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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 404

Sir JOHN CRAMER (BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Housing has stated on many occasions and again only last weekend that there is a serious crisis in housing and that more money must be made available to catch up on the housing shortage. Does he really believe this to be true or is he palpably ignorant of the economics of housing? Is he aware that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 houses and flats vacant in Sydney alone and that about 3,000 of these were advertised to let only last Saturday in the 'Sydney Morning Herald'? Does he realise that it is becoming increasingly difficult to let houses or flats at a rental that would give the owner a reasonable return on the current market value? How does he explain his statement-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Would the honourable member finish his question?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Yes. I ask: How does he explain his statement in the light of the Treasurer's statement in the Budget Speech when he said: The continuing housing boom is straining resources and adding considerably to the upward pressures on prices of homes and land'?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course there is a housing shortage in Australia. Of course there is a housing boom. Of course there are a number of houses which are vacant. There seems to be some deterioration in the honourable member's capacity to engage effectively in his previous profession. There is a serious housing crisis in Australia and there is a boom in housing which, together, put a very unreasonable strain on available resources. This undesirable and highly deleterious situation is the product of the previous Government's indifference to the obvious need to engage in effective planning. I think the honourable gentleman and the House might be interested to know that I, with my Department, am currently engaged in negotiations with the various sections of industry - trade unions, manufacturers of materials and builders - in order to contrive the ways and means of setting targets and objectives. I told the honourable member for Wentworth recently that we have not as yet achieved that, but I certainly did not indicate to him that it was intended to do nothing about it.

At present we have this shortage of houses, a shortage of building tradesmen and the like. I have heard what the Treasurer has said. He has talked about the need for a moderate abatement in the flow of housing finance in order to ensure that we get the inflationary pressure off the industry so that houses can be made available at reasonable rates to the people who need them. I do not fall completely for the economic pundits whose attitudes in the past have resulted in a boom and bust situation. I believe that it is necessary to bring stability to this industry. I have often said that it has been described as the burnt offering in economic crises. I do not want it to be the sacrificial lamb because housing is a primary necessity. So I am hoping - I have talked to the Treasurer about this - that the moderate abatement which is predicted and proposed will have some relationship to the country's capacity effectively to equate its tradesmen resource to the flow of finance, especially to the unplacated and unsatisfied demand of housing. This Government is determined to overcome as quickly as possible the desperate housing shortage in Australia. Towards that end we will be bringing things into relationship one with the other - manpower, materials and the flow of money. Towards that end we will be setting up proper planning processes. In the interim we have to put up with the problems referred to.

More especially still, we are looking at the cost of materials. In that respect we have set up a parliamentry committee, and it is dealing with the fundamentals of life - food, clothing and shelter. Currently it is looking at building material prices. In addition we have innovated our Prices Justification Tribunal which also will become involved in this matter. Thirdly and importantly, we do not intend to be inactive any longer about the spiralling cost of land. My colleague, the Minister of Urban Development, has already been in effective consultation with the States for the purpose of establishing land commissions so that we can make an assault on this basic problem - a problem in respect of which too many people in this Parliament have waxed fat over the years. We want to get land out of the excessively exploitive area. When leasehold land becomes available on a large scale it will have a regulatory effect on land prices. All these things together will bring to bear the kind of answer which for too long has been lacking in this country.

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