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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3113

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I wish to make a few remarks on the estimates for the Department of Housing. In recent years, because of the rundown in the migrant intake and the age of many migrant hostels, the problem of transition accommodation for migrants has become acute. In some areas, mainly in the capital cities, new flat-type accommodation has been provided on a transitional basis for newly arrived migrants. This applies especially at Geelong where, over a period, employment problems have militated against the need for or the desirability of migrants who are seeking employment being brought directly into that area. As a result the migrant hostel has not been replaced, and it does not even have a high priority for replacement.

There is considerable pressure from manufacturers and employer organisations within the Geelong area, and also from the Geelong Promotion Committee, to have the present hostel maintained as a transition centre for migrants. I am aware that recently departmental officers inspected the hostel, and- 1 know that the Minister himself inspected it earlier. The officers and the Minister would have come to the conclusion that the hostel, which consists of Nissen huts which have been nicely painted, remains a group of Nissen huts that are not fit for long term habitation. I am sure that the Minister and the officers could not have avoided that conclusion.

This is a serious problem, and it is not one that the employers, who are desperately short of labour, are really willing to take into account. As I see it, the problem is that a continuing need for migrant labour may or may not be able to be established. It certainly can be established with regard to unskilled labour for foundry-type work, for such workers will almost certainly pass through their initial places of employment in the first 6 months to 12 months of their residence in Australia. However, it is difficult to establish how the requirements for migrant labour can be met without replacing the existing hostel structure or providing some other form of transitional housing for migrant families. I say categorically that I do not believe the present hostel can be maintained with any decency by the Australian Government as a place where one would expect large numbers of persons to keep their families for any length of time. The hostel is not satisfactory, and it has not been satisfactory for some years.

I rise in this debate to impress upon the Minister the importance of having transitional migrant accommodation available in the Geelong area. The growth of industry, especially heavy industry, depends upon the availability of labour. In the main, heavy industry in Australia is manned by migrant labour. If transitional accommodation is not available, it is almost impossible to bring migrant labour into such an area. Ordinary housing is not available, first, because of the costs involved and, second, because at the moment housing commissions or the State housing authorities have a waiting time for such accommodation of between one and 3 years. This just does not meet the immediate situation.

There is another area of housing that I know the Minister has under consideration. It is of a different type. I refer to the need for emergency transitional housing for persons who, for various reasons, are displaced. This need has been drawn to the Minister's attention. It is a subject on which State and Commonwealth governments must have long discussions, for at the moment the major problem with transitional housing other than for migrants is that it is not needed for long periods and it is fairly expensive to provide.

I rose in the debate to raise the matter of the migrant hostel to Geelong. I point out to the Minister that it is of extreme importance to industry and to the development of the area for transitional accommodation to be provided for migrants. It must be accommodation of a good standard, fit for people who are newly arrived in Australia to live in. I do not know what means are being adopted to deal with this problem or what negotiations have taken place, although I am aware that the interdepartmental committee has visited Geelong for discussions. However, I ask that Minister to expedite whatever conclusions are to be reached, and to ensure that accommodation is available so that the industrial expansion of that area, which is necessary and, as far as I am concerned, must be encouraged, is not handicapped by the fact that labour is not readily available and cannot be made available readily.

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