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Wednesday, 30 March 1966


Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) .- I rise to draw the attention of the House to a matter of considerable concern and urgency within my constituency. Some 10 days ago, I was approached by a deputation comprising representatives of the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, the Brick, Tile and Pottery Employees Union and the South Coast Labour Council. They told me that there was incipient unemployment and a substantial stockpiling of bricks, both building bricks and refractory bricks, in the brick yards in my constituency. This is a matter of considerable concern to me and to the building industry within the City of Greater Wollongong. In point of fact, some two million building bricks have accumulated at the two main yards, Woonona and Bulli. Those bricks are the equivalent of 80 five-room brick cottages or would provide adeqate bricks associated with the construction of 650 weatherboard homes.

In addition to the problems in relation to building bricks, the situation is worsening for refractory bricks which provide a market of almost equal size within my constituency to the market for building bricks. With a major steel industry with coke ovens and similar furnaces to be lined, refractory bricks are in great demand and provide a substantial amount of the employment in the brick industry. The situation in the steel industry is due to the effects on employment and on production of the imports of Japanese black sheet steel for which this Government has nor yet provided substantial protection by way of an antidumping duty. In the refractory brickworks at Port Kembla, where some three years ago 56 men were employed, there are now 35 men only. At the Bellambi yard owned by Newbold General Refractories Ltd., which produces refractory bricks, 55 men were employed 12 months ago but there are now 35 only. At Thirroul four men have already been discharged and if what is known as the Belgium kiln is closed another 12 men will lose their positions.

I have been informed by representatives of the trade unions that this situation applies with equal force within the metropolitan area of Sydney. We have a substantial brick industry within my constituency with a total production potential of U million bricks per week. That is the equivalent of 60 five-room brick houses per week or 3,000 homes per year. lt is not merely a matter of obtaining a market; there is also the other question of the loss of skilled operatives for this trade because brickmaking is by repute a particularly arduous trade. It is difficult to induce men to enter this trade at an early age so that they can be adequately trained. By repute it is arduous; in point of fact it is not the most attractive of industries. If these men leave the industry they will not be replaced and if in the later dispensation we actually get a trickle of money for the purpose of home construction, when the demand arises for further bricks men will not be there to produce them.

The attitude of the Government to the whole question of housing is of great significance. The ministry of housing ranks twenty-fifth and is the lowest and most menial of all portfolios within the present Holt Ministry. Worse than that, the portfolio is in the Senate, among the representatives of the States; the representatives of the various constituencies who have personal contact with these matters have not the necessary approach and have not the opportunity to direct the questions, make the comments and get the appropriate answers to which we are entitled. Within my constituency at the present time in L Wollongong housing district under the control of the Wollongong office of the Housing Commission of New South Wales we have 2,700 approved applicants awaiting homes. Within my constituency alone we can absorb the whole of the $15 million which has been allocated for the whole of Australia. As for the capacity to absorb that amount, we have 3,000 allotments there which are ready. They have been developed by the Housing Commission which is restricting housing construction within my constituency. Worse than that, where it might have given some relief because people who went into two, three and four-room houses in the suburbs some years ago and who might now, because their children have grown up, want to come back to Wollongong and live in flats or smaller units which can be built at lower cost, the people find that those flats are not being constructed.

There is a very special political significance for the situation. The present State constituency of Wollongong is a borderline seat and the present Stale Government, in the course of its redistribution proposals, intends to make sure that that seat will be retained by the present Liberal representative. Working class tenants in fiats built by the Housing Commission will certainly not be welcome there. My constituency and my constituents will suffer in consequence.

The Housing Commission, under the control of the former State Labour Government did a magnificent job in that area. It built 5,300 homes at a total cost, including land development, of £24 million. One house in every six within my constituency is a Housing Commission home. The former State Labour Government allocated 13 per cent, of such funds as were available for housing construction within my constituency. If it had given its normal quota on a population basis, it would have been 6 per cent. But at least the State Labour Government was prepared to acknowledge the national importance of the area and the special problems associated with the intense migrant intake.

That brings me to my further point. The true remedy is one which this Government cannot and will not provide because over recent years the flow of Housing Commission money and housing money in general has been used as a regulator on the Australian economy. The practice of tieing housing administration to the flexible response formulas of the Treasury has largely negated the true principles of housing policy. One week before this sessional period commenced there was a major deputation of all the main representatives of big business. Included amongst them were representatives of the Master Builders Association. They emphasised precisely the same point that I am raising tonight. That is, the adequacy of the flow of money for housing at low interest rates without a stop-go policy. Unless and until this Government is prepared to alter its ways, unless it is prepared to have a real ministry of housing and unless it is prepared to give to that ministry the control of housing finance and take it away from the Treasury which uses it as a regulator, we will never get a fair and decent go for the people whom this Government is bringing into Australia under its present immigration policy.







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