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Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr UREN (Reid) - I gave the honourable member (or Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) (he opportunity to have his document incorporated in Hansard because it will become an historical document reflecting the sickness in the Government's ranks and the fear of any demonstrations or agitation against its policy. 1 expressed my first opposition to Australia's involvement in Vietnam in this House on 25th October 1962 when we had only a few advisers in what has since become a quagmire. Over 400 young Australians have been killed in Vietnam and over 2,000 of. them have been wounded. Many of the wounded have died. lt is interesting to note, if one looks at the historical position of Australia's involvement in Vietnam, that a revered senator - Senator Hannaford - in the Government ranks was the one exception who had the courage to break from the Parly on this issue. He had a heart complaint and he was compelled by his conscience to take the stand he did. In fact he killed himself in expressing opposition to the war in Vietnam. With that exception not one member of the Government parties has ever expressed doubts or exercised any restraint in respect of the war in Vietnam.

It was morally, historically, politically and militarily wrong not only for Australia but also for the United States to become involved in Vietnam. General Douglas MacArthur told John Foster Dulles that any President of the United States who committed American troops to a land war in Asia should have his head examined. This was after the experience of Korea. President Johnson's commitment of American forces to the war in South Vietnam destroyed him. It divided his party and divided his nation. On 6th April 1954 the late John Fitzgerald

Kennedy, who was then a senator, in referring to Indo-China, is reported in the Congressional Record as saying:

The time bas come for the American people to be told the blunt truth about Indo-China . . . despite tremendous amounts of economic and material aid from the United States . . . I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in Indo-China can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and st the same time nowhere - an enemy of the people which has the sympathy and covert support of the people ... for the United Stales to intervene unilaterally and to send troops on to the most difficult terrain in the world, with the Chinese able to pour in unlimited manpower, would mean that we would face a situation which would bc far more difficult than even that encountered in Korea, lt would seem to me that it would be a hopeless situation.

The war in Vietnam has been a drain on the United States. I have stated publicly before that in my opinion President Johnson stopped the bombing of North Vietnam because of internal moral pressure exerted against his administration by the American people and because of the economic consequences of the war. The war was costing America $30,000m a year. General Westmoreland's call for a further 206,000 troops meant an additional expenditure of at least $ 1 2,000m a year. America could not deal with the economic inflation within the country and it had to stop the bombing of the north, lt could not win the war, although honourable members opposite wanted the bombing increased. As soon as the bombing of the north ceased the stock market, far from falling, rose. The conduct of the war had undermined the finances of the United States. There was a run on gold in Europe and the United States dollar, which had to support the price of gold at $35 an ounce, could not face that commitment and it was necessary to have 2 prices for gold. As a result this had a great deal to do with the cessation of the bombing and was a step towards sanity. But I stress that although the United States may be withdrawing troops from Vietnam it is still dropping more bombs on Vietnam than were dropped in the time of Johnson. More bombs have been dropped on Vietnam than were dropped on all the Axis powers during the Second World War. Two thirds of those bombs have been dropped on South Vietnam.

Some of the most inhuman actions ever perpetrated on man have occurred in Vietnam. The war is immoral. Every Australian should do everything in his power to try to bring peace to this troubled land. When I talk about the War I speak in terms of what the late President Kennedy said in 1954. We have to solve the problem of Indo-China. It is important that if we are to stop the war we should get out of Vietnam. We are creating genocide there. General Lemay, a former United States Air Force General, once said: 'Let us bomb them back to the stone age.' The most powerful nation ever known is doing this to one of the smallest nations in the world; it is trying to bomb this small nation into the stone age. Unless the insanity of this war ceases, this will happen.

Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I rise to order. On several occasions the honourable member for Reid has referred to the late President Kennedy's remarks in 1954. The statement which he read to the House was made before the Geneva Agreements. President Kennedy was referring to the French and Vietminh, not to the present war.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman - There is no substance in the point raised.

