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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2657


Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) - Before getting on to the substance of the points I wish to contribute to the debate on this legislation, I wish to make one or two comments on the remarks of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown). Firstly, I share with him his concern for the welfare of the needy. I think we all do. The honourable member mentioned that 85 per cent of the homes built by State housing authorities with Commonwealth Government advances will be allocated to families whose income does not exceed a particular figure. He also claimed - unjustifiably - that this is the Government's innovation. I shall come back to that shortly.

The honourable member seemed to be somewhat confused. He talked about home ownership not being available to certain sections of the community and mentioned that this legislation was designed to help overcome that situation. It is obvious that he has not read the terms of the legislation and that he did not listen to the remarks of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) on this subject. However he did mention the shortage of materials and of building labour. In this regard I repeat a statement which I made during the debate on an earlier Bill dealing with housing requirements. The situation is worsening. The materials shortage is so bad at present that it is not a question of getting a building contractor to build a home but of getting materials to enable its construction to proceed. Up until December last year materials were readily available in the building industry. Materials necessary for the erection of the frame of a home could readily be found. Possibly within 2 weeks of signing a contract the house construction could be under way. Today one may wait almost 2 months for the materials. This is one reason for the delay experienced by people in procuring homes. I only mention this in passing because it is obvious that the Minister must consider that it is not simply a matter of providing moneys to the States or to housing concerns; there is a tremendous shortage of tradesmen to erect homes and a tremendous shortage of materials.

So great is the accelerated demand for housing that at present in the building construction field building contractors who normally tender for Housing Commission contracts are reluctant to be bothered tendering for these low priced home units. I do not say that in any derogatory sense of the contractors because such homes are built to a specified price and there is a great demand for high priced homes on which these people can make more money. The honourable member for Mitchell referred to the high cost of houses and flats in Sydney and Melbourne. A similar situation applies in Canberra where the release of land is controlled. Building contractors would rather tender for high priced building work. If they seek to engage in what is called 'spec' home building for sale, they have all the market they need. This is a factor which contributes to the delay in getting Housing Commission homes built. This applies particularly in my home State of Victoria.

The Bill provides that 85 per cent of homes built by State authorities must be provided for low income families. What a magnificent provision this is for the Minister for Housing to include in the Bill. Last weekend we heard statements accusing the Victorian Government of stealing policies belonging to another party. Victoria, and I think all the other States, have provided homes for the needy for years - ever since the inception of Housing Commission type buildings. The Minister is only stealing their policies. The States have always provided this service, particularly in Victoria, so it is not this Government's innovation. In his second reading speech the Minister said:

I wish to make it perfectly clear, Mr Speaker, that despite this emphasis there is no thought that a person who has been allocated accommodation by a State housing authority will be asked to vacate his dwelling if his income subsequently rises above the needs test level. There is absolutely no truth in statements that have been made to this effect.

I draw attention to that last sentence:

There is absolutely no truth in statements that have been made to this effect.

In an article which appeared in the 'Bulletin* of 10 February 1973 appears the following:

Mr Johnsonalso told the 'Bulletin' last week that the Commonwealth would insist that people should be moved out (he objected to the word 'evicted')- 1 think it is the same thing - of Housing Commission homes when their incomes moved above the means test being used as the measure of 'need'.

I wonder which statement of the Minister is the truth. However the States considered the Minister's attitude to evicting people from their homes as against the rights of the people of Australia. People have the right to choose where to live and certainly such decision should not be governed by the income they receive. Every Housing Commission in Australia, whether it be under the control of a Labor or Liberal government, offers its tenants the right to purchase as well as to rent homes. Home ownership is a deeply imbedded Australian aspiration. For years Australians have demanded the right to own their own homes. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) quoted the number of homes that were sold in Victoria when the tenants were given the opportunity by a Liberal government to buy them. The number purchased was a staggering figure, but many Housing Commission homes still are available for rental purposes.

