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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1540

Mr GARRICK (Batman) - I support the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who has raised this matter of public importance, on the need to create a joint Commonwealth-State planning and development commission as an urgent and desperate need. I might add that it is quite obvious from the remarks of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) that he has -some fear about Socialism. It is a typical fear expressed by a person who has been an estate agent for many years. It is obvious that there is no relationship or co-operation between States or between States and the Commonwealth in regard to housing requirements. It is impossible to consider housing fully without considering the question of the use and price of land. This demand for land arises from the basic human need for the family to have a decent place in which to live. It is a predictable and growing demand because the struggle for a house of his own is a peculiarly Australian characteristic which the Australian Labor Party fully endorses but which is something that this Government allows land developers ruthlessly to exploit. In the Melbourne Age' on 19th May 1970 Sir Henry Bolte, the redoubtable Premier of Victoria, in reply to a question said:

The quality of life! It's peace of mind based on the home and the garden.'

There is no doubt that a house of one's own, on a piece of ground, is not an unreasonable ambition of most Australians. But what hope do today's young people have of realising that ambition? They have about as much hope as they might have had in Governor Phillip's day. He, honourable members might recall, in a famous dispatch sent to Lord Sydney proposed: The land will be granted with a clause that will ever prevent more than one house being built on the allotment, which will be 60 ft in front and 150 ft in depth*. As it happened this suggestion was ignored, just as the requests by our young workers for a bit of this vast continent on which to build a house are being ignored today. The young people of today have very little hope of enjoying a house and garden.

We are told that the average income in the community is now about $4,000 per annum, but in truth the majority of wage earners - about 70 per cent or more - earn considerably less than this. But there are not many blocks of land around Melbourne which this sum of money could buy. There is, however, land available at Werribee, near a sewage farm, about 30 miles from Melbourne that can be bought at about this price. Building blocks, selling for about $8,000 may be purchased at Heathmont, Bundoora and Sunshine. They are priced at twice the annual average gross income, and three times1 the annual income of the vast majority of Australian wage earners. Land presently being sold at Strathmore Heights and Waverley at prices in the vicinity of $12,000 is probably being bought at great sacrifice to the purchasers unless, of course, like land purchase at Kew, they have virtually unlimited access to future incomes. The situation is the same throughout the rest of Australia. It can be seen, that a young married couple on an income of $60 or $70 weekly, can be demoralised completely by the outrageously high prices being paid for a bit of ground on which to build a house, and the dreams and. expectations so much a part of home ownership.

The situation that the average struggling Australian faces today is that the lowest price he has to pay for a block of land in an urban area represents 1 year's gross income or more, if he wishes to enjoy the benefits of urban living in areas far removed from basic services. If he wishes to enjoy the benefits of urban living, combined with amenities and services considered basic by the general consensus, he has to pay 3 or 4 times his gross annual income. These prices do not include the high interest charges which are fixed by this Government and which are inevitably forced on the average land buyer because his income is not enough to enable him to -accumulate enough capital to have a house of his own in which to rear his family.

Land prices can be, and are, affected by supply and demand, private ownership and public decisions. The supply of land for home construction for Australian families is not unlimited. The land must be serviced with transport, it must be serviced with electricity and gas, and it must have easy access to community services such as shops, schools and hospitals. But even these services are not enough today, if the areas to be opened up are to provide a standard of life comparable with Canberra, for example. As I said earlier on, the demand for land is predictable. It is predictable because nearly everyone in this country wants to have a home of his own on a block of land. It is a desire that the Australian Labor Party supports, but which this Government allows land developers to ruthlessly exploit. It does this by enabling land developers to take advantage of rural land dodges, whereby they can buy land in sufficiently large quantities and to hold it long enough to make a very rewarding profit on selling.

The depredations made on the Australian public by the land boomers in the 1880s and 1890s make unsavoury reading. The fact that many of Australia's largest, wealthiest and best-known families established their fortunes in these deals is a constant reminder of the excesses of the developers of those days. Some events in Melbourne not so long ago revealed that the land boomers' practice of buying land soon to be acquired for Government purposes is still extant. One wonders whether the time to hold an inquiry into the land development industry is not overripe. The Opposition, of course, believes in the public ownership of land. There is no doubt that the Australian people would support a move by the Government to retain all land now in public ownership, to progressively acquire the land held in private ownership and to develop it on a leasehold basis. The only people who would be unduly perturbed by such a move would be the land boomers and the speculators in land.

The average householder is satisfied to enjoy the use value of his land and ' the security it offers and,- in general, he cares little for its exchange value. The reason for this is simple. Since the war, so much land has been forcibly resumed for social reasons that the householder is well aware of the temporary nature of his possession. lt is becoming increasingly apparent that Government decisions put profits into the hands of the developers.

My colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), tells us, in his Fabian pamphlet 'What We Can Do', that Government investment in transport, roads, sewers and schools makes land valuable. He tells us that we should follow the example of a number of other countries, where privately-owned raw land is purchased by public development corporations, similar to the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra, which then develop the land and lease it to home buyers. This practice ensures that the benefit of public investment is not reaped by rapacious speculators.

This practice is, of course, better than the striking of betterment charges, favoured by some authorities, to recoup some of the unearned increment in property values as a result of public actions. The Australian people want to have their own houses in their own gardens. They want to enjoy the multitude of activities that houses and gardens make possible. They want the privacy and the community that is not possible in flat life, - in high density living - unless we equate loneliness with privacy, and being an anonymous face in the street/with community.

If we are to satisfy this reasonable demand of the Australian people, as a first step we must acquire the land and develop it on a leasehold basis. The question is not whether the supply of land should be regulated - it is already regulated by public decision - rather the question is to whose advantage should it be regulated. This Government permits the supply of land to be regulated by public decision, to the advantage of the developer and to the cost of the average Australian. For the benefit of the Australian people the Commonwealth Government should undertake responsibility for national planning and development, and for this purpose should set up a Commonwealth planning and development authority. The Australian Labor Party would do so.

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