Mr UREN - The honourable member for Griffith is attempting to use diversionary tactics. To show the nature of this so-called democratic government in South Vietnam, which this Government supports, let me refer to some particulars given in answer to a question which I directed on 27th September 1967 to the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck. The Minister told me that the population of South Vietnam was etimated to be about 17 million. Of that number about 8.5 million were entitled to vote. About 5.8 million were registered for a vote and in the elections fewer than 5 million people voted. President Thieu received 1.6 million votes. His closest opponent received 817,000 votes in a first past the post ballot. That was Truong Dinh Dzu. But where is Dzu now? He is in a South Vietnamese gaol. That is the kind of democracy which this Government and the American Government are supporting in their genocidal activities in South Vietnam. I make it clear, as I have year after year, that if there is to be peace in this area there must be compromise on both sides. I have stressed this over and over again. The parties are now sitting at the conference table in Paris. This was thought impossible not long ago due to the attitude of the National Liberation Front. There is a ray of hope now and I believe that all honourable members should be calling for a de-escalation of the war. I do not accept the domino theory. I believe that the situation in Vietnam is more like that in Spain than in Munich.

I rose to deal with the important matter of housing. I move:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: in the opinion of this House the Government should make available immediate finance to all successful applicants for war service homes loans.'

What happens to these young men who wish to acquire a home through the War Service Homes Division after being sent by this Government to Vietnam is ironical. After making application to purchase a home and after everything is finalised they are told that they have to wait 6 months, and they have to arrange temporary finance for that period at very high interest rates. The War Service Homes Division is one sector of the housing field in which the Commonwealth has complete power. That is the reason why I moved my amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 3). At present there is a waiting period of 6 months for applicants wishing to purchase a new home or an existing dwelling. This has been the position since 18th March. In its amendment the Opposition is asking the Government to make available immediately finance to all successful applicants for war service home loans and not make them wait 6 months.

It is difficult enough for a purchaser to chose the home he desires but cannot immediately finance. His position is acute enough even if his application is approved. But let us consider the loan of $8,000 at present advanced by this Government. We find that the average cost of land and dwelling for war service homes in the last financial year, according to the departmental report, is in excess of $13,000. Therefore the applicant has to find an additional $5,000 to bridge the gap between the war service loan and the average cost of the land and dwelling.

Recently the Government was forced to raise the value of a home for eligibility for a grant under the homes savings grant legislation from Si 5.000 to SI 7,500 because of inflationary trends in land prices and the cost of building. Why was this necessary? To answer that question we must examine land prices in the many electorates and areas represented not only by Opposition members but by honourable members on the Government side of the chamber. I will cite figures prepared following a survey by Mr Joe Glascott who was a leading writer for the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. The survey revealed that in an area like Belrose a block of land costs $9,600. The maximum war service home loan is $8,000. How can any young man obtain a homewith a war service loan when a block of land alone costs $9,600?

I could refer to other areas where land is far more expensive but I am trying to be realistic by selecting areas in the outer suburbs of Sydney in which land is available. For instance, the average price at Castle Hill is $6,750. At Engadine, Fairfield and Merrylands it is $6,000. At Guildford it is $6,500, at Heathcote it is $6,000, and at Hornsby Heights it is $6,900. At Pymble West it is $10,000 and at Normanhurst it is $6,500. The figures I stated represent the average cost of land in those areas yet the maximum loan provided by this Government for war service homes is only $8,000. The average loan provided by the permanent building societies is $11,500. We hear honourable members on the Government side speaking in this place about sending young Australians to Vietnam. Four hundred young men have been killed and over 2,000 have been maimed. Yet when they return to Australia and apply for a war service home loan the maximum loan available is $8,000. The average cost even of a housing commission home is a conservative figure of $13,000. The price of the average home in the general private sector would be nearer $14,000 or $15,000. If this were not the case then the maximum figure provided under the homes saving grants scheme for attracting the subsidy would not have been increased from $15,000 to $17,500. The honourable member for Benelong (Sir John Cramer) suggested that the maximum figure under that legislation should he $20,000. I agree with him on that occasion.

It is time this Government stopped talking hypocritically not only about war but about what happens when these young men return from war. It should give them what they are entitled to.

It is about time honourable members opposite recognised that everybody has the right of freedom of association. Many honourable members fought in World War II - and many suffered - for freedom of association. How can they use the term guilty by association', as did the honourable member for Farrer? This attitude makes democracy sick. This is not what we fought for. We fought for a society in which there was freedom of association and not guilt by association. In our country a man is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty by trial by jury. I have endured smears and innuendos and a long struggle involving litigation as far as the Privy Council. 1 cleared my name after facing 3 juries, all of which exonerated me. There are honourable members on the Government side whom 1 could not imagine surviving the same test.

