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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1600


Mr HEWSON (McMillan) - I wish to join with my colleague, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), in supporting this Bill. I congratulate him on the contribution that he made to the debate. It is remarkable that whenever supporters of the Government rise to speak in a debate in this House they preface their remarks by referring to the failure of the previous Government to take certain action during its 23 years in office. I think those honourable members who think that the previous Government was a failure should cast their minds back to what happened 50 years ago when war service home loans were first granted. If they were to make a comparison of the values of that time with present day values they would find that the government of that time did not fail in its action but did the right thing by the exservicemen who earned their entitlement to benefits.


Mr Garrick - Which government was that?


Mr HEWSON - That was a Liberal-Country Party government. This Bill is designed to extend eligibility for what were formerly known as war service homes but which are now to be called defence service homes. It is of necessity a very important piece of legislation. Like all Government legislation there is some of the fanaticism of Australian Labor

Party policy embedded very carefully into this Bill. 1 must confess that on occasions I find myself in agreement with some of the Labor Party's humanitarian approaches. Unfortunately we all have to face the realities of life. Whenever amending legislation is before the House the Opposition must do its best to incorporate in it as many benefits as is possible. Initially the Australian Government set up war service homes loans as compensation to our citizens for their active participation in the defence of this country. Those who were prepared to go and those who went overseas to fight were eligible.

This Bill, of course, makes 4 changes to the present Act. One completely changes the title of the legislation. Another provision recognises the rights of single females to own their homes. I find myself in complete agreement with this proposal. Most ex-service women have given meritorious service in our defence forces in many fields. I think we should recognise all of them. The Bill also extends eligibility for defence service home loans and benefits to national servicemen and officers who stayed in the Services after 7th December. However the real implication of the extension is somewhat obscure but one must agree that this departure from the former eligibility for benefits is reasonable when one considers the necessity to maintain a reasonable number in our defence forces. I completely agree with the point made by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) that the Government has somewhat stretched the qualifications to include somebody who. in our opinion, is getting a sop to stay in the forces to build up the numbers within the defence forces. One wonders whether the proposed extensions to include almost anyone who dons a service uniform are a sop to encourage national servicemen not to bail out when their period of service concludes but to stay on because, if they do so, they will be eligible for war service homes.

Another point I make in connection with this Bill is very important. The Bill provides for an increase in the maximum loan from $9,000 to $12,000 - scarcely enough in view of today's inflated home values. I think honourable members would agree that if one wants to buy a reasonable standard home, in most areas of the Commonwealth one would look at something in the. price range of $18,000 to $20,000. Even with a loan of $12,000, a deposit of $8,000 must be paid. It is difficult to get bridging second mortgage finance if one does not have the $8,000 deposit.

Built into some of the provisions of the Bill is one anomaly which will continue to create some concern to eligible borrowers. I refer to a set of circumstances when, perhaps for health reasons, a returned serviceman has to leave his business which contains his dwelling place as part of that business. I instance a farm. A farmer may continue to operate, the farm on a share basis or a rental basis. Of course he will not have 2 homes on the farm and he must have a home in which to live. It has been brought to my attention that a returned serviceman who has followed a farming occupation all his life and who has not utilised his war service home entitlement may find, because of ill health that he cannot continue with his farm. It is necessary for him to have a reasonable living so he puts the farm out on shares. He probably gets about a third of the farm income. However, he is ineligible for a war service home loan under those conditions because, according to the Act, he owns a home, although it is his business. 1 think the Government should examine this particular situation which puts this chap and many others in the same category. This is one of the anomalies which exists in the Act at this time. This can apply not only to a farmer but also to a mixed business where the home and the shop are in the same building. It can apply in many instances-


Mr Birrell - ls that the new clause or the old one?


Mr HEWSON - That is the old clause and I should like to see it altered. Perhaps I can more clearly illustrate this point by saying that when a farmer, who has invested his whole life's savings and his whole life's effort in his farm, reaches the age when he must share farm he feels that he has missed out on the war service benefits that he should have received and to which he was entitled. He would feel very disappointed with the war service authorities and with his lot as a result. I should like the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) to give me an assurance on this particular point because if a man's business includes his place of abode - which is a necessity in the conduct of that business - his entitlement to a war service home loan for a private home should not be denied him.

I conclude by adverting to the change of title of the Act. I think that in the years to come we will be speaking, with some nostalgia, of the name Var service homes', which is disappearing from the scene. It is a description of long standing within the community and is recognised as something associated with the defence of this country- I think it is an insult to those people who served in the First World War and the Second World War to alter the name of the Act at this stage just because the Government wants to include national servicemen, who do not go away, as a sop to keep them in the armed forces.


Mr Birrell - If you join the Army you go wherever you are sent.


Mr HEWSON - That is right, but this relates to the situation after 7 th December. I think the Opposition has made its point and I am prepared to stand by what the Opposition has said. I still think it is an insult to those ex-servicemen. I do not happen to be one, but I have brothers who were, and I know how they feel about this particular proposal. On their behalf I make these points to the Parliament.







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