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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - In closing the debate I should like to take the opportunity to commend Senator Prowse for a speech devoted to a subject in which he has shown a long continuing interest. I listened with a great deal of sympathy to what he had to say about rural housing. I recognise the importance of it. 1 hope Senator Prowse will not misinterpret my remarks when I point out what he himself pointed out during his speech, namely, that the application of loan housing funds is not the concern of the Commonwealth Government. The State Governments put into operation their own housing policies, lt would be regarded as unwarranted interference if this Government were to dictate to any State Government by demanding that a greater proportion of money be allocated to rural building than to metropolitan building. I recognise the importance of rural housing, and I shall certainly take the opportunity to direct the attention of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) to the honorable senator's comments on the need for banks and other lending institutions to have regard to a problem which is, I think, increasing in intensity.

Senator Pokedevoted a great deal of his time to a statistical review of the building industry which was, I thought, very interesting. However, when he moved into the political area he was not on very firm ground. The statistics given in my second reading speech show, beyond any possible dispute, the success of the policy of the Government in respect of home building. We have just emerged from a record year. During the last financial year, 107,000 home units were built. That represents the greatest housing achievement in the history of the Commonwealth. Any enthusiastic critic can always say to a government, whatever the circumstances, that it should do more, but the facts here, I suggest, speak for themselves.

I want to refer briefly to Senator Poke's reference to the splendid piece of legislation tinder which Commonwealth assistance is provided to erect homes for the aged. This scheme does not come within the administration of the Department of Housing; it is the concern of the Department of Social Services. Senator Poke should be rather hesitant about criticising the record of the Government in relation to this scheme, which this Government commenced, which it has developed and under which over the years it has increased its contributions to bodies providing homes for the aged. In relation to the honorable senator's reference to the housing subsidy scheme, I think it should be pointed out that that scheme has been in operation for on a comparatively few months, yet 3,755 applications are currently being processed. More than 10,000 applications have been received and it has been necessary to reject only 545. The amount paid in grants by the Department of Housing, in the few months of the existence of the scheme, is £1,338,740. He would be a hard man to satisfy who would not see in that a particularly encouraging development in housing construction and in social legislation of a very worthwhile character. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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