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Thursday, 17 February 1977

Mr UREN (Reid) -My grievance is that the Fraser Government unilaterally is trying to force the State governments of Australia to agree to the changing of the existing CommonwealthState Housing Agreement in a way that will create hardship for many existing tenants of welfare housing and will create inequity between the needy poor and other less affluent people in our country. The Fraser Government is intent upon forcing the States to pay the long term bond interest rate of 10.5 per cent per annum on loans for welfare housing. As a consequence, the tenants of welfare housing will pay rents at the current market level. The present interest rate, which was set by the Whitlam Labor Government, for those who receive a rental house under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement is 4 per cent per annum. Of the loan under the Agreement 70 per cent is used for dwelling construction by Housing Commissions while the other 30 per cent of the loan is used by terminating building societies to assist eligible families to buy their own homes. This is made available by the Government to the States at 4¥i per cent.

While there may be some long term reason in the Fraser Government's proposals from a rational economic point of view, in immediate terms the decision is both callous and cruel and horn a human point of view it is full of weaknesses. It brands the Fraser Government as an arrant centralist. The Fraser Government did not ask the States how they considered the Agreement could be improved; it just set down the edict from Canberra. Is this a part of Fraser 's federalism? There can be no doubt that if this proposal is bludgeoned through by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) the immediate effect on many tenants of Housing Commission dwellings will be a large increase in rental rates. In Sydney some rents would rise from $25 a week to $80 a week. No family, no matter how well off it might be, should be faced with such a large immediate increase- such an instantaneous shock to the family budget. The situation will be similar in all States, including Western Australia, where an election will be held on Saturday. Even by Prime Minister Fraser 's standards, life was not meant to be that hard.

Mr Newman -That is why you are telling lies now.

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