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Thursday, 27 February 1975
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Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - I am shocked, disappointed and dismayed at the attitude of the Opposition towards this far-reaching legislation. It is another example of the Opposition's shabby and miserable role of obstruction. The Liberal-Country Party Opposition in this Parliament will go down as the people who exercised the methods of obstruction frustration, delay and deferment in its cynical campaign for power and in its cynical method of approach while it tries to settle itself down and to overcome its bitter internal fighting in order to present itself to the Australian people at a future election. Who is suffering? The people of Australia, the poor and the underprivileged are suffering whilst this campaign proceeds. I was absolutely disgusted by the contribution made in this debate by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). The honourable member for Bradfield had the audacity to accuse this Government of being morally bankrupt. What nerve for him, a representative of the Liberal Party, to make that outrageous proposition. Not content with that he and the honourable member for Parramatta set out on the favourite hobby horse of the Liberal and Country Parties to whip the Australian Public Service.

The Australian population is very fortunate to have an efficient and highly-skilled public service which has served this nation well since Federation without scandal or any suggestion of corruption. Many countries envy Australia. It illbehoves irresponsible members of this Parliament to make unjustified attacks on the benefits that go to Australian public servants. When honourable members opposite accuse this Government of setting the pace I would simply say that if they look at the conditions which apply in some of the State public services, particularly in New South Wales, they will find that even after 2 years of this Government the Australian Public Service is still lagging behind. I ask honourable members opposite to look not at what the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says about the proposed superannuation scheme for Australian public servants but at the benefits that are received in New South Wales. It is high time that at least this Government, after neglect by previous governments, did something to assist Australian public servants.

If anybody has been morally bankrupt in the building industry it is not the present Minister for

Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) because he and his colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) have done more in the last few months for the Australian building industry than the Opposition did in a quarter of a century. They have obtained the co-operation of Australian building unions to overcome the difficulties that were created by the sheer neglect of Liberal-Country Party governments in the past. For a generation too few skilled tradesmen have been trained in the building industry. For a generation building trade unions were telling Liberal-Country Party governments that a shortage of skilled tradesmen would occur because those governments were allowing a policy to develop whereby sufficient men were not being trained. It fell on deaf ears. Those governments ignored that advice in their cynical disregard for the needs of the Australian people. It has taken this Minister for Housing and Construction and the current Minister for Labor and Immigration to get the co-operation of those unions and the employers to train and retrain people in the industry.

It is no use for the Opposition to talk about the funds that it makes available. Funds being made available at the appropriate rate of interest by the Opposition's rich and powerful friends outside this Parliament mean nothing if the skilled labour is not available to construct the houses and dwellings which are required. The honourable member for Bradfield criticised this Government for having the audacity to have a deficit budget. This is not the first deficit budget in Australia's history.


Mr Lusher - It is the biggest.


Mr RIORDAN -It is not the biggest. It is not the biggest deficit budget in the world either. Let me remind my ignorant friends from Cocky Corner who could not find their way outside a cow paddock that a man named Franklin Roosevelt in the height of the depression had to put up with the idiotic nonsensical criticism that they are putting up today. The calamity that he caused the world was to overcome the depression and get people back to work. When Country Party members put forward this sort of rubbish on economics they should think back. History has proved that the policy of the present Government is sound. The only time that deficit financing causes inflation is when there is an over.utilisation of resources. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they buy a book about economics instead of a book on how to raise cows and they might be able to make some contribution to this sort of debate.

The honourable member for Parramatta challenged Government members to show how citizens of New South Wales, under a miserable Liberal-Country Party Government, had been discriminated against if they happened to be tenants. I shall be delighted to tell him. If his daddy will not tell him, I will. He ought to know or he should not be there. Let me tell the honourable member the facts of life. The Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales has left for dead the aged, the sick, the disadvantaged and the invalid who are forced to rent premises. They have no protection. People who have earned in recent years the fantastic sum of $80 a week are regarded by the New South Wales Government as wealthy tenants. They have no protection at all even though they may have lived in the same house for 30 years. These are the people who are being victimised. These are the people who cannot pay the rents that some of the honourable member's friends want to charge. These are the people who cannot stand up to the miserable, contemptible tactics in which some of his friends engage in order to remove them from their houses.

