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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - In view of the fact that the bill makes provision for returned soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses taking advantage of the War! Service Homes Act, I hope that the administration of war service homes will be better than it was after the last war.

Senator Collett - When does the honorable senator suggest that the administration was bad ?

Senator ARTHUR - From 1931 to 1934.

Senator Collett - Am I to understand that the honorable senator considers that there has been a marked improvement since 1934?

Senator ARTHUR - I shall mention a few anomalies of the scheme. A number of returned soldiers who had entered into obligations to purchase homes from the War Service Homes Commission were forced, owing to the depression, to vacate their homes in 1931. The War Service Homes Commission still held them to their obligation to pay interest on the principal. They received letters from the commission demanding payment although the houses were occupied by civilians whom the commission charged an exorbitant rent, but the rent received by the commission was not charged to the credit of the returned soldier.

Senator Collett - What does the honorable senator mean by the expression " not charged to the credit of the returned soldier " ?

Senator ARTHUR - The rent received by the commission was paid to its credit and the soldiers were not credited with that amount of rent. I have in mind a war service homes estate at Littleton Village, Lithgow. In that district the War Service Homes Commission entered into the real estate business and increased rents. During the depression many persons were compelled to vacate the commission's houses because of the high rents charged.

Senator Collett - They were civilians ?_

Senator ARTHUR - Yes. When the civilian tenants vacated the houses the commission did not take adequate precautions to keep the properties in good order. Windows were broken, doors torn off and stoves taken away. The houses got into such a deplorable condition that the commission was compelled to spend a considerable amount of money on repairs before the houses could be let again. I hope that there will not be a repetition of that state of affairs in the event of another depression occurring. The Government should pay particular attention to the policy of the commission of keeping returned soldiers and civilians who have purchased war service homes on a deposit of 10 per cent, of the valuation tied to the obligation to make payments on the houses although they were forced to vacate them during the depression. There are many such houses in Sydney, Lithgow and Newcastle. If the information that has been supplied to me regarding these anomalies is correct, the Government should take action to ensure that they will not recur when the extended scheme operates. I believe that my informants are as honest as are the " rubber stamp " public servants who were placed in charge of the administration of war service homes at its inception.

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