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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr J R Fraser - That is absolutely true, and the Minister knows it. There is no increase in the number of people coming to Canberra unless there is growth in government activity here. There is no growth in this city unless additional departments are transferred here, and the Minister knows it. If departments are transferred here, obviously there must be people here to build the homes, service the industries and provide the goods and services needed for the increasing population. The basic reason for the increase in population, as the Minister well knows, is the transfer of departments. The Government has it completely in its hands to provide the housing that is needed, but it has failed - and failed miserably. The mistakes that have been made over the years are being repeated.

At present, as the most recent housing return shows, there are 3,000 people on the waiting list for homes in this city.

Mr Chaney - Where are they living?

Mr J R Fraser - The honorable member has returned to the chamber since I told the House that many of these families are living in shacks, shanties, garages and all kinds of make-shift accommodation in shocking and terrible conditions.

Mr Turnbull - It is a wonder that the honorable member has not brought this up before.

Mr J R Fraser - I have brought it up time and time again. I have brought it up as many times as the honorable member has brought up skeleton weed and rabbits.

Mr Turnbull - The honorable member should be fighting it.

Mr J R Fraser - 1 shall be fighting it as long as I am here. I am fighting it all the time. The Government has a responsibility, and the Minister for the Interior knows it

Mr Chaney - The Government has made this the most attractive city in Australia.

Mr J R Fraser - -It may be attractive to look at, but I suggest that the honorable member ought to look behind the pretty picture of this city.

Mr Chaney - The people of Canberra enjoy amenities that are not found in any other city in Australia.

Mr J R Fraser - What, for example?

Mr Chaney - Look at the pre-school kindergartens.

Mr J R Fraser - Rubbish! The honorable member comes from Western Australia, and apparently feels that he must spring to the defence of the Minister for the Interior, who also is from Western Australia, but the honorable member does not know what he is talking about. I have mentioned the shocking things that exist behind the beautiful appearance of Canberra. I ask the honorable member to get behind that beautiful appearance. If he does, he will see that, as I am telling him from my own knowledge, there are hundreds of families who have come to Canberra from every other city in Australia and who live here in shocking conditions.

Mr Chaney - The honorable member ought to read articles in a few newspapers other than the " Canberra Times ".

Mr J R Fraser - I am not reading any articles at the moment. I am talking about the terrible conditions in which families are living in this city. I am stating again the case that I have put time and time again to the Minister and the Department of the Interior on behalf of these people who are living, as I have said, in shacks and shanties and in conditions that should not be tolerated in any city, let alone in this planned National Capital.

Mr Turnbull - Are these people the families of Commonwealth servants?

Mr J R Fraser - Many are. Some are not. But all of them have come here, and I am not concerned about whether or not they are the families of Commonwealth servants. They are citizens of Australia and they are entitled to decent housing.

I have raised this matter with the Prime Minister as the ministerial head of the Public Service Board and, therefore, in a sense, of the Public Service. I raised the matter by way of question in this House last year, and I subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister about it.

Mr Anderson - Cannot people in Canberra get land and build for themselves?

Mr J R Fraser - It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about these people getting land and building for themselves. The Government owns all the land here and it makes leases of residential blocks available at auction sales on such conditions that the Government's friends, the entrepreneurs, can outbid the small man who wants to obtain a block of land on which to build a home for himself. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about people building for themselves, but the Government must continue to provide housing for rental in this city if it intends to build it as a proper national capital.

Mr Freeth - The cheapest land in Australia is available in Canberra.

Mr J R Fraser - The Minister does not know what he is talking about when he says that. He is just talking nonsense. Does that sort of talk give the man who comes to work in this city a chance to obtain a block of land and build a home? Of course it does not.

Mr Freeth - The honorable member talks about people being outbid for land. He ought to compare prices in Canberra with those in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr J R Fraser - I am talking about the small man being outbid by the big entrepreneurs. The Minister has already admitted that costs are higher in Canberra than in any other city in Australia. For that very reason, the Commonwealth takes 20 per cent, off the cost of a government-owned dwelling here in arriving at the value on which rent is assessed. The Minister knows that a house in Canberra to-day costs from £4,500 to £5,000 and that the maximum loan available is £2,750, repayable over 45 years at 4i per cent, interest. How can the working men living in Canberra - plumbers, plasterers, joiners, carpenters, busdrivers, bricklayers and the like - find the money that they would need to build a house at present-day costs here? They cannot do it. How does the Minister explain the fact that there are 3,000 people listed as waiting for homes in this city to-day, and that these people have to wait at least three years to get one? How does the Minister explain these circumstances? Let him join in this debate and give his explanation.

Mr Anderson - Why is the cost of housing high?

Mr J R Fraser - Because of the necessity to transport materials to this place.

Mr Anderson - What about wages?

Mr J R Fraser - Wages costs are the same as in any other place.

Mr Reynolds - They are always trying to blame it on wages!

Mr J R Fraser - Always! I have suggested to the Prime Minister that because of the tragic situation that exists here, he should consider deferring the transfer of the defence departments to Canberra. I can see no other practical way in which the housing difficulties of people in this city can be overcome. Because of the necessity to transfer officers of those departments and their families here - sometimes 200 families at a time - it has been decided by the Government that all new housing construction, as from April of last year, shall be frozen for allocation to the defence personnel. I admit that if you must transfer departments here, and consequently bring large numbers of people here, you must obviously have housing here for them. But the Government's building programme has been so designed that the fact that new construction must be held for defence departments personnel has meant that every other person in the community, whether working for the Government or working privately, who wants a house must wait ever and ever longer before getting one.

