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Wednesday, 23 November 1927

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Home and Territories) [8.43]. - It is very pleasing to hear in the speeches of honorable senators so much general approval of this measure. As the last speaker pointed out, the provision of decent homes for the people is a very good investment for any country. We have received information from Great Britain, and from the Continent, that the governments there are giving serious consideration to this matter. The State authorities have done, and are doing, a great deal to improve the housing conditions of the people; but there is room for an enlargement of the scope of their activities. Nothing tends more strongly towards thrift than building schemes such a- that which is contemplated under this measure; because, when a person with little capital sets out to acquire a home, the primary consideration is the discharging of the mortgage. The encouragement of thrift in any community is most desirable. Although certain honora ble senators opposite have offered a mild criticism of the bill, I believe it is not the intention of any to vote against it. Senator Needham asked whether the States were consulted prior to the introduction of the measure; if they were, what would be the position if any State declined to participate in the scheme; and, further, would it remain inoperative until all the States had fallen into line, or could it be put into effect when the sanction of one State had been obtained? The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page ) has discussed the proposal with every State Government or State savings bank authority, except that in Western Australia, and there are indications that every house-building authority will cooperate with the Commonwealth. It will not be necessary to wait until all States are ready to participate before putting the scheme into operation. If the laws of a State permit of its house-building authority making advances on the terms stipulated in the bill, the act will become operative in that State immediately upon proclamation. In States in which those conditions do not apply the scheme will begin to operate so soon as their laws have been amended in the required direction. Senator Findley claimed that the house shortage no longer existed, and that therefore there was no necessity for this scheme. The last census revealed the fact that 48 per cent. of. the residents in the Commonwealth did not own the houses in which they lived. Although building operations have been active within the last five or six years, there are still quite a number of people who live in houses that they do not own, but who have aspirations in that direction. Senator Duncan's statement that the increase in the population rendered necessary the provision of an additional 28,000 houses every year should convince honorable senators that the demand is considerable, and that the State authorities must be assisted to meet it. This scheme sets out to liberalize those schemes that are in operation in the various States.

Senator Findley - It will not have that effect in Victoria.

SenatorSir WILLIAM GLASGOW. -It will. The man in Victoria who earns more than £400 a year cannot now obtain from the State an advance to enable him to acquire a home under the Housing Act. On the other hand, those who are in receipt of £12 a week will be permitted to participate in this scheme. The amount of the advance - £1,800 - is considerably greater than any that is now made. Honorable senators are very well aware that a man who has a large family would find it difficult to accommodate them in a house costing only £850.

Senator Findley - The maximum in Victoria is £1,300.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Not yet. The Victorian Parliament has at present under consideration a measure which makes provision for an advance up to that amount. This scheme will enable a person to purchase an- existing home, or to lift a mortgage: I say definitely that it liberalizes existing schemes. Senator ' Chapman expressed doubt as to whether the funds that will be made available from increased savings bank deposits and repayments of loans will be sufficient to afford any assistance. In the year 1925-26 the depositors' balances in the Commonwealth Savings Bank increased by almost £2,000,000. If that rate is maintained, approximately £1,000,000 a year will be available from that source. A considerable sum also will be represented by 25 per cent, of the amount of loans repaid. I point out to Senator Chapman that the £20,000,000 is to be made available, not immediately, hut as it is required. It was also claimed that the interest rate of 5 per cent, which is charged on advances made under the Queensland housing scheme is the lowest in the Commonwealth. The reason is that the money necessary tofinance that scheme is obtained by virtue of an agreement which was entered into between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, under which the Government is entitled to 70 per cent, of the increased deposits in the bank.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - At what rate of interest will the money be advanced?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.The effective rate at which it is raised by the Commonwealth for the savings bank. No authority can obtain it at a lower rate than the Commonwealth Government. The rate which the Commonwealth Savings Bank at present pays on savings bank deposits is 31/2 per cent. That money may be made available at a cheaper rate than loans which have to be raised by the Commonwealth Government, because it is not able toborrow so cheaply. I cannot agree with Senator Duncan's statement that this scheme may have the effect of increasing the cost of building. It will be handled by the State authorities, who already have all the machinery to give effect to it, and the overhead charges spread over their increased building activities as the result of this scheme, should be proportionately lower. They are now able to regulate building operations, and they surely would not disregard the capacity of skilled workmen to provide the necessary labour. The cost of land and buildings must necessarily regulate the value of houses. I regret that I cannot hold out to Senator Kingsmill any hope that the residential conditions will be eliminated from the scheme. Every State scheme embodies a provision which places upon the person to whom an advance is made the responsibility of living in the house which is erected or purchased with these funds. If we allowed an individual to obtain an advance for the purchase of a home, and did. not compel him to reside in it, encouragement would be given to investments for rental purposes. That is not advisable.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause4 (Definitions).

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