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Wednesday, 30 March 1966

Mr HANSEN (Wide Bay) .- Mr. Speaker,this Bill, which will make available for housing an additional $15 million, constitutes one of the greatest possible indications of support for the proposition advanced by the Opposition last October during the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Housing. On that occasion, the Opposition, to show its disapproval of the limitation of the funds to be allocated for housing in the traditional manner proposed -

That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.

We did this to mark our concern at the Government's failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. In the debate on that occasion the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), who was then Minister for Honing, mentioned the shortage of funds available for home building. I give him full credit for the work that he did in administering the difficult Housing portfolio.

I do not agree with all was said by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin). He has come into this House with a reputation as a man who has always been keen to have a flutter and who has always been a keen supporter of the arts. I cannot for the life of me see what he has against the conducting of lotteries to provide funds for the construction of the Sydney Opera House. By supporting lotteries for that purpose, he would help himself both ways. He might even come out a substantial winner in both respect's. J was surprised at the charges of graft, corruption and black marketing that he made in the early part of his address. Nobody would know better than he does, since he has been a bank manager, how avaricious some people are. The avariciousness of some in the community has been displayed quite recently in the grab for extra profits and the increasing of prices in conjunction with the change to decimal currency. This isthe sort of thing that can be prevented only by government action. But this Government is not prepared to act.

Though the Opposition supports the measure now before the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has on its behalf proposed as an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time -

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - " whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of the opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an allParty Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to-

(1)   rental rebates,

(2)   slum clearance,

(3)   housing for pensioners,

(4)   land development, and (d) town planning".

All the points listed in that amendment are worthy of consideration in the drawing up of a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to operate for the next five years. The first Agreement was entered into in 1945. One of its principal purposes was to provide low rental homes for people on low incomes, many of whom would not have an opportunity to own their own home. Believe you me, Mr. Speaker, there are still in the community many people who can look forward only to a life in which they will not own their own home.

I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Mitchell describe the perfect bank manager as one who never knocked back an applicant except when he thought that the applicant was being touched by somebody else. The honorable member said that the bank manager who adopted this approach remained a friend of his bank's clients throughout his life. I am sure that this must be said of the honorable member himself if one can judge by the vote that he received at the last election, though I do not know whether he will continue to receive so much support. The kind of bank manager described by him is quite contrary to the general conception of bank managers. Honorable members may have heard of the bank manager who retired from a bank to take over the running of a petrol station.

When his first customer asked for six gallons of petrol, the former bank manager asked the customer whether he thought he could get by with four gallons. This is indicative of the general attitude of bank managers, at least in my neck of the woods.

Mr Coutts - Surely it was not the attitude of the honorable member for Mitchell.

Mr HANSEN - I do not know. He gave a very good description of the life of a perfect bank manager. I only wish that I had been able to ask him for a loan. The funds to be provided under the terms of this measure will be allocated to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to stimulate home building. Many who are associated with housing, particularly with respect to finance and the numerous industries and trades associated with home building, such as the furniture industry, the timber industry and the brick making industry, have repeatedly in the newspapers expressed concern at the lack of finance for housing. There is no shortage of applicants for assistance, but there is a considerable shortage of funds for home purchase. For this reason, honorable members on this side of the chamber take a deal of pleasure in supporting this Bill, even though it will provide only $15 million for housing. There is a vast difference between dollars and pounds, as most of us are realising. With the change to decimal currency, someone remarked that his bank account was twice as large. Someone else said that this was good because it doubled his overdraft. Whatever may be said about that, the point is that $15 million is to be provided under the terms of this measure.

In passing, I want to mention that there are two distinct fields of housing administered by the Queensland Housing Commission. One is the workers' dwelling scheme, under which finance is provided by the State. This scheme, which has been in existence since 1910, was the forerunner of the State Housing Commission. Funds provided by the Commonwealth are made available to the Commission for the construction of homes for rental. However, very few of the homes constructed with these funds are rented, because most are built with a view to immediate sale.

I want to make the point that people who purchase a home through a State

Housing Commission are not eligible for benefits under the homes savings grants scheme, because Commonwealth money is involved in the transaction. On the other hand, those who purchase homes which have been built with State money are entitled to homes savings grants, even though the conditions of sale are practically the same and the repayment periods are usually the same, being 30 or 35 years. I believe this to be an anomaly. It has been argued that people who purchase from a Housing Commission receive more favorable terms than those who purchase from some other vendor, but we heard the honorable member for Mitchell giving his opinion, as a banker, that those people were not, in some cases, getting as good a deal as those who borrowed their money from private sources. I am prepared to accept his verdict that this is so if one looks at the long term position. The point is that when the Chifley Government first negotiated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement it allowed for persons on low incomes to be granted rental rebates. The rent of a home was not to exceed onefifth of the income of the occupant. This meant that people on low incomes, such as pensioners and others, were able to obtain houses through the State Housing Commissions at reasonable rents.

