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Wednesday, 30 March 1966

Mr JAMES - Yes, the same spirit exists to some extent in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith. There are tragic cases associated with the lack of housing for aged people. I recall a visit I made to the electorate represented by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), In Cairns, the local council has built a number of small " Darby and Joan " homes. This was a forward step by a local council. I think the average rent charged for these homes is 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week for pensioner couples and 1.0s. a week for single pensioners. That is a quite reasonable rental when one realises that the pension paid by this Government is a miserly £6 a week. I know that if the Government extended the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to permit the payment of subsidies to local authorities, clubs, certain unions and other worthwhile organisations, such bodies in the Hunter electorate would see to it that sufficient small homes were erected to overcome the shortage of housing for aged people there. The extension of the subsidy payment to such organisations would have a twofold benefit. Elderly couples who have large homes in which they have reared their families and whose families, like fledglings, have left the nest and taken appropriate employment in other parts of Australia, would be induced, because of their inability to meet the cost of repairing and maintaining their large homes, to enter small Darby and Joan homes of the type I saw in Cairns, thus leaving their bigger homes available for young married couples who wanted to perform their duty to the nation by having families.

When the question of Vietnam was raised this afternoon, one honorable member on the Government side drew attention to the fact that the number of young people killed on the roads of Australia far exceeded the number of young Australians killed in Vietnam. I now come to a point which I to make while the proceedings of this House are not being broadcast. It relates to the number of pregnancies that are terminated in this country. If figures were available, they would shock the nation. One of the greatest contributing factors to the decline in the birth rate and the endangering of the lives of women by termination of pregnancy is lack of housing. I am in a position to know about this matter because of the intimate knowledge I gained in my previous calling. This country is hungry for population but population growth is being frustrated by the Government's failure to meet the housing needs of our people.

Mr Curtin - It is encouraging mulder.

Mr JAMES - Lack of housing is not only encouraging murder but also is contributing to mental instability in those unfortunates who, much against their will, engage in the practice that I was reluctant to mention. I think these things should be mentioned in this Parliament. If the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) feels disposed to challenge what I have said, he can obtain some guidance from the public hospitals. I remember that on one occasion a doctor in the Newcastle district told me in confidence that one ward of a certain hospital was almost fully occupied by unfortunate females who were receiving medical treatment to help them overcome the after effects of terminating pregnancy. This is a very serious matter. I estimate that pregnancies are being terminated at the rate of about 3,000 a week throughout Australia, and I am firmly convinced that lack of housing is one of the main causes of this grievous and serious social problem.

I have already mentioned the report of the Housing Commission of Victoria. I should like now to quote from a report by the Director of Housing for Tasmania. I believe this is the most recent of these reports available to members of Parliament. Under the heading "Housing of Elderly Persons " it states -

The construction of special housing units at subsidised rentals for the accommodation of aged persons is of necessity restricted by availability of capital funds and the annual amounts available from Consolidated Revenue to meet the difference between the economic rentals and the low subsidised rents charged tenants.

State housing authorities have made joint approaches to the Commonwealth Government on several occasions for a non-repayable grant towards the cost of constructing aged persons' units on Similar lines to the assistance of £2 for £1 provided for under the Commonwealth Aged Persons' Homes Act. Government housing authorities are excluded from the assistance available to private charitable or philanthropic organisations. It is hoped that the Commonwealth proposals in the forthcoming new Housing Agreement will make provision for Commonwealth assistance to the States for housing the elderly.

The 22 single person flatette units constructed during the year brought the total number to 76 single and 114 double units. During the year, 13 aged couples and 26 aged lone persons were housed.

I should say that those would be as a mere drop in the ocean in meeting the needs of aged people in the electorate of the honorabled member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). He has told me on many occasions that it makes his heart bleed to see the plight of some of the aged persons in his electorate. We hope that, by constantly emphasising the gravity of this social need, we will move the Government to do something to overcome it.

Mr Daly - There is not much hope.

Mr JAMES - There is not much hope, but I venture to state that if these aged people were either Liberals or supporters of the Government something would be done quickly to correct the cruel situation in which many of them are not living but merely existing. The position is acute and we believe that the additional moneys provided for in this Bill will not relieve it to any great extent.

There are many submissions that I should like to make to the Parliament. I refer now to the report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales for the year ended 30th June 1963, which emphasises the slum problem of Sydney. It states -

While the slum, or blighted, areas of Sydney may not be comparable in magnitude with those of older cities of other countries, they exist in sufficient number and extent to be a definite reflection on the City and to justify some positive approach on a national level, with a view to all authorities which might be deemed to have aa interest participating in their planned elimination and the redevelopment of the areas concerned in the most suitable manner possible before the problem gets progressively worse.

When is the Government going to do something about these great problems which are affecting our society and which have been brought to its notice forcefully in reports by government departments charged with the responsibility for housing in the various States, and by members of the Opposition? When is the Government going to do something about this situation that grievously affects our society today? 1 urge the Government to do something - not next week, not next year, not the year after, but now. The Government must get on top of this situation and meet its obligations to the community. If it does not, it should resign, get out, and let the Australian Labour Party as the new government correct the situation.

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