If the honourable member denies it, I invite him to come with me and listen to the complaints that my friend, Mr Einfield, M.L.A., the member for Waverley, and I will be hearing from people at Bondi next Monday morning. There will be a queue of people who will complain. Tenants of private owned, rented housing are the forgotten people of this country. They have certainly been discriminated against in New South Wales. I note that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) is inclined to agree with me because I think he has a bit more soul than has the honourable member for Parramatta. I am glad to see that he has.


Mr Howard - Mr Deputy Speaker,I take a point of order. Far from agreeing with the honourable member for Phillip, I point out -


Mr RIORDAN -I regret, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I accused the honourable member of having some compassion and of being concerned about people. I thought that he would, being the type of gentlemen he is, but now we see his real attitude. The people about whom I was speaking suffer real disadvantages. They are the people who are the least protected. Let me talk about the number of people involved. There are 930 000 rented dwellings in Australia. Of them 155 000 are owned by public housing authorities. This means that some 776 000 dwellings are privately owned and let for rent. Some 26 per cent of all dwellings are rented. More than 20 per cent of all dwellings are privately owned. The great bulk of them are subject to no protection at all. The landlord can charge what he likes. Those who seek to resist are subjected to harassment which would shock any reasonably minded member of this House, things like subjecting them to unwarranted noise and the tenants can do nothing about it; things like radios turned on at full blast in the next flat and left on all night; things like landlords making sure that no repairs are done. All types of harassment are engaged in and the New South Wales Government does, nothing about it. The honourable member for Parramatta has the colossal nerve to stand here and say that what the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) said is beyond proof. If the honourable member for Parramatta comes with me on Monday I will show him a score of places where this has occurred and where it is occurring at present. He will not come, because he does not want to see the error of his ways. He does not want to see the facts, because he may be forced to take a different line from the one that is dictated to him from outside this Parliament.

I do not wish to take all my time in simply answering what honourable members opposite have said, because this legislation has so many fine and positive features associated with it. There is in Australia a middle group whose housing needs have been sadly neglected for far too long. Members of that group are too wealthy to qualify for public housing and too poor to provide a house for themselves. Their predicament is substantial. They become easy prey for the unscrupulous and greedy to exploit their position. There are families in which there must, of necessity, be 2 wage earners. Sometimes this result is achieved by the principal breadwinner having 2 jobs. The means test for public housing in New South Wales is quite severe. The waiting list has grown very long and continues to grow. Young married couples have been severely hit and disadvantaged. Both have to obtain employment in order to rent a home. Their difficulty is that their combined earnings disqualify them from consideration for public housing, but the rent to be paid requires them both to work. These people are truly on a treadmill.

This Government has done more for public housing- more funds have been made available to State governments for public housing- than has any other government in Australia's history. Funds for States for housing have more than doubled under this Government. In 1972-73, $169m was made available for this purpose; in 1974-75 that sum has risen to $375m. Housing is a basic or essential need of life. For far too long national governments have been little more than casual observers in the field of housing. Gimmicks and stunts utilised by previous LiberalCountry Party governments did little to assist the genuine home seeker. Rents are rising very rapidly in Sydney at present. The Government will need to take action through the banking system to ensure that builders and developers gain finance to engage in urgently needed building construction work. Finance from hire purchase companies is now not available to many of these developers.

Last year some 153 500 dwellings were built in Australia, which is a record for any Australian government since Federation. I think that this Government is entitled to take considerable credit from that achievement. This proposed Corporation could provide substantial assistance to the neglected, the under-privileged and those persons who are discriminated against and who are forced to pay rent at present. The Corporation could assist and encourage people to obtain essential independence and security by owning their own home. There are 2 main obstacles to the acquisition of a home by the ordinary person. The first is the capacity to repay the loan and the second is the inability to raise funds for a deposit. This second obstacle has been referred to by the Minister for Housing and Construction as the deposit gap.

