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Friday, 3 December 1976

Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) - Members of the National Country Party absolutely support the Bill and totally reject the amendment moved by the Opposition. It grieves us even to think that the Opposition would see fit to move an amendment on a matter of such fundamental and vital importance to all Australians. I submit that the thought behind the amendment is obviously indicative of the negative approach of honourable members opposite to matters which are of great personal interest and concern to the Australian people. The National Country Party believes that the introduction of this Bill by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) is very appropriate and continues the great work of the late Senator Ivor Greenwood. I join with the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) in his laudatory remarks about the late Senator. The proposals are designed to arrest the slide in home ownership that unfortunately has developed in recent times. It is worthy of recording that in 1946 the percentage of Australian people owning their own homes was 52 per cent, and this increased to 72 per cent in 1966.

I was somewhat disturbed by the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) when he briefly touched on the impetus given to home ownership by the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies. I believe that that Prime Minister never ever engaged in cheap politicking; rather all his statements and utterances were designed to improve the quality of life of the Australian people. Quite obviously the reason for the significant increase in the percentage of home ownership in what we might term the 'Menzies era' was the great concern of the then Government to improve the opportunity for people to own their own homes. The slide in home ownership is a matter of great regret. This Bill surely is a positive initiative to arrest that slide. In effect one might say that this Bill will inject the serum of activity into the home building industry in Australia. There is a great need for this to happen. The cold hard facts of economic reality and life indicate that the housing industry is bouncing along at the bottom of the trough.

I am indebted to the previous speaker, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), who once again gave us the benefit of a highly intelligent, deeply researched speech. He stated that there had been an improvement in building statistics. Basically it is quite apparent that the building industry still is at the bottom of the trough. Many tradesmen are unemployed. There is a slack in the material processing industries. Land is waiting to be developed. Some 144 000 families are known to be living in very poor rental accommodation. Associated with these great problems is the 18 per cent increase in costs last year. One would hope that we have gone through the winter of discontent. I believe it is appropriate at this stage for men and women of goodwill not to keep turning back the clock and saying that the present circumstances are due to the policies of the last administration. I fondly hope that in a situation of great importance people can forget politics and forget about trying to score from the other side by saying that the present circumstances are due to the inactivity and policies of others and get together to overcome the very serious lag in home ownership opportunities for so many people.

I refer again to the speech of the honourable member for Hughes. I was disappointed with him. He is a previous Minister for Housing and was one of those Ministers who was unceremoniously shuffled backwards and forwards like a card in a pack. He was very ap- proachable and appeared to me as though he h ad a great interest in providing housing opportunities for Australians. He seemed to pass disparaging comments on the fact that members of the National Country Party did not know very much about housing. I suppose there is a certain amount of truth in his statement. Living as he does on the bitumen in a small city electorate- he could run around it three of four times before his early morning cup of tea- he is not out in the market place and does not know, in many instances, the real workers of Australia. I know that my friend the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) quite often has publicly announced the great fighting qualities of many of his constituents who are out taming the harsh brigalow areas of Australia and living on dirt floors. I suppose the honourable member for Hughes did in his way pay a tribute to those pioneers. But he obviously does not know about the initiatives that we have developed wherein for the first time homes built on rural lands for members of farmers' families will attract the homes savings grant. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), the honourable member for Mitchell and the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), who represents a most important farming section of Queensland, for the positive moves that they have made to have the farming community included in this legislation. I know that their efforts and the efforts of many others such as the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) persuaded the Government to include home savings grants for farmers sons on rural land. Associated measures were introduced which allow the minimum cost to be associated with the erection of these homes.

I was disappointed too with theDeputy Leader of the Opposition. It ill behoves a man who aspires to the leadership of his Party to call legislation regressive when the legislation gives money to people to build their own homes and encourages them to save by offering matching contributions. I think that legislation which provides for money to be pumped into the economic lifestream and encourages people to build their own homes would be positive rather than regressive legislation. It must be remembered that this sort of legislation applies to all types of people. We have overcome some of the anomalies that were present in the previous legislation. I should like the honourable member for Hughes to know that the Bill irons out many anomalies relating to the age limit, migrant problems, and the problems of single people and widows. In effect, it even includes people who are engaged. I think all these factors are indicative of the fact that the anomalies have been ironed out.

The honourable member for Hughes said that the Bill placed a premium on affluence. How wrong can one be? I had a conversation earlier with the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). In talking about this legislation he described it to me as the key of golden opportunity for our young people to own their own home. I think that that statement by the honourable member for Bradfield is excellent and it rebuts the statement of the honourable member for Hughes that it places a premium on affluence. I ask: What is wrong with helping people who are prepared to help themselves? Fathers, after all, have a certain respect for their sons and daughters and they give them money to set themselves up in life. Surely that cannot possibly be a crime. The honourable member for Hughes criticised that type of thing.

Mr James - Where do they get the money from?

Mr McVEIGH - The honourable member for Hunter asks where they get the money from. I can tell him that they earn it, which is more than I can say for the workers in the shipbuilding industry who are subsidised by the Australian taxpayer to the tune of $20,000 a year- a golden handshake for inefficiency with the net result of exporting jobs out of the country. Our approach to the home savings grant is part of a package program. I believe that, given time, our sound economic policies and the associated exploration of the wide range of policies on land, urban transport, infrastructure, decentralisation, regional development, urban rehabilitation and finance will overcome the serious housing problems which exist in many areas of Australia.

A tendency has developed to buy old homes. I would hope that the Minister, who has created a tremendous feeling of goodwill for his part in this area of housing, would consider a scheme to employ inspectors to go out and inspect houses which are termed 'second-hand' because, surely, any scheme that gives the opportunity to secondhand home purchasers to overcome some of the pitfalls associated with purchasing a secondhand home is one which should receive the assent of all members of this Parliament. This sort of scheme applies already in relation to the purchase of second-hand cars. We could extend it to the area of home ownership, bearing in mind recent tendencies of an increasing number of people to purchase second-hand homes rather than to build new homes. These facts are backed up by recent figures released by banking institutions in Australia which indicate an increase in second-hand home sales in the quarter from July to September of 12.9 per cent. I hope that the Minister does take cognisance of the fact that it is an eminently desirable proposition to give second-hand home buyers the opportunity of having a reservoir of inspectors who go out to inspect homes prior to purchase so that the prospective purchasers would know the exact standard of the house to be purchased and what faults have to be rectified. The time for the debate is running out and I know other honourable members want to be associated with this measure, to lend their support to the positive initiatives of the Government and to reject completely the amendment moved by the Opposition because of the fundamental false proposition it contains.

Mr Lloyd - Their amendment is only good for little houses.

Mr McVEIGH - The honourable member for Murray made a remark on which I, as an innocent country boy, would prefer not to comment. The Opposition's amendment states that the scheme does not recognise that each householder in Australia is entitled to adequate and conveniently located accommodation at a price which does not impose too great a strain on household resources. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this amendment and the thinking that prompted its movement. This Bill is aimed directly at overcoming the very serious problems that exist. Already 360 000 people have been beneficiaries under the home savings grants scheme. Now other people will be able to enjoy the same privilege.

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