 1930 and 1931. Recently, a Government supporter in this Parliament - a member of the Liberal Party of Australia - put to me the case of one of his former constituents who had moved to this city in the course of his work. This man and his wife and three children have no hope of obtaining housing of any kind. Although he has his name on the housing list, they can look forward to no prospect of obtaining housing in less than at least three years. The Liberal member concerned said that he was horrified to find that families in Canberra are living in shacks and shanties, in garages, and in caravans in the backyards of other people's homes, rent being paid for the privilege. But some families are living in even worse conditions. In some instances, a man and his wife and teenage children are living in one room and paying £5 or £6 a week for the privilege of occupying it.

This Government has failed the people of this city. It has failed to provide housing in Canberra as it should. It has failed to provide housing even for its own employees, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Long ago, of course, the Commonwealth accepted the responsibility of providing housing for all sections of the community here. For years, there were two separate housing lists - one for government employees, and one for others. In those years, the waiting time for a private employee was one year longer than that for a government employee. When Sir Philip McBride was Minister for the Interior, the two separate lists were combined and an undertaking was given that housing would be provided evenly and equally for all the citizens of this Territory.

Recently, when the decision to transfer the Department of Defence and allied departments to this city was made, the then Minister for the Interior gave an assurance that the housing to be provided for defence personnel would be additional to the ordinary Canberra programme of housing. He gave an assurance in this Parliament and publicly outside it that the waiting time for those who were already on the housing list in Canberra would not be increased by the defence transfer. In fact, he said that it might well decrease. The plain fact is that the waiting time for housing in this city has increased until those who are now getting the few houses being made available to people at present on the list in Canberra - those who are being allocated houses to-day - are those who registered on 17th March, 1958. They have been waiting for three years and many of them have been living in the conditions that I have described to the House. The Government is proceeding with the transfer of defence departments to Canberra. I for one want to see every Commonwealth department transferred to this place, because I believe in the development of Canberra and I consider that all Commonwealth activities should be centred on this place. But I believe most fervently that the Government has a responsibilitiy to provide housing for all citizens on an equal basis.


Mr Freeth - No matter how many people come to Canberra?


Mr J R Fraser - The only ones who come here are those whose coming is determined by this Government.


Mr Freeth - That is absolute nonsense.







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