A survey conducted in September 1973 for the Minister for Housing and Construction showed that some 20 per cent of all purchasers of housing in Australia required a second mortgage. Since then costs have continued to increase, and this has meant a substantial increase in the difficulty experienced by some people in obtaining their first home. The introduction of tax deductibility of interest payments on home loans lifts some of the burden of repayments on those loans. It is interesting to know that even this social reform will be opposed by the LiberalCountry Party Opposition and perhaps withdrawn by a future Liberal-Country Party government if the day ever arrives when there is one. Overcoming the deposit gap poses a most difficult problem for most Australian home seekers. High interest rates as a result of inflation and world wide monetary trends have made prospective home buyers more cautious in negotiating loans. The rates charged for some loans on second mortgages are unconscionable. When we look at that and we look at the Opposition opposing this Bill and see what is proposed in it, we start to see where the money comes from; we start to see why the Opposition is opposed to the disclosure of contributions to political parties. It is because the hire purchase companies- those secondary institutions, the illegitimate children of the banks- the merchant banks, and the overseas finance corporations are opposed to this type of scheme. They are the ones who pay the Liberals and that is why the Opposition is opposed to this sort of proposition.

Some young people are desperate for their first homes and have been fleeced by loan sharks. This proposal has a marked effect on interest rates charged on second mortgage loans. Other actions which have already been taken by the Government will also have some effect. The very significant increase in liquidity will overcome some of the difficulty in the availability of second mortgage finance and should result- and has already resulted- in some decrease in the rate of interest which can be obtained by lenders from borrowers.

The availability of funds for second mortgage loans under this scheme at reasonable rates of interest will have a secondary as well as a primary effect. It will mean that there is an alternative source of funds available in addition to that source by which borrowers are fleeced and outraged. It will also be possible to gear the repayment of the second mortgage to the financial ability and capacity of the borrower. In some cases it is highly desirable, if not essential, to be able to arrange a deferral of the repayment. There are cases when this will not be attractive to borrowers but, for some, it will make the difference between being able to obtain a home for the first time and being forced to rent premises for an indefinite period. Consider the person who seeks a loan now from a terminating building society in New South Wales. Under the new means test- the means test adopted by this Government as distinct from its predecessorpersons who earn up to $ 1 36.80 a week will now qualify for loans under terminating building societies.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At 5% per cent.


Mr RIORDAN -As the Minister says, at an interest rate of 5% per cent. If this Minister does nothing more in all the time that he will be Minister for Housing and Construction in this Parliament, he has done a great deal and has achieved a landmark in bringing these people into this area.


Mr Ruddock - He does not have much longer to go.


Mr RIORDAN - I would like to have a little wager with my friend. The Minister has a long time to go indeed because he will not be replaced by people who advocate the sort of policies advocated by the honourable member for Parramatta. Irrespective of what he thinks the Australian people are not so dense that they cannot see through the nonsense he is advocating. A person who qualifies for a loan under a terminating building society will be able to borrow $17,250. Repayments under this scheme, even at such a favourable rate of interest, are about $102 a month. There is no way of buying a house in Sydney for that amount of money. In the foreseeable future, with the refusal of the New South Wales Government to participate in a land stabilisation scheme, it is unlikely that the price will fall. In fact the probability is, having regard to the policy of the Liberal-Country Party coalition government in New South Wales, that it will continue to escalate..

The problem is this: Having obtained that loan- it being insufficient to purchase a housethe borrower must find some other source of funds. If he saved $3000 he must borrow at least another $5000. This can impose a very heavy strain on the young married couple. The new method of payment- the deferred payment scheme- deserves immediate and serious consideration. There is provision for it in this Bill. Perhaps a new structuring of loan repayment is required.

I am happy to be advised by the Minister that the Government is giving very careful and serious consideration to the methods by which such schemes may be achieved. An alternative might be to direct second mortgage loans to appropriate lenders for on-lending, as it were, to approved borrowers. Perhaps the mortgagee can provide 75 per cent or 80 per cent of the funds and the Housing Corporation the balance.

I congratulate the Minister on his foresight in bringing this legislation into this House. I am sure this House will adopt it. I appeal to members of the Opposition to think again, to think about the poor, the underprivileged and the disadvantaged, before they coerce their colleagues in another place to vote against this very socially desirable measure. I ask them to think of the elderly people and to give the battler ago.







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