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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3816

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Housing) - The amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is the third amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition to this section of the Act. It is worth reflecting for one or two moments why it was found necessary to move a third amendment. A number of accusations have been thrust about the chamber this afternoon. I would like to point out as quickly and as calmly as possible why it was found necessary by the

Opposition to move an amendment different from that which it attempted to move on 2 previous occasions. In going back to the year 1968 and in bringing the 1968 amendment forward again, we pointed out to the Opposition that this was an effective amendment to the definition of an Australian soldier for the purposes of the Act. The amendment which the Opposition proposed would have effectively deleted for the purposes of the war service homes advance many members of the naval, military and air forces of Australia who had participated in previous conflicts and who presently have an entitlement under the Act. That is the reason for which it was decided to allow and for which the Government allowed the Opposition to amend the amendments which it had moved in previous years and which interestingly enough it had attempted to implement in previous years with all the consequences of that implementation.

The War Service Homes Act has a certain philosophy and the philosophy of that Act is quite clear. Eligibility under the War Service Homes Act in times of wars is related to enlistment for active service and in times which are not times of general conflict it is related to participation in warlike activities in certain zones. This touches, of course, the point made by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) when he referred to certain naval men and air force men who have gone to Vietnam or who have gone to areas in which conflict is taking place and who under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act do not qualify for certain repatriation benefits and for certain war service homes benefits. The nub of that comment is clearly contained in section 4 of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. That Act declares what is a special area in relation to which special duty may be performed by men of the forces who go to that area. That proposition is covered by the regulations which would be promulgated under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. As was pointed out - it was pointed out quite clearly - this is a wider proposition than one which is merely related to the War Service Homes Act which we are considering this afternoon and is a different proposition from that which is related to the amendment proposed to this clause.

The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) was concerned that the housing conditions or the home ownership conditions - that is an important distinction - for members of the regular forces should be varied. He has received an assurance, a valid assurance, that this matter is being examined, lt is under examination at this moment. Honourable members know that certain proposals have been put forward which will require a great deal of examination, and we hope that something can be done with respect to this matter. The home ownership conditions which relate to the members of the regular forces, members who do not otherwise qualify under the War Service Homes Act provisions, are being considered at this very moment.

A number of other propositions have been put forward. Let me deal with 2 of them which have been put forward by the Opposition very late in this debate. So far as I am aware, during the war there was no 6 months provision with respect to enlistment for overseas service to qualify for benefit under the War Service Homes Act. The other suggestion by the Opposition is that the War Service Homes Division has been operating profitably. Honourable members opposite under the analysis trotted out, as they have done on many occasions, figures for the last 5 years. Profitability is not determined on one year, 2 years or 5 years in any venture. It is determined over ihe length of operation of the venture. Of course honourable members opposite stopped at the 5 years in this case. If they had examined the figures over 10, 15 or 20 years or from the commencement of operations by the War Service Homes Division they would have seen that it is not by any measure of profitability a profitable venture. That does not alter the Government's attitude. We do not relate our activities to the profitability or otherwise of the War Service Homes Division or to the activities which are pursued by the Director of the War Service Homes Division.

The Government rejects the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition for several reasons, lt is quite clearly contrary to the philosophy of the Act as it has existed for many years. That philosophy was administered effectively under Labor governments as well as under conservative governments. The Government desires that those eligible persons who are applicants now under the Act be protected. If an amendment such as the one which was nominated were passed those men would not be protected. One of two things would happen. Either the subventions would have to increase very greatly, requiring a decrease in the maximum advance which is made available under the Act to either purchasers or borrowers, or matters such as waiting times would have tobe instituted. It has been the desire to avoid waiting time over the years. During this year it has been possible to avoid waiting time other than normal processing time. We have given an assurance that the Government will look to see what can be done concerning home ownership activities of regular servicemen. This is being done and I know that this assurance will receive the goodwill of those honourable members on the Government side who have expressed concern over this matter. But above all the Government rejects the' amendment because it is desired that the Bill be passed with the benefits contained in it for those people who traditionally are applicants for war service homes approvals. We suggest that if the Bill were widened in the way suggested by the Opposition the benefits which can accrue under the legislation would be emasculated quite significantly, and the Government is opposed to that situation.

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