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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1953

Mr WHITE(12.12) —I just want to take a couple of minutes to support the remarks made by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale) and to emphasise, as someone who was in the defence forces for many years, how important the provision of adequate housing is for the defence forces. It is interesting that a defence White Paper was brought down recently, the thrust of which has had general approval. But the fatal flaw in that paper is that the personnel problems in the Services have hardly been addressed. In the tabling speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) he gave about one paragraph, I think, to the personnel problems besetting the defence forces. Those problems centre around pay and conditions and housing.

The fact is that the Government seems to think that the defence personnel of this nation are somehow separate from the community and that they will put up with these substandard houses. There are houses in Townsville that we are talking about in this proposal in which the floors have fallen out of the bathrooms because no one has been able to fix them. People are expected to live in such houses, in ghettos, with no cement underneath the houses and no verandahs, and which cannot be fixed because a repair system just does not operate. Today the Minister has said that 42 of them will have to be upgraded before new tenants can go into them. Does the Minister know whether anybody is living in those 42 houses now?

Mr West —We will be looking at all of this during the supplementary report that the Committee has asked for.

Mr WHITE —I bet people are living in them, in substandard conditions. That is the problem. I do not wish to take the time of the House except to make that point and to reinforce what the honourable member for Deakin has said. If we are to get and keep people in the forces, implement the defence White Paper and look to the defence of this country, it is absolutely essential that we make a concerted effort on the conditions under which Defence Force personnel live. As someone who lived in 26 different houses in about 15 years of married life in the Services, I speak from some experience. Defence personnel will not put up with the conditions that are expected of them at the moment. The sooner this is addressed, the sooner we will have a fair chance of getting some quality and retention in our defence forces.

Question resolved in the affirmative.