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Tuesday, 2 June 1942


Senator COOPER (Queensland) . - A few weeks ago, I asked a question in this chamber concerning privately owned houses that had been taken over for military and other personnel of the defence forces, and I requested that some finality should be reached between the Government and the people whose hornet bad been taken over. I shall now read a letter which is typical of many cases. It was written to me on the 6th May last by Mr. A. E. Lawrence, manager of Broadcasting Station 4TO, Townsville -

On the 24th March, I contacted Captain Hogan, of the Townsville Northern Command Head-qua i ters, who was at that time dealing with the rental of homes, and, together with Captain Long, of the United States of America Army, they inspected my home at 94 Mitchellstreet. They were quite satisfied with the place and stated they wanted to take it as it was furnished, as it was for a lieutenantcolonel and his officers. Captain Long, of the United States of America, told me to set out the details of the house and furniture and quote the rental price in a letter to Captain Hogan, addressing the letter to the Rental of Homes Department, and the matter would be dealt with. They then gave me 24 hours' notice to get out of the house as they desired to move in the next day. This I arranged for them to do, and they took possession on the 26th March. On the 20th March, I forwarded the attached letter and statement to the Northern Command, as requested, and expected to hear some acknowledgment at least. However, after waiting over a month with no acknowledgment and no word from the department, and also no rent, I thought it high time I took some action. I decided to give them a little longer to come to light, and finally, ou the 29th April, I rang Mr. Hogan. I was informed that he was no longer handling the matter, but a Captain Pluckrose was the person to see. I got in touch with Captain Pluckrose, and he had never heard of the matter, and did not even know that a letter had been written or that the house had been taken over. There must be some hopeless mismanagement somewhere when the people taking over the houses do not even know whether they have taken over a house or not, and have no record of the matter.

T immediately produced for 'him a carbon copy of the original letter, which is attached to this, so that there would be no further delay in coming to a proper settlement, and he has promised to deal with the matter.

However, there must be something wrong with the handling of the rental of these homes, as other people are very bitter about the matter.

A lieutenant-colonel and a number of officers have been in my house now since the 25th March, which makes it six weeks, and no renthas been received by me, and 1 have not even received any communication in regard to the. matter. There is £.16 10s. at present owing in rent. In the meantime,I am obliged to keep up the instalments on the house, refrigerator, electric stove, and pay rates and taxes as well as pay for my own board and lodgings whilst out of my home.

Prior to that, on the 26th March, Mr. Lawrence wrote to Head-quarters, Northern Command, Townsville, as follows : -

Following verbal contact with your Captain Long, of the United States of America Army, and Flight Lieutenant Hogan, relative to the letting of my home furnished to officers of the United States of America Army, I now submit an estimate of the rental, and a statement covering the purchase price of the house, furniture, &c. The house is a substantially built modern residence in one of the best positions in Townsville, and was only completed in August, 1940. It is completely all electric, including stove, refrigerator, copper and is wired for hot and cold water, also plumbed for hot and cold water, but owing to the war the electrical unit for same was unprocurable, and therefore the hot portion of the water service does not operate. The bathroom is one of the most up to date in Townsville, possessing modern plunge bath, separate shower compartment and done out in green and cream colour scheme with black facings and nickel fittings. The house is much superior to workers' dwelling specifications, and is cyclone-proof and bird-proof, and fully lined.

My present commitments on the house, which include instalments on house, perpetual lease rental, rates and taxes, insurance, instalments on stove and refrigerator, amount to£2 13s. 6d. per week exactly, and I find that working out on a basis of 10 per cent. on the value of theproperty, and the furniture, I have arrived at a figure of £2 15s. 4d. per week, which is acceptable to me and does not place me out of pocket.

I am still obliged to board, and also to garage my car, but as far as you are concerned, the £2 15s. 4d. compensates me satisfactorily from the point of view of the house. I attach hereto a statement of the capita] cost, and can show receipts for all items with the exception of the ferns, and some items ofthe furniture which have been purchased item by item at different times. I trust this willbe of assistance to you. If I can be of any further help, kindly Ting me. Re the payment. I would prefer a cheque monthly if convenient to you.

 

On the 25th of May, I wrote to Mr. Lawrence asking if he had received full payment, and this morning I received the following reply, written on the 26th May: -

In reply to your letter of 25th May, I regret to advise you that any developments which may have taken place since I last wrote, have not resulted in any improvement in the position. So far I do not know of any person who has so far received any payment of rental for their homes, and all I have spoken to have not even been interviewed with in this connexion.

