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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1536


Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - This afternoon we have listened to a typical address by the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) in reply to the motion of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I say 'a typical address' because over the years we have come to expect the old Red bogy tactics to become apparent immediately he gets on his feet to speak. This afternoon was no exception. Unfortunately, at the outset of the remarks of the honourable member for Reid the Minister for Housing heard what he could interpret only as an act of a socialistic government and, obsessed by this thought of socialism, and seeing again the old Red arrows coming down from Asia as they do when we talk about external policies, he became so possessed by this that he was not in a position to pay attention to the rest of the remarks made by the honourable member for Reid.

The Minister was so far off the beam in his assertion that the Australian Labor

Party proposed to control all land in the areas that we seek to develop and land in the cities mentioned in the motion this afternoon, that I must take up one of his points. All that the Labor Party seeks to do in the acquisition of large areas of land in the developing areas of the cities and towns is to provide for the needs of people requiring land in competition with the private developers - not sole control of the land availability in these areas at all, but in competition with people currently developing this land. We believe that the responsibility rests with the Federal Government, which alone has the means to make finance available to the States so that the States can acquire this land and, in turn, make it available for people to purchase for home building sites in terms of our suggestion for the setting up of a commission. But so much for the words of the Minister for Housing.

The continuing interest and concern that the Opposition has shown in the problem of the complete lack of any joint CommonwealthState planning and development commissions that have been proposed are certainly not new. Our decision to sponsor the debate today was to highlight further the complete apathy of the Government to this problem which is nothing short of a national scandal. Even before the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) assumed the leadership of the Labor Party he had commenced to work actively to' highlight the need for Commonwealth responsibility iti all matters associated with land development for residential purposes and its complementary problem of over-development in some of our capital cities. Our spokesman on urban affairs who opened the debate this afternoon, the honourable member for Reid has also taken up this matter on numerous occasions, such as today, and he has vigorously advocated a more realistic acceptance bv the Government of its ultimate responsibility to take the initiative and to seek co-operation and co-ordination in a national scheme for future land development in bur cities and towns.

Probably, the first indication, of this Government's awareness that land COStS were a severe burden on so many and in so many areas of this nation was given soon . after the present Minister for Housing took over the portfolio. Tn Brisbane, on the occasion of the presentation of a housing grant cheque to mark the 200,000th payment under the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-70, he said that the Federal Department of Housing would make a complete survey of land costs in all capital cities. He went on to explain, however, that this proposed survey would take 2 years to complete. He also said, and this may be taken as an indication of how appallingly out of touch with reality the Government is:

There is good reason to believe the price of residential land generally has risen substantially in recent years.

When one considers a statement such as this, one appreciates the significance of the admission of the Prime Minister (Mr Mc Mahon) during question time in this House on Thursday 16th September, when he said:

.   . this is an occasion when statesmanship is desperately needed in this country.

When the Prime Minister realises that he is not in a position to provide statesmanship is it any wonder that the Minister for Housing, who occupies, I think, the lowly second last place on the list of Ministers of this Government, is unable to provide any leadership in solving the housing problems of this nation. No doubt the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was correct when he told students at the University of Queensland only last week:

It is about time Australia had a Liberal Party prepared to take on new policies. lt is all very well for the Prime Minister and his deputy to roam about the country talking in well sounding terms about the quality of life which their Government has developed for Australians. When it comes to any forthright Government action to provide for a genuine future quality of life, sadly they are always found' to be wanting.

Of course, when the Opposition proposes that federal responsibility should be assumed for matters such as this the Government is ever ready to grasp the old argument and say that while it would be most anxious to take action this is really a State or local government responsibility, and as such must be left alone for fear of an infringement on States' rights. The Government will also quickly claim that there could be constitutional problems in our proposals. I agree that this argument has some merit. I do hot' intend to take time this afternoon to rebut it, but 1 simply say that there is a vast number of issues facing this nation's future prosperity and development that will sooner or later have to be overcome by a Federal Government progressive enough to sponsor a new constitutional convention between the States and the Commonwealth. The present arrangement of government responsibility and authority in land, as in many other matters, may have been ideally suited to the beginning of this century. It is totally unsuited to present day needs. The system of governmental organisation of our States, cities and local authorities, and the repertoire of roles available to the respective political leaders are designed for self maintenance, not change; for stagnation, not innovation. The structures and processes were designed for the attitudes and orientations of the slowly changing world of the 19th century. In today's world they are a blueprint for failure.

I referred earlier to the announcement by the Minister for Housing of a Government sponsored survey of land costs in all capital cities. In his speech on that occasion he also made the statement that his Department estimated that between 1963 and 1969 the cost of residential land in Australian cities increased at an average of between 8 and 9 per cent a year. The Minister added, however, that the estimate was based on fragmentary data and had to be treated wilh reserve. Well, he was certainly correct in applying that qualification. His figures are far from correct. I have recently examined the report of the Housing Industry Association, prepared by its economic research department. This report was published in August this year and is titled 'A Study of Land Costs in Australia'. I submit that report is a reliable document and tells a totally different story from that told by the Minister. So much for the Minister's suggestion that land prices have increased at an average of between 8 and 9 per cent in recent years. The truth of the matter is that the report disclosed that the increase in land prices in Sydney over the decade from 1960 averaged 15 per cent a year and over the past 2 or 3 years the rises have been in excess of 20 per cent. In Melbourne over the last 10 years the average increase has been between 5 and 6 per cent, and more recently 10 per cent. In Brisbane, by comparison, in the same 10 year period the average increase was 5 per cent but this has recently risen to 12i per cent a year.

The report from which I have quoted also discloses that the relative increase has been greatest for low cost blocks in most areas because the cost of services is much the same whether the area is sought after or is of relative unimportance. The cost of services is the same for similar areas of land. The method of financing costs of services to residential land has in recent years undergone a gradual but important change. This has been due in no small regard to the changes that have been forced upon local, authorities by this Government. The Minister for Housing, representing the Government in this debate this afternoon, has sought to be critical of the Brisbane City Council and many other local authorities for passing on costs in the resale of their land to purchasers, but this has been forced upon them by the miserly attitude of this Government in refusing to permit local authorities to raise sufficient finance for the development of land areas. Whereas at one time they were dependent upon the Australian Loan Council for moneys for such undertakings, they have now had that avenue denied them.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)

Order! The honourable members time has expired.







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