The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition also contained a reference to slum clearance. This is a matter that concerns not Sydney alone but other cities as well. In Melbourne slum clearance is a problem. I believe that the views expressed by the Ministers for Housing in New South Wales and Victoria are shared by the Housing Ministers in other States. I believe that they were in complete agreement that Commonwealth money should be made available for the purchase of slum areas so that they can be cleared and made ready for new housing projects. If one goes to the newly developed residential areas on the outskirts of the large cities one finds that in all those areas there are demands for various services - roads, channelling, kerbing, sewerage, water and all the other services that must be provided. The provision of those services places a considerable strain- on local authorities. Demands are constantly made for services to be provided in a hurry. Progress associations and other pressure groups are continually urging councils to undertake these works. In slum areas, on the other hand, all these services are readily available. There is no necessity for new sewer mains to be provided. The water reticulation service and everything else that is necessary is already available, and after the slums have been cleared it is only necessary to provide the housing units and connect them to the existing services. A good example of what can be done in slum areas is the Sir John Northcott housing project in the electorate of the honorable member for Wa'.son (Mr. Cope), where modern accommodation at a reasonable rental charge has been provided in the areas in which the tenants have spent most of their lives, and where they are within walking distance of the city of Sydney. A considerable saving is effected by having the services 'readily available.

Another matter I wish to speak of is the extension of the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to local authorities that wish to provide homes for the aged. Many local authorities have land available and would be prepared to provide these homes if they could obtain the Commonwealth financial assistance that is available to charitable bodies for such purposes. These local authorities would be able lo provide accommodation for many aged persons who are unable to maintain their own homes, and those homes would then become available for young couples who are now in such dire need of homes.

Town planning seems to have become an objectionable expression. According to one speaker on the Government side, town planning can lead only to graft and corruption and the stepping up of prices. I served some time on a local authority and 1 saw many complaints that were made by people who had business premises such as panel beating establishments set up alongside their homes in residential areas. This is the kind of thing that happens when a local council does not have the benefit of a town planner who can say to a person wishing to establish an industry: "There is land available for this purpose in a certain area of the municipality and that is the only area in which you can establish your business". This is the only way to avoid annoyance to people who have in many cases lived all their lives in areas they have always believed to be residential areas. Town planning is essential if large housing estates are to be established. This is the kind of thing that can be done only on a planned basis, with allowance being made for business areas, light industries and so on. A classic example of the benefits of town planning is to be seen in Elizabeth in South Australia, and no doubt there are many other excellent examples in other parts of Australia.

The question that then arises is whether this kind of land development and town planning is a responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the State. I have looked at housing developments in many countries. I can refer to the position in New Zealand and in a number of Scandinavian countries, in which one can see the results of town planning and the landscaping of park areas in housing estates where large numbers of homes have been built by government departments or semi-governmental authorities. All that work is the responsibility of the government of the particular country. lt may be argued that it is asking too much of the Commonwealth to become involved in all this kind of work, but the fact is that we have not had a committee to inquire into our housing needs and requirements. One could go on all night listing the various requests that have been made from time to time in the field of housing. I could refer to the question of the elimination of second mortgages. I know that the Government had high hopes for its housing loans insurance scheme. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was set up, but without any money. All it could do was guarantee. I feel it is being restricted because of this. If a bank manager has 12 customers wanting accommodation he is not likely to give six of them 95 per cent, of their requirements and wipe the other six. It is plain economics that if he has only a certain amount of money to spare he will spread it over the lot and have 12 partly satisfied customers. The principle behind the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation may be quite right but the fact is that there is only a certain amount of money to be made available. The Corporation can guarantee as much as it likes, but unless it has its own money available for lending purposes it will be very limited in the scope of its operations.

I asked a question on this matter and I was pleased to receive an answer today from the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. I asked how many loans had been insured by the Corporation in each of the States since its inception and what were the purposes of each loan. There are various purposes for which loans are guaranteed; and those purposes are not confined to the purchase of dwellings. The answer to my question reads -

Although the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is a statutory authority of the Commonwealth, it is also a commercial undertaking operating in a competitive field. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to divulge publicly ;n detail the extent and sources of its business. 1 can assure the honorable member, however, that the Corporation is insuring loans in each State and that the volume of its business in aggregate is currently of the order of SI million a month. Nearly 300 loans to the value of more than $2 million have been insured in all classes of loans prescribed in Statutory Rules 1965, No. 171.

I do not think this is a complete answer. Many questions remain unanswered. When the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is renewed as from 1st July this year the Government will have an opportunity to appoint an all-party committee--

Mr Cope - Hear, hear!

Mr HANSEN - I see that my colleague interjects from the Government benches. I am pleased to hear an honorable member sitting on the Government side of the chamber agree with me. I support the appointment of an all-party committee to make recommendations regarding the new Housing Agreement. For the reasons I have stated, while not declining support for the Bill, I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

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