As far as I am personally concerned, I have not received any rent to date for either the house or the furniture, nor have I received any communication from the Department of the Army who deal with this matter. The house was occupied by American officers on the 25th March. Previous to occupying an undertaking was given by Captain Long of the United States of America and Flight

Lieutenant Hogan of the Royal Australian Air Force that they would take the house and the furniture, and requested me to furnish a letter to the department setting out the capital cost and assessing a rental on the basis of 10 per cent. This letter confirming the agreement was despatched the next morning legalizing the matter. After some six weeks, I made inquiries at the department in charge of Captain Pluckrose, but they were unable to give me any information on the mutter, so I subsequently furnished them with » copy of the original letter. Since then 1 have received nothing from them, and decided to contact you with the pleasing result of getting immediate and sustained attention.

Whilst I. appreciate the urgency of billet- . ing soldiers and was willing to vacate the house for them, I am not prepared to maintain the house they are in, and supply substitute accommodation for myself and the family. It is the responsibility of the Army, not the civilians to provide the accommodation for the Army. Many civilians are obliged now to keep two homes going, under the most trying conditions, as well as doing a big part in the war effort.

The present basis for assessing the rentals is most unfair and will place many people in the position of paying out more per week for their homes than they are receiving and with the reduced earning power of many place them under special hardship.

The basis for assessing appears to be as follows. Four and a half per cent, on the capital cost of land and building, plus fixed outgoing, rates, insurance, &c, plus per (cut. depreciation. If any goods are hired, 10 per cent, without any allowance for outgoing or depreciation. This is most unsatisfactory and is less than some people have to pay out for their houses now.

If competent valuators have not yet been appointed, I would respectfully submit that the proper sot-up or organization required include at its head competent business men and expert valuators. Such men could rapidly make valuations and assess the rentals of something like 50 houses a day. They would also have the business ability and the experience to set up the office organization to deal efficiently with premises taken over, and obviate all the confusion which at present exists.

The amount of rental due to me is now nine weeks at £2 15s. 4d. a week making a total of £24 18s. Whilst this sum has been accumulating, I have been obliged to meet the payments on my house, instalments on refrigerator, and on electric stove and at the same time provide accommodation elsewhere for my family and self.

I can assure you anything you can do to undo the muddle brought about by incompetent handling of this matter will earn the gratitude of a large number of owners of homes in Queensland.

This case is typical of many in Townsville and other Queensland towns. This Senator morning, I also received a letter written on behalf of Mrs. A. E. Lamb, of 112 Campbell-street, Toowoomba, stating -

I happen to be one of the unfortunates " who were put out and not as Mr. Forde states of our own wish. We were not able to rent a house (Toowoomba at the present being crowded out owing to the influx oi evacuees and military) and at the present have our family billeted in three different homes. On informing the military officer of this, he told me that I was lucky to have them all in the one town. I have three children, the youngest being fourteen years of age. I also spoke to this man about damage being done to our house, which by the way has been turned into an officers' mess, housing, I believe, 23 officers, with their batmen and two cooks, not forgetting the all-important room fitted, viz., the Bar. Re ,my complaint, I was told that 3 would be well advised to keep away from the place. We have been out of our home for four weeks now and have not had Id. in return for same. My husband in an interview with this same military officer asked " in the event of ns not being able to procure a house and refusing to leave our home, what stand would be taken?" To this the reply was: "A delayed action for two days until they got a possession order from headquarters ". They would then pack up and move what we wanted to be allowed to remove and we would be put out by force. Our family comprises husband, self, three children and maid We valued our house at £3,000 but the military put their valuation down to £2,400. We told them of a home that the owner would be willing to hand over to them but they simply said it did not suit.

Many weeks have elapsed since these homes were taken- over, and the occupants have not received a penny by way of rent. Even if it were decided that the rent to be paid should be 4£ per cent, of the capital value, payment should have commenced immediately the properties were acquired. The occupants are called upon to leave their homes, and no other accommodation is found for them. During the period in which no rent is paid to them, they probably have to pay higher rentals for other properties or boarding rates higher than those that will be received as rent for their own homes. Their main objection is that no action seems to have been taken to ensure immediate payment in respect of the properties taken over by the authorities. I hope that this apparent gross injustice will be promptly remedied.







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