In the time remaining to me I shall deal with some of the general aspects of housing. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) is in charge of this Bill. I shall quote what he had to say in September 1965 when he was the Minister for Housing. I am quoting from pages 776 and 777 of Hansard for that period. The Minister said:

.   . The task of our monetary authorities in keeping the economy on an even keel so that orderly and rapid expansion of the Australian economy can proceed without interruption is one of extraordinary complexity and difficulty, lt is subject to so many forces beyond prediction or even domestic control that it requires skill, experience and judgment of the highest order. In such circumstances it is natural that in the past housing has been regarded as one piece of an economic jigsaw puzzle rather than as something of supreme national importance in itself.

The Minister then went on to say:

However, lbc deficiency in using housing to dampen demand is that this impedes the achievement of some of our most fundamental national objectives.

The Minister continued:

We live in a fully employed economy without any appreciable reservoir of labour and resources which are not already actively employed. However, we do know now from practical experience that we already have the labour a'nd resources to construct upwards of 110,000 dwelling units per annum without undue strain on the rest of the economy.

It can be noted from the figures that are available that the number of houses that were completed in 1964-65 - the years of which the Minister was talking - was 1 1 2,000 dwellings, flats and houses. In 1965-66 there were 112,000 completed and in the following year there were 110,000 completed. The next year it rose to 120,000 and last year it rose to 130,000. In other words, over a period of approximately 5 years there has been an increase only of some 20,000. I believe that this is not an excessive increase. With our immigration policy and the growth in the number of young people, the demand for homes will increase. Yet the Treasurer when he was the Minister for Housing said there was no planning in this regard. What is he now doing as Treasurer? He is using exactly the opposite proposal to that which he made in 1965. He is applying economic pressure to housing in our community. He is applying pressure on the people who need homes. This policy is affecting the housing sector more than any other sector.

If interest on a loan of $14,000 over 15 years is increased by \% from 5% to 5i% the increased cost of that home is $711. If the loan is over a period of 25 years the increased cost is some $1,300. When one looks over the last 5 years, the period of which I am speaking, it can be seen that the interest rates of the Commonwealth Bank have changed from 4f % in 1964 to 61% in April 1970, an increase of H%. On a loan of $15,000 over a period of 25 years the increased cost is some $3,760. This is the pressure that this Government is bringing to bear on the home buyer. The Treasurer said this morning at question time that he had no control over increases of interest rates, that this was the role of the Reserve Bank. Let us look at the attitude of the Treasurer, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) to the rural sector. They were able to ensure that no increased burden was placed on the farmer or the man on the land. I am not arguing against that; I think it is probably a sensible policy. But if they can give special consideration to the rural sector why can they not give special consideration to the home builder? There has been no appreciable increase in home building during the last 5 years. However there has been an increase in commercial office building. Let me quote some of the figures supplied to me by the Legislative Research Service of the Parlia mentary Library. In 1964-65 the amount expended on commercial building was $117.m. In 1965-66 it was $123m. The following year it was $11 8m and in 1967-68 it had increased to $149m. In 1968-69 there was an increase to $172m and in the first 9 months of this year there had been an expenditure on office buildings of something like $200m. It has increased in the last 5 years from $1. 17m to $200m which only represents 9 months of this financial year.

This is the sector of the building industry that should be dealt with because the Treasurer knows that the insurance companies that were providing money for home building before the action of the Reserve Bank are now diverting that money to a sector where they receive a higher return on their investment. They are lending money to the commercial interests who are constructing office buildings. This is the action of this Government. I ask: Why has the Government not given special consideration to this aspect. If we look at the commencements - I use this term although the Treasurer always uses the term 'approvals' - we note that they are less in the March quarter of 1970 than they were in the March quarter of 1969. The figures are down by 100; there were 33,900 in March 1969 and there are now 33,800. In Western Australia it has been reduced from 4,600 to 3,600; in New South Wales it has decreased from 12,400 to 11,800. This is something the Treasurer should look at because there are builders now who cannot sell the homes that are already constructed

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired. I direct Hansard to omit the words spoken by the honourable member after the expiration of his time. Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Armitage - I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

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