The Minister said that he, is not against home ownership. He said - 'this, of course, is a change from his previous statement - 'that he is prepared to allow up to 30 per cent of homes built by the Housing Commissions to be sold. In the article in the 'Bulletin' to which I referred earlier the Minister is reported to have said that the sale of new houses built by the. State housing authorities should be severely restricted, if not entirely prohibited. I think that is an indication of the Minister's thinking. Prior to the election in Victoria the Victorian Government announced, as part of its policy, that the $200 deposit previously needed for a person to buy his Housing Commission home would be no longer required and that people would be able to buy homes on a no-deposit basis. At present in Victoria for Housing Commission homes in the metropolitan area the rental charged is $12.30 a week and in country areas $1 1.80 a week. This would be well below the amount that the Minister has provided in the Bill as the maximum guideline. Throughout Australia rentals are certainly higher. The Minister mentioned that and I am glad that he did for I will refer to that aspect presently. The Victorian rental is well below the guidelines the Minister set out. The Minister said that a means test will be introduced in respect of rental housing. The Minister subsequently found to his dismay that again he was stealing the Victorian Government's thunder because it has applied a means test for years.

Since the Liberal Government took office in Victoria in 1955, 33,780 housing units have been sold to persons allocated homes on the basis of the means test. These homes were sold not by direction of the Victorian Housing Commission but because the occupants wanted to buy them. As I mentioned earlier, a $200 deposit was required and the purchasers paid slightly more than the average rental to buy their homes. Payments to own homes are slightly higher, but not much higher, than the rental. If the rental is $12.30 a purchaser would possibly pay an extra $3 a week. This still is as low a payment as is available anywhere in Australia to purchase a home. Home buying is a saving whereas renting a home is a dead loss. Home buying provides a form of security that Australians desire. I believe that the States have a death benefit insurance scheme for persons purchasing their homes so that in the event of the decease of a breadwinner the purchase price outstanding is discharged and the family has no fear of losing the home. I said that more than 33,000 homes had been sold in Victoria. I believe that only a small percentage of those home purchasers had to revert to a rental basis of tenancy.

At present Victoria has what is termed an average rental system. Earlier the Minister said that in some parts of Australia rentals are higher. I know this. Victorian rentals are kept at a minimum because of the way its government has planned for the needy people of that State. In Victoria rents for Housing Commission homes are graduated so that even though new homes cost more they are able to be provided for at a rental lower than the cost would justify. I understand that some of the other States charge rentals of up to $20 and $22 a week. The Minister has sug gested in his guidelines, to which I believe the States have agreed, that the rental should not exceed 22i per cent of the upper limit of the needs test. That would be approximately $20 a week. I understand that in New South Wales the economic rent system, as it is termed, is used and rentals average from $18 to $20 a week. If Victoria is forced, by this Government's dictatorial attitude, to adopt this economic rent system, rents in Victoria will rise from $11 or $12 a week to $20 a week. I am sure that the people of Victoria have indicated already their reaction to that type of attitude.

Let me turn to a Labor election promise in relation to housing. We have heard very little about it since the election. The ALP promised tax deductibility for interest on housing loans. People earning $4,000 and less were to receive a 100 per cent deduction.

Mir DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I think that the honourable member is straying somewhat from the subject matter of the cognate debate.


Mr BOURCHIER - I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. I accept your ruling. I think that the point was well made. The people are well aware that that Labor promise will not be honoured anyway. It is similar to Labor's promise about land prices. I am not straying from the subject here because the Minister himself mentioned that the Government was making great strides towards buying land, developing it and providing it at cost. So far we have seen very little of it. I believe that that promise will be like the one on interest payments; we will hear it and then we will not see very much done about it. An election promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech was:

A Labor Government will request each State authority to estimate the funds needed to reduce the waiting period for houses to 12 months.

The Government is not requesting the States to do anything; it is telling the States what to do. The Government has not reached any agreement with the States. It has had discussions with the States but it will not accept the States' request for a 50 per cent salability of homes. Why should the Government not allow the States to sell 50 per cent of the homes built with their allocations of money? It is the needy people who qualify for the homes. If they are given the opportunity to buy the homes and to be proud of their standard of living, why should this Government lower that standard of living? The Government is using blackmail tactics to force the States to agree. This Bill provides for the interest rate on loans to be 4 per cent. Unfortunately, the subtle suggestion has been made that, if the States do not wish to agree, they may have to find the money by other means. That would mean that they would have to pay at least 6i per cent interest. As I said, there has been no agreement on the Bill as it is presented. The States have had no discussions on the Bill. As the honourable member for Herbert stated, the Bill was introduced into this House and it was only 2 days prior to that that some of the States received copies of the Bill. This is supposed to be a 7-way agreement. It is called 'The Housing Agreement'. It is not an agreement. It is a dictatorial, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The Government is using blackmail tactics and threats, which is typical of the attitude of this Government towards the States. Last Saturday the Victorian electors censured this Government for its policy on housing.







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