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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1526


Mr HEWSON (McMillan) - We all have sympathy for 'home seekers. The shortage of housing accommodation is a distressing situation in any circumstances. The demand for housing through the State housing commissions has been creating serious problems for quite a time and the supply, of course, is well behind the demand. This is a serious situation in a developing country like Australia. Quite often it is difficult to obtain a true assessment of the actual number of people who are waiting for houses. The reason I make that point is that a person seeking a home can go along to a housing commission and be told that he can put his name down on the housing list but will not get a house for at least 2 years. In those circumstances a difficult situation arises for anybody who is seeking a home immediately. Sometimes a person has a job in the offing and requires a home. He usually finishes up in some broken down shack as an emergency and it becomes something permanent by tacking a few more boards on here and there. It is a poor environment in which to bring up families.

The States for some time have been battling with this problem and have made a request to this Government for some finance. As my colleague the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) said, when the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) was blowing the whistle and saying what a good job he was doing in making the money available, the States cried out 'Hooray', but came down to earth as soon as they saw the conditions. I am pleased to say that during the time that this Bill has been in this House for debate its passage has been somewhat slow. I am sure that the Minister has seen the difficulties that he posed for the States when he first made the demand that all the homes financed under this scheme should be for rental purposes. This Bill makes an allocation of additional funds to the State housing authorities and it is most welcome at this time particularly when State governments are embarking on a decentralisation program. But this decentralisation program will only progress, of course, in conjunction with the basic needs of the community, and one of the basic needs is housing. Housing is of prime importance and is fundamental to the success of any decentralisation program.

The Australian Country Party, of course, is no stranger to this type of argument. While in government in Victoria we were in the happy position of having up to 51 per cent of housing built in country areas. At that stage it looked at though Victoria would be decentralised, but a change of government unfortunately altered that pattern. The redistribution of seats created a greater demand within metropolitan areas because of the number of members living in those areas. While we are not debating a Bill on the redistribution of electoral boundaries at this time I believe that one of the arguments that could be used is that there are too many hands in the barrel demanding money for the metropolitan areas at a time when decentralisation ought to be the main consideration. It is with some knowledge of the result of the practical use of housing that I comment on the Bill that is before us now. I pay the Government a compliment. It was quite observant of the Government to notice the need for housing accommodation within our community. What did the the Government do? It rushed in and in a menacing attitude stood over the States and said that it had $6.5m available to the States for housing. The Government knew that the States badly needed the finance and it was prepared to make the finance available at a low rate of interest and to allow 50 years for repayment. That was very good. It reeked of a sense of responsibility. The Government then dropped the clanger and said that the States could have the money only as long as they did not sell any of the houses which were constructed.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The States did not quibble about that.


Mr HEWSON - I think they did.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, they did not.


Mr HEWSON - They will in the future, and 1 think they did at that stage too until th. Minister somewhat softened in his attitude and said: 'Look, this makes up the leeway, and I am not making my demands on the $6.5m.' I think that was the compromise that was reached. 1 suppose that attitude is fair enough while there is a demand for rental accommodation. 1 concede that point but it is a policy with which 1 personally disagree. It is an overall policy and of course sub-clause 2 of clause 8 of the Bill permits the sale of houses with the consent of the Minister. That is the present situation. Despite that the Minister said in his second reading speech:

I want to make it perfectly clear that it is nol my intention to give consent to the sale of any of these dwellings to prospective home owners.

They are the Minister's own words. The States agreed to that proposition because they needed the houses; so did the needy people. I wonder whether the Minister and the Government realise that many people live in rental premises while waiting for the oppor tunity to own a home of a better standard and that if houses were made available for sale the same quantity of rental houses would be available to those people who only want to lease.

Many people within the community have a desire to own their homes. It is the needy people who require homes to rent. People who move from a rented home into a home which has been built for them create vacancies; so people who want a lease can obtain at a cheap rental a home which is more suitable to their needs. I do not wish to labour this point too much. I believe this Bill makes possible an allocation which is badly needed at this time. This Government should react favourable to the recommendations and firm opinions of the States that it is far better for an individual to own a home than to rent one. This Government should make money available to the States to use in a responsible and discretionary manner so that we can cater for both the purchaser and the tenant. Then it will be acting in a fair and proper manner and will be doing something which we as individuals will applaud.

I realise that there are dangers in too much government interference with home ownership. Private enterprise and bodies with initiative, such as co-operative housing societies, play an important role and utilise private finance to the advantage of the home builder and home ownership. There would be nothing worse than having an area in which all the houses were similar. A previous speaker tonight made this point when he said that an area containing houses of a similar design, all for rental, would soon reach a stage where it would become obvious to a passerby that the houses were not owned by the tenants. That is no reflection on the tenants; it would be normal for such a thing to happen. Tenants cannot be expected to keep up the paintwork and the maintenance of someone else's property, particularly at a time when it is difficult to get people to do maintenance work. There is a shortage of skilled people in various trades, and maintenance on housing commission buildings particularly is well below standard. Pride in home ownership is to be fostered and is admired by all.

Home ownership has many advantages and today it can be achieved on a purchase-rental payment plan. Home ownership is not subject to rent increase or eviction because of a government decision resulting in a person's income being above a permissible limit. This could be a distressing factor for people who are leasing a home and whose income rises above the permissible limit. Just imagine getting your family settled in a home and finding that your job pays better than anticipated; you would be forced to look for other accommodation.

We of the Australian Country Party want to see decentralisation assisted. Housing is the guarantee of the rural areas. The Country Party has advocated this always and, as I said, did so to the tune of 51 per cent when it was in government on a previous occasion. Mention of the terra 'per cent* reminds me of the promise of the Australian Labor Party in its propaganda during the December election campaign. It promised to make interest payments on mortgages a tax deduction. We have not seen that plan initiated at this point of time and perhaps the Minister for Housing will tell us why that plan has been shelved by the Government at this stage. Has he forced the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to accede to his idea of homes for rental only? Perhaps it is a case of the Government saving its money and making a good fellow of itself by giving some to the States. What a blow this would be to the ambitious man who wants to build a nice home for his family. If the Minister has his way - let us hope he does not - such a man will not be able to buy a house from the housing commission, and a home buyer will not get the interest concession if he builds one. Therefore a state of confusion exists while home seekers put up with whatever emergency accommodation they can find.

The allocation of this money will help but we will need a lot more. In the process let us build something for this Commonwealth on a solid basis and encourage and sustain the distribution of our population. The Country Party does not believe in class distinction. Even the lowest income earner who is conscientious should be able to commence to build himself a home which will be an asset and which will provide security for his family and for himself in his old age. Interest on the lower income earner's purchase mortgage should be deductible from taxation returns. Let us take pride in the development of our newer areas by creating the opportunity for home ownership.

I should like to mention a point raised by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who preceded me in this debate. I refer to bornes for aged people. These are one of the crying needs of most of our areas. It is pitiful to see people being taken away from the environment in which they have lived for up to 60 and 70 years in many cases. They are taken from the loved ones around them, the people they cared for in their fitter years and whom they would like to be able to care for in their older years. They are taken from the people they know and the environment that they have loved. For a good many of those people it is a very sad ending. If the Government is going to spend money on housing, homes for the aged, particularly for the frail aged, are one of the crying needs within our community. I recommend to the Minister for Housing that he gives serious consideration to building additional homes throughout the various communities so that our elderly people can live in comfort and in close proximity to those they love.







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