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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3813

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - I am not so easily persuaded by ministerial assurances as is the honourable member for Herber" (Mr Bonnett). I have been in this Parliament for 19 years. During that period. / have represented more serving members of the Forces than any other honourable member. During that period there have been verv few opportunities to move amendments to the War Service Homes Act. The last time there was such an opportunity was 3 years ago. On this occasion the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has moved the same amendments as the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) moved 3 years ago.

The Ministry has had many changes. Nevertheless there are still some Ministers who at that time professed an interest in extending the operations of the War Service Homes Division. During the 19 years that I have been here, no extensions of eligibility for war service homes have been introduced. There have been many restrictions on eligibility for war service homes. These restrictions were brought in by administrative action. The first lo* were introduced in the credit squeeze of 1951. The second lot were brought in during the credit squeeze of 1961. Both rationing schemes are still 'here. The amendments that the honourable member for Reid has proposed are designed to see that restrictions on the entitlement to war service homes are not brought in by Ministerial action and that at least the Parliament can pass upon restrictions which are imposed.

Surely we have reached the stage where we can enlarge the entitlement to war service homes. I would have hoped that there would be more honourable gentlemen disposed to vote for such a proposition. It is true that most of the big Air Force and Army establishments are in Labor held electorates. The honourable member for

Oxley (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and 1 represent these large areas. My own electorate covers the whole area from Holsworthy down to Ingleburn.

We know the difficulties that serving members of the Forces have from 2 specific problems. One is that, during their serving lives, they must move from one posting to another. They must move more frequently than any other families in the country. The War Service Homes Act prevents a person, except in cases of great hardship, receiving a second grant. If he sells an existing war service home, he must repay all of the loan that he owes on that home. He cannot have as a second loan even the amount which he still owed on the first loan.

The second great problem that they have is that, when they get out of the Services, in most cases they are already older than people who are obtaining home loans and, therefore, they are not regarded as the best prospects. They are going into new careers. Furthermore, they find it intolerable to pay back during the rest of their careers in civilian life the full amount that a home purchaser has to borrow these days to get a house, lt is about time that we struck off these disabilities that members of the Armed Forces must bear.

T*> put the matter into perspective, I point out that, in the last 5 financial years, the Commonwealth has received $94m more from persons buying war service homes than it has advanced to people buying war service homes. 1 emphasise that it has received $94m more. Nobody dreams for a moment that there will not be a very great surplus of revenue from repayments over expenditure in the present financial year. Accordingly, it should be possible to extend the entitlement for war service homes.

The Australian Labor Party's interest in this matter is coupled with its determination to have a volunteer Army. This is one incentive that the Commonwealth has available to it. There are very many essential occupations in this community which are short of enough men or women. There is only one occupation in this country for which we impose compulsion, namely, service in the Army by men. If we were to extend only to persons who give service in the Army or who have been honorably discharged from the Army the full range of benefits which, up to now, the Commonwealth has limited to those who have served on active service overseas, we would find a very great number of persons enlisting in the Army and signing on for new terms in the Army. My Party has said this for quite some years.

Since, so often, people give their versions of what my Party says on certain matters, I will read into the record some of the things that we have said on this matter. At our 28th Commonwealth Conference in 1969, we passed this resolution:

A regular soldier should not have to wait unlit he has served overseas before he can. obtain a War Service Home loan; he should not bc denied further War Service Home loans if his service requires him to move from one house to another. Easing the frequent shifts of house which constitute a major feature of service life should be a major responsibility of the War Service Homes Division yet successive Liberal ministers have refused to repeal the provision that a person who has had one War Service Hume shall not receive another except on grounds of grave emergency. Since 1951 loans have been refused for the discharge of mortgages previously given to other housing institutions and lenders. Since June 1962 additional loans have been refused for road making costs except in cases of extreme financial hardship. Since August 1962 such loans have been further restricted to essential extra steeping accommodation and installation of water and power services, It is high time that all these rationing schemes were abolished and the full benefits of the War Service Homes Act restored. lt is high time that British and allied exservicemen were allowed to receive War Service homes. After two years' service in the Regular Army or six years in the CMF or, if invalided out earlier, a man or woman should be entitled to a War Service Home loan.

In our conference this year we stated more succinctly the principle in the following terms:

Labor shall provide war service homes, repatriation health benefits, civilian rehabilitation training, scholarships for their children and generous re-engagement, retirement and re-settlement allowances for members of the Forces.

For too long we have limited the Commonwealth's repatriation or veterans' legislation to circumstances which are not likely to occur in our lifetimes, in the First World War it was the only procedure, in the Second World War it was by far the usual procedure for a man to enlist for the duration and to serve overseas. Accordingly all of our departments and all of our instrumentalities are still geared to this system where there is a mass rally to the flag and people serve overseas and are then given certain benefits to restore them to civilian life.

Nowadays the overwhelming probability is that there will not be a great war in the lifetime of any of us. Similarly, however, it is certain that we are going to require mobile professional forces. These forces will be competing for manpower with other occupations which will be well remunerated and highly technical. In these circumstances we should use some of the existing Commonwealth machinery to give an advantage to those who serve their country in the armed forces. These people will be serving in an occupation which takes them and their families very rapidly from one place to another; it is an occupation which they have to give up at a relatively early age. The War Service Homes Division is a great instrumentality, ready for the purpose, which is to give ex-servicemen the benefits which derive from it. 1 therefore commend to honourable members on both sides of the chamber one of those amendments which come to us in the lifetime of a Parliament on only one occasion. The principle underlying this amendment has been in the Labor Party's platform for many years. It is a matter on which the Labor Party has moved whenever there has been the opportunity.

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