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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3702

Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - I will endeavour to enlighten honourable members opposite - (Quorum formed) As f was saying when 1 was so rudely interrupted, since the present Government came to office in 1949 some 261,000 persons have become home owners under the war service homes scheme. This is a record of achievement. There has been no slowing down of war service home construction since this Government came into office despite the fact that this Government's term of office has seen heavy demands placed on the Government for finance for numerous new and important undertakings. We have every right to be quite proud of our record in the war service homes field. I am certain that under the administration of the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) and his officers this activity will continue to be one in which the Government can take pride for many years to come.

The estimates for the Department of Housing provide for the expenditure of more than $94m on the various aspects of: the Department's operations in the current year. A major activity of the Department is the construction of war service homes for those who have served this country in the various theatres of war. No doubt exists that the $60m allocated for war service homes will be money well spent. It will provide long term low interest loans for those who have served the country in war and who have been prepared to give their lives in order that our freedom may be secure.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the operation of the war service homes scheme is that about 20 per cent of those receiving these benefits have served Australia in the Vietnam war. No doubt this percentage will continue to increase in the future, particularly after the Vietnam commitment comes to an end. The Vietnam veterans deserve all the benefits that the war service homes scheme can provide. They have served this country with courage and honour. No doubt many of them will be able to obtain homes for their families through the provisions of this scheme.

Another aspect of the scheme which deserves special comment is the fact that those eligible for war service homes still are able to be assisted on application. In other words, there is no waiting period. Bearing in mind the demands' that are placed on the War Service Homes Division. 1 believe this is a most notable achievement for which the Minister for Housing, who is at the table, and his officers can take credit. I certainly hope that this state of affairs will continue well into the future. The situation is different from the position some 10 years ago when long waiting periods were in force to meet the heavy demand for war service homes.

This year in excess of 7,800 applicants will be assisted by war service homes loans. I applaud the decision of the Government to increase the maximum loan from $8,000 to $9,000. Borrowers in the immediate future will receive the benefit of this increase. The Government recently agreed in principle to the acceptance of conditional purchase tenure in my own State of New South Wales as a suitable security for war service homes purposes. This certainly is a step in the right direction. Strata titles can how be accommodated and 99-year leases can be offered as security.

I wish to assist Opposition speakers who have demonstrated their confusion regarding money matters on which they appear to get out of their depth. As I stated, 261,000 people have been assisted by the war service homes scheme since 1949. Their repayments total approximately $80m a year. This year, in excess of $61m will be advanced for this scheme. By their peculiar mathematics, honourable members opposite have worked out that the profit from the scheme is $20m. How foolish can they become? The point is that in addition to the interest charge of 31 per cent we must take into consideration the huge staff, including professional people such as surveyors and legally qualified persons, who are employed to service this Division. Honourable members opposite do not take any of these matters into consideration. They take the income from these 261,000 people together with income from those who received advances prior to 1949 and who are still paying off their homes, and they fondly for their own purpose endeavour to create the idea that a profit of $20m has been achieved.

I turn to the subject of second loans. The scheme as originally conceived in 1918-19 sought to supply returned service-

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men with a home. There were many applicants. Times have changed considerably. When this scheme was initiated, Australia was a small nation with a population between 4 million and 5 million. The idea of the scheme was to enable ex-servicemen to obtain homes. In a great number of cases the first home provided to an exserviceman meets his lifetime requirements But difficulties do occur especially in providing extensions to a home and adding sewerage and other amenities that become available.

Allowing for the increases in management and control we should consider the needs of the ex-serviceman who. at this time, wants to extend his home or to add a few amenities. I know that acceptance of the need to meet these requirements would create extra work within the Division but I think that, rather than cause these people either to pay off the war service home loan or to obtain a second mortgage, it would be far preferable for the Division to supply this money. After all, these men have done a lot for Australia and, although they are not as highly regarded today as they once were, I still hope that this Parliament will revere them and acknowledge that, but for their deeds, we would not be living in the affluent society in which we live today.

The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) endeavoured to denigrate me because of my actions with respect to Vietnam. I am proud of my views. But I am one of those people who never expects anybody to do what T would not do myself. But for his slurring statement about my views, of which I am proud, I would not say this. I was in the front line in France when I was 18 years of age and I was a regimental sergeant, Lewis gunner. So, I have no compunction about what I did.

To those people who talk about Vietnam I say that they should go back to 1965 and recall the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia. They should recall the attempted communist coup in Indonesia on 30th September 1965. That coup failed by a few hours only. If both these plots had been successful, what would our position in Australia be today? The doves would be squealing like guinea pigs. They would be saying to America: 'Come to our aid! Come to our aid!' They would have gone to the Old Country - the United Kingdom - and said: 'Come and help us! Come and help us!'

Let us get things straight. They are living in a fool's paradise. If the 2 plans of which I have spoken had been successful, we would have been humbled and we would have had to put every Ounce of energy into building up great military forces to defend this wonderful Australia. I was disgusted to hear the statements that were made in this House today when we were trying to honour our men who served in Vietnam. Honourable members opposite spoke in a mean and despicable fashion and moved an amendment to the motion by which we were trying to give honour and thanks to those men who fought for us on Vietnam. Yes, I am proud that I supported our Vietnam commitment. The time will come when many of the doves who opposed this commitment will be regarded as traitors to Australia and to the free world.

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