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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2720

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - Housing is one of the most important facets of government in Australia today. The Federal ant

State governments in co-operation are duty bound to make every effort to provide homes, particularly for low income earners. Building costs are increasing all the time and with the high price of land it is very difficult for all types of home seekers to be able to build and own their own homes. Young married couples starting off in life are meeting heartbreaking experiences in getting a home together. Home ownership surely is the goal of every Australian family and we as legislators must be aware of the problems that are being experienced in this field.

Building societies, both permanent and terminating, have made a great contribution to the provision of homes in Australia. Far too often we hear prominent people knocking building societies and their activities in the home ownership field. They have made a wonderful contribution to home building in this country, not only in the city areas but also in the great country areas. I have noticed that home loans may get tighter and that home buyers could find it harder to get loans from building societies. This was apparent after talking with a number of representatives of major building societies in this country recently. It is a great pity that men in high places in this country denigrate the wonderful work and the activities of our building societies.

State government housing commissions have since their inception made wonderful provision for housing for both ownership and rental. Where industries have been established in city fringe areas and provincial cities and towns there is always a demand on State housing commissions for accommodation to be provided for the key personnel and employees of such undertakings. When we have a look at the situation across the board we find in the main a ready response to the demand made on housing commissions in these circumstances. Banks, too, through their housing loan departments play their part in providing homes for their clients. It was heartening to see a report in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' today that a monthly record of $35m in March had been made available through savings bank housing loan approvals in New South Wales. I repeat that this is a monthly record in this field.

We are dealing with the Housing Agreement Bill 1973 and the 2 associated Bills. These Bills are, of course, inter-related. The Housing Agreement Bill seeks to obtain the approval of this Parliament for the Commonwealth to execute agreements with each State. It is interesting to note that the legislation provides that no fewer than 85 per cent of the family homes to be built by State housing authorities with Commonwealth funds will be allocated to families where the average gross weekly income of the main breadwinner does not exceed 85 per cent of the average weekly earnings per employed male unit. Those who will be eligible will be mainly the lower income families who are paying too high a proportion of their incomes in private rents or whose accommodation is of an unsatisfactory nature. However, the Bill provides for only 30 per cent of the funds allocated to the States to be used for home ownership. This has brought a great reaction from tha States, apart from New South Wales.

I agree with the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) that this Government should not dictate to the States as to what the home ownership percentage should be. I know that the State Premiers are against this 30 per cent proposal and that in some States they are talking about 50 per cent. I wholeheartedly agree with them. I think that it is dictatorial action on the part of this centralist Government. The proposal should be varied because in some States it is desirable that the percentage should be increased in view of the great demand for home ownership. There is nothing more that people like to own more than their own homes and they ought to be given that opportunity. In view of this fact it appears that this percentage should be increased to allow the States to provide more homes for the people. We should do all in our power to increase facilities to allow higher home ownership figures to be achieved. I should like to refer to clause 10, sub-section 2 of the Schedule to the Bill. It will take only a few seconds to read it. It reads:

After consultation with the State Ministers on the requirements of the States for welfare housing, during which regard shall be taken, among other relevant matters, of the numbers seeking assistance, the cost of land and of dwelling construction and the capacity of the State to use advances, the Minister shall determine the amount to be advanced to the State in respect to the financial year as Housing Authority advances and as Home Builders' Account advances in accordance with clause 9.

Surely it would be better to alter this clause to read: 'A mutual agreement with the States.' Again the State Premiers have been hit with this clause. It would have been far better if the agreement had been reached after consultation with the States. As the Bill stands the amount to be made available to the States does not come within the Australian Loan Council figure. Surely this makes it difficult for the States to know what their loan programs will be. I feel that this is an interference with State rights. The amount should be determined by the Premiers at the Loan Council meeting. In this way the Premiers and the State governments will know what their total commitments are and they will not have to wait until a Bill of this nature goes through this Parliament. The States have not yet agreed to this legislation. As 1 said earlier, there is dissension and disagreement between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to this Bill. Labor's policy at the last elections certainly did not give it a mandate to operate in this manner. Its policy was:

A Labor government will request each State authority to estimate the funds it will require to reduce the waiting period for houses to 12 months.

In Labor's election policy no mention was made of eliminating or placing any restriction at all on home ownership in general, and in particular no restriction on the sale of homes built under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was mentioned. No mandate has been given by the people to this Government to act in this manner. Today every member of the Parliament received a booklet entitled 'New Legislation of the Australian Parliament' which sets out what the Government has done. Under the beading 'Immediate Funds for Housing Agreements Soon', which I believe is a presumption, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) says that the purpose is to provide housing for letting to needy families and persons, which is already a State housing commission role. He repeats the condition that such housing is not for sale. He goes on to say:

All States have accepted the offer and have agreed to this condition.

This is not true. They have not. They did accept it, under pressure, in respect of the first Housing Assistance Bill, which provided $6.5m, but they certainly have not accepted this condition in respect of these Bills. It is presumptuous of the Minister to think that this Parliament will go back on an agreement that he came to with the State Ministers in Adelaide recently, namely, that there was to be50 per cent home ownership. Now we find that it is to be 30 per cent. No one will disagree with the need for homes in Australia - particularly in New South Wales, the State which I represent as the member for the Paterson electorate. The Federal Government's loan of $3.5m for housing in New South Wales could put roofs over the heads of 4,500 needy people. But nearly 200,000 more people in the State would still be desperately in need of homes. I am pleased to note that of the homes to be provided in New South Wales there is a possibility of my getting 50 for the fast developing city of Maitland in my electorate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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