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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1530


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Housing) - The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is the concluding speaker on the Opposition side in the debate on this Housing Assistance Bill. I appreciate the tenor of the debate and the contributions which were made to it from both sides of the House. Very useful comments and expressions of opinion were made during the course of the debate. As some people have said, there is a tendency to overrate the significance of the Bill. I do not want to overrate it. It is infinitesimal in relation to the problems that this country has with the enormous backlog of housing commission homes around Australia. It is intriguing to hear the honourable member for Mackellar talking about accommodation for young people. It seems to me that for 23 years he and his confreres had the chance to do it their way but that now apparently they are not satisfied with what happened during those years. It is significant that the honourable member for Mackellar has decided to introduce a private member's Bill on this matter subsequent to my announcement that the Government is examining ways and means of facing up to this very real sociological problem which has been neglected for 23 years.

The activities of the honourable member for Mackellar in this Parliament, in Opposition and in Government, over a long period show that he stands for too little too late. I remember his contributions to the debate on the means test before he became the Minister for Social Services and his remarks then about what should be done. He has been Minister for Social Services and that period has now passed. Doubtless he will bring down a private member's Bill in relation to it. As a matter of fact a short time ago he moved a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss the things that he did not do anything effective about while in office. I am not sure that we can take him terribly seriously on many of these matters. He has talked about other issues as well. For example, he made a contention that the Government does not stand for home ownership. Such a contention is hardly worth answering. I am resurrecting it simply so that my silence cannot be taken as representing acquiescence. It is too absurd for me to take up the time of the Parliament on it.

The honourable member talked about the Minister for Housing 23 years ago, the former honourable member for Corio, Mr Dedman. He dug that up. One has to be pretty long in the tooth in a parliamentary sense to resort to that one. If anyone takes the trouble to look in Hansard he will see that on that occasion, in reply to someone saying: 'Give people the chance to buy their own homes and make them little capitalists', Mr Dedman said something to the effect of: 'We are not here to make people little capitalists. The purpose of this Bill is to give people housing. From that remark there has been this misconstruction and distortion. It is incredible that the honourable member, who has been in this place for so long, has to use this as the main argument in his contribution on a Bill of this nature.

There is another old timer, my old sparring partner on housing, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) who on behalf of the Opposition started off this debate. He is what is often called around the lobbies 'the Opposition's Mr Mouth on Housing'. He has been speaking on this subject for a long time. In fact he and 1 together have been speaking on it for a long time, and very often I have tried to follow in his wake. I know that he regards the contribution that he has made in this debate as being of very great significance. I want to look at a couple of points that he made as the Opposition leader in housing matters and the man who took charge of the Bill. He started off by saying: 1 look upon this measure more as a propaganda stunt than of real value to deal with the problem of housing.

The comment that he made in that regard has been disparaged by most of his colleagues who followed him in this debate. He went on to his next point of criticism which was that I and the Government were too enthusiastic about housing and he referred to the need to do something about the backlog of housing commission applicants. I mention again that there are many honourable members on the Opposition side who said that this measure is of merit, but the honourable member for Bennelong thinks that it is a propaganda Bill. Apparently he still believes that. He went on to say:

.   . there are several real dangers. In the first place the time factor makes it virtually impossible for any State to meet the requirements.

The honourable member comes from New South Wales. I would like him to know that an aspect of the motivation of this legislation involved a contention made by the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin.


Sir John Cramer - A long time ago.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer to a letter dated 14thDecember 1972. That should not be a long time ago in terms of the honourable member's experience and lifespan. On 14th December 1972 the Premier of New South Wales wrote to the then Prime Minister and said:

State housing is another field where needs have rapidly expanded in recent years. The funds available for the Housing Commission of New South Wales have been increased to the maximum extent practicable this year and it is planned to commence the construction of over 3,600 new dwellings. However, there is both a need and scope for this program to be stepped up significantly and if special Commonwealth funds were available the Commission would be in a position to increase its program substantially. Tenders could in fact be called for over 1,200 extra houses and flats in metropolitan and major country centres with a minimum of notice, thus providing additional employment in both home building and associated building supply industries. An additional $5m would, however, be needed in the current year.

This is a letter from the Premier of New South Wales.


Mr Armitage - A Liberal Premier.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He is a Liberal Premier.


Mr Garland -I rise to order. I ask that the letter from which the Minister quoted be tabled in accordance with the Standing Orders.







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