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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1598


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Interjections are out of order. The honourable member will address the Chair.


Mr McLEAY - I appreciate that, Mr Speaker. I am very careful not to interject, as honourable members know. I wish to support the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), who drew attention to the significant change in philosophy incorporated in this measure. They are no longer war service homes. Leans are made purely for enlistment. The Government is bribing people to enlist in the certain knowledge that they will never be called upon to fight. It is a method of covering up the fact that the Government is unable to maintain a satisfactory Army in this country.

One point I wish to make is that people who have been waiting for homes have been subjected to quite unreasonable delays. The Government has been in office now for 6 months. People come to see me - no doubt other honourable members have similar experiences - who are losing the opportunity to buy homes because they cannot get finance. I have been approached by ex-servicemen who have lost the opportunity to buy a home because the vendors will not wait for the money to be made available. J deplore the unnecessary delays in making money available for which this Government has been responsible. There are many people - particularly in South Australia, which is a seller's market - who have lost the opportunity to buy a home because agents regard war service home loans as bad news. They do so because of the delays involved. I shall be interested in what the Minister has to say about that. I can provide examples of cases where delays have caused great difficulties. 1 would also like to hear the views of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) on the question of bridging finance. Why is it not possible to provide bridging finance? I have had cases brought to my attentiton in the last few weeks of ex-servicemen and an exservicewoman who have lost the opportunity of moving into homes because of the delay in providing finance and because it is not possible to obtain bridging finance on a war service home. I would like the Minister to tell us why that is not a goer. I have carefully examined the debate in 1951 on this question. The then government, which was a government of my own political persuasion, went very close to arranging for the Minister for Housing to have the authority to grant bridging finance in certain cases. I think the Minister should have the power to do that. During the Committee stage of the debate on this Bill honourable members will have an opportunity to support a proposition which is couched in those terms.

There is one other point I wish to make. I think that this Bill is completely unfair to the national servicemen and others who were discharged prior to 7th December. In my view a cheap political trick has been played.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It is a stunt.


Mr McLEAY - It is a stunt, as the honourable member For Griffith says. This legislation is to be used to entice men to join the Army in the secure knowledge that they will never have to stand up and be counted. I think this legislation is unfair to the national servicemen who served in the past - some in Vietnam, many with distinction.


Mr Garrick - lt is not our fault that they served under a Liberal-Country Parly government.


Mr McLEAY - lt is not your fault, no, but fault' is hardly the word for it. The point is those men made a sacrifice and they should be entitled to whatever benefit the Government says it is going to grant to other servicemen.


Mr Garrick - Why did the previous government not give such benefits to them? It had plenty of time to do so.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order.


Mr McLEAY - Thank you, Mr Speaker. 1 think it is relevant to point out that there are some people currently engaged in national service who have been so engaged for only 12 months or possibly less and who will be entitled to this benefit for the rest of their days. They will be able to obtain money at a very low rate of interest though they will never get past Warradale or Woodside whereas others who have served in our Army in Vietnam and perhaps came back wounded, will be ineligible. I do not think anybody on the other side of the House could find that situation defensible. I want to place on record how much 1 deplore that fact. There is one further minor point that I wish to make. Perhaps I should do so now. That will save me wasting the time of the House at the Committee stage.


Dr Jenkins - Does the honourable member admit that he has been wasting it?


Mr McLEAY - No. I think the only time that has been wasted has been that wasted by the making of irrelevant interjections by people who have a conscience and who feel self conscious about this legislation. From figures I have taken out I estimate that approximately 35,000 men will be eligible to benefit from this legislation. As the figures on which I based my calculations were given by the former Minister for Repatriation they must be correct-


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do you mean permanent members of the forces?


Mr McLEAY - The figures on which I conducted my research indicate that approximately 35,000 members of the forces are now eligible for this benefit. If those 35,000 members of the forces required the $12,000 provided for it would mean, unless I have made a shocking mistake, that a total of $456m would be required.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - How much?


Mr McLEAY - An amount of $456m would have to be found as a contingent liability to finance this scheme.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honourable member think that they will all want money this year? Does he think they will all want it anyway?


Mr McLEAY - I think the interjection by the Minister for Housing is an appropriate one. All of them will not want it this year, but the point is that there are many promises that the Minister and his colleagues have made which will have to be honoured this year and which will have a cumulative effect in years to come, f am saying that 35,000 people are now eligible to benefit from this legislation. In two or three years time perhaps 70,000 will be eligible. This involves a continuing liability. When we on this side of the House get back into Government we will have to find the money to finance this commitment. That is the part which concerns me- There will be nothing left for us to do but increase taxes, which is something to which we are opposed. The point is that this legislation represents a liability of $456m. It is going to cost that much purely to bolster the Army. This is purely a political bait. It is something to which 1 feel morally opposed. I do not know what the number is at present, but I do know that at any one time in the last two or three years there were 8,000 national servicemen in the Army. At least half of that number would have been in the Army for perhaps only six or eight months at that time. I think it is entirely improper that men who have not served outside of this country should be eligible for benefits for which those who served in theatres of war are not eligible.

There are two or three cases that I could cite in this respect, but I will not do so because there is a time limit. But I will say that I know of a woman who is not only a war widow but who also served and who is ineligible simply because she paid out an amount of money while waiting for bridging finance- 1 notice that the Minister nodded his head. He probably is in agreement with me on this matter. That happened when we on this side of the House were in government; so I am not being critical of the present Government. I am merely saying that I cannot see any reason why the law could not be altered to make bridging finance a possibility, even if the provision of it is to be at the discretion of the Minister.

Let me sum up by saying that I think it is unfair - this is the part that concerns me the most - on the fellows who served in Vietnam, particularly those who served there for a year or more, that they will not be able to benefit from the provision of this sort of finance while others who served for only 6 months and who never got beyond Woodside or Warradale will be able to get it.







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