As I said, I have suggested to the Prime Minister that he should seriously consider a deferment of the transfer of defence departments for at least twelve months, in order to give the people already here, who have been waiting for a long time, and often in most desperate conditions, a chance of getting the houses that they need. I am not making an attack on the defence departments personnel. They are blameless. They are being transferred in the course of their employment, and, quite obviously, if they are being brought here houses must be provided for them. But in order to give justice and fair treatment to the defence departments personnel we are denying justice and fair treatment to the other citizens of Canberra, who are equally citizens of the Commonwealth and who should have an equal right to housing provided by the Government. When the Government is spending public money in building houses for the public, the benefits should be shared equally by all.

I hope the Prime Minister will discover some way to resolve the problem. The only alternative to a deferment of defence transfers for twelve months or so is to double the present rate of house construction in Canberra, and that does not seem possible of achievement, because the people who are brought here to do the actual building can find no decent housing for themselves.

The waiting time for a house is now almost exactly three years. People getting houses now are those who registered in March, 1958. The last allocation was made to an applicant who registered on 17th March, 1958. That is the waiting time for people who are prepared to take the first house offered to them, no matter what its construction or in what suburb. Because of the necessity to hold completed houses for defence transferees, the only new houses becoming available to people on the Canberra housing list, the 3,000 people I have referred to, are those which prove to be beyond the needs of the defence transferees, or, in other words, those that are not acceptable to them. The arrangement is that before being brought here the defence departments personnel are given an opportunity to study descriptions of the kinds of houses available and to make their selections from a number slightly in excess of those required for the number of transferees.

The Minister is doing his best to interject. I suggest to him that he can make his speech later. I have discussed this matter with people actually handling the housing situation. The Minister himself has said that only sixteen new houses a month are presently available to the people already in Canberra. Those getting houses now are those who registered in March, 1958. At that time registrations were being made at the rate of five a day, or 25 in a working week. This works out at 100 a month. Against the needs of those people there are only sixteen new houses a month being allocated, according to the Minister's own figures.

Mr Duthie - That is terrible in a city like Canberra.

Mr J R Fraser - Well, that is the picture behind the Canberra that we see to-day. Let me turn to the last housing return issued by the Department of the Interior, for the quarter ended 31st December last. The total number on the waiting list at that time was 2,956. That is the list of people waiting for houses or flats. There is also a separate list of people waiting for one-bedroom flats.

Mr Duthie - How much private building is going on?

Mr J R Fraser - At that time there were more than 1,000 private homes under construction, so the private sector of the economy is doing its share in the construction of homes, while the Government has failed. At that time, also, completed houses and flats held vacant for defence personnel numbered 134.

As I have said, the only alternatives I can see are either a doubling of the rate of housing construction, which does not presently seem possible, or a deferment of defence transfers for twelve months, so that the houses already held vacant and those now being completed could be made available to the hundreds of families who are already here and waiting for a home. Over and above that number of 3,000 whose names appear on the waiting list there are literally hundreds of families with inadequate accommodation in flats constructed and owned by the Government or in houses too small for their present family needs. These people are inadequately housed because this Government, a government of the people, spending the people's money to provide housing for the people, has built the kinds of homes that the people do not want. Against all advice previous Ministers for the Interior went ahead with programmes for building huge blocks of flats, and people in desperation took them because they could not face the prospect of waiting for years for houses. They were told that within a couple of years they would be able to move out into houses adequate to their needs, but because of the failure of the Government to implement the right kind of building programme they are not now able to move out.

When a survey was taken some time ago by the National Council of Women at the request of the National Capital Development Commission, it was found that 62 per cent, of families living in flats stated that they would prefer to live in houses. Only 15 per cent, said they preferred flat life. Of those who preferred houses, 47 per cent, said they would move out on the very day on which they were interviewed into any house in any suburb, just to get away from their flats. Because of the failure of this Government to provide adequately for the needs of the people, these people are condemned to go on living in completely inadequate accommodation. I know it is not the policy of the department, or of the Housing Branch, to put people into flats, but, as I said, families took this kind of accommodation in desperation while waiting for houses. Now they find that their families are growing up in completely unsatisfactory surroundings in the flats provided by this Government, which has not been able to honour its undertaking to move them out into houses as their family needs demanded.

There are also literally hundreds of families living in houses which are now far too small for the needs of their growing families. Some of these families have had their names on the transfer list for periods as long as ten years, hoping that they would be able to get from this Government houses adequate to the needs of their families.

I could talk for a long time on this subject. I could talk of the kinds of houses that are being constructed. Really and truly, they are shocking. The Minister for the Interior, in answer to a question on notice last year, gave me figures that showed that three-bedroomed houses being built in the suburb of Narrabundah had an average area of 10.14 squares. Of 50 houses being built in that area, twelve had 10.6 squares and 38 were of 10 squares. These are all threebedroomed houses. Yet the average floor area is 10.14 squares!

Mr Mackinnon - What do you want - Buckingham Palace?

Mr J R Fraser - I want decent places for families to live in, places with enough room for the families to grow, - places with enough room for children to study; not places where everyone is crowded into cramped quarters. I will guarantee that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) would not live in one of these houses. Will he come with me and see what the Government is doing and then speak his mind in this place? Will he come and look at what is known as Fairhall barracks? Will he look at the Narrabundah hen houses and the " Everglades "?

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