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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 846


Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) -Under the guise of proposing some low rental housing and a system of easy, long term, low interest finance on a second mortgage basis, this Government has introduced a Bill which is a blueprintshould I perhaps say a redprint- for what is the ultimate plan to nationalise the building industry. The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) made a very interesting comment in his speech. He mentioned that there should not be any provision today in the current financial situation to introduce low interest rates on borrowings. Yet in his second reading speech the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) indicated that one of the aims of the Bill is to provide a stop-gap on second mortgages at low interest rates. Perhaps they did not read each other's speech.

The building industry has always been one of the major pillars of industry in this country. In fact, it is one of the major pillars of industry throughout the world. It is quite obvious to me, after reading through various clauses in this Bill, that it has been designed to effect this basic plan, as I said earlier, of the nationalisation of the building industry. It is a plan to allow the Government to build houses, to purchase land, to buy and sell properties or to lease properties. The whole scheme is designed very nicely on the basis of a soft touch first but the hard crunch to come later on.

We will hear the protestations from the Minister later saying that this is not true. We will hear honourable members from the socialist side telling us that they do not do these things. We have had the experience during the last 2 years of seeing introduced into this House many Bills that have sugar coated clauses but when we look at them we find that underneath is the hard crunch for the long term socialisation of this country. It behoves this side of the House to take every possible step to stop this happening, and we will certainly try to do that. The Government surely is not going to deny its own philosophy and the basic concept of its platform in saying it is not planning to nationalise industry because its intentions are there for everyone to see.

The Bill really introduces nothing that cannot already be achieved under the existing statutes or under the existing provisions for building and 1 finance in this country. We have State government housing commissions; we have the private industry section, and we have various means of providing finance should it be necessary. The Bill suggests the provision of long term low interest loans to offset the second mortgage situation. It should not be necessary for a corporation to be formed to create an extra bureaucracy just to achieve this purpose. Surely the machinery is already there. The Government merely has to increase the amount of money to the States and to the various financial institutions and stipulate, as it is so willing to do in other areas, that this money is to be provided for a specific purpose. The machinery is already there.


Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - It has not worked so far.


Mr BOURCHIER - The Government has not provided the money so far. I thank the honourable member for his interjection. The Government has not provided the money for second mortgage finance at this stage. I believe that such funding can be achieved by the existing machinery.

Secondly, it is fundamentally wrong to put this extra noose around the necks of young people who want to buy a home by providing them with a second mortgage. Why not provide them with the facility through co-operative housing societies and permanent building societies and by increasing the amount allocated to State governments. Why does not the Government extend the repayment period to the co-operative housing societies and the housing commissions from 30 years to 40 years? Why does it not increase the amount of the loan? What difference will it make to a person whether he pays his home off over 30 years or 40 years? Home buyers will be advantaged by paying only one amount of money each week instead of worrying about the build-up of the interest rate. It is all right to say that there will be a low interest factor on the second mortgage, but the crunch really comes when one realises that it will be adjusted later and the differential on the low interest rate will no doubt be carried forward so that after about 10 years of solid paying on a home loan a person will find that he has not paid lc off off his second mortgage. In fact he will find that he will eventually have to pay a startling amount and this will be an added noose around his neck. The Government should take a serious look at this matter. Personally I would rather see an extension of the existing loan limits and an extension of the time that people are allowed to repay the loan.

The legislation provides for a second mortgage of up to $5,000. As I have mentioned, the State housing commissions and the permanent building societies are already in this field. A second mortgage really is of no help to young people. It will only be an added deterrent to their entering into a contract to purchase a home. Bearing in mind the Minister's previous attitude which he disclosed early in his career, this might be exactly what he wants. He does not want home ownership; he wants home leasing. There is no doubt about that. I will clarify shortly what I have just said. The Government is trying to intrude a third body into the building arena. We already have the State government organisations and the private sector. Why is there any need to set up a further bureaucracy which will be an added cost on an already overloaded public service sector?

To cap it all the Minister and his Department in typical form and despite the fact that there are 300 000 people unemployed in this country, many of whom are highly qualified and looking for work, have advertised, in the United States of America for 2 experts to be employed by the Department of Housing and Construction at $2 1,000 a year. To me this is an utter scandal and a disgrace. It is typical of the actions of this Government. We are to import people to do work which could obviously and quite capably be carried out by people in our own country. It is more particularly a disgrace when we bear in mind our present unemployment level. The people unemployed are not all unqualified. Many are qualified people who have left universities and who cannot get jobs. I am sure that the people with qualifications could adequately measure up to the requirements or, if not, after a short period of training could easily take over the posts that were advertised. But no, we have to advertise overseas. This is the sort of thing that the Minister is capable of doing.

I repeat to the Minister a statement I made to him when I spoke on the subject of housing last year. On that occasion I said that he and many other people connected with the housing industry appeared to overlook the fact that houses will not be built by money alone. One can pour as much money as one likes into circulation, but one has to provide materials and labour. The labour situation at the moment is desperately in need of a long term plan for the training of apprentices. I know that the Minister will say that the Government has already taken action in this field. I acknowledge that. I believe this is an area in which the Government could expend some of its resources and abilities to generate home building rather than just push money out into the area. Certainly it should not try to start building homes.

Why does not the Government take action to provide interest at a lower rate? The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) says it is a funny money system to talk about providing low interest rates at the present time. The Minister is prepared to do it on a second mortgage. Why not provide home owners generally with the total amount required on the one loan term and give them the opportunity to really own their own homes? Secondly, why does he not take action to assist in providing building labour in this field? Most importantly, why does he not beseech his trade union backers to stop taking militant action against building contractors and against jobs, and to stop strikes and let people in the industry get on with the job so that houses can be built and the backlog can be reduced. If this were done houses could be built at minimum cost. This is something which is not being experienced at present. There is no doubt that the more strikes we have the higher will be the ultimate cost of houses.

The Government in clause 8 of the Bill sets out clearly its plans to become a national builder. The Bill states that the Corporation will have the power:

(a)   to purchase or take on hire, and to dispose of, plant, machinery, equipment or other goods;

(b)   to enter into contracts;

(c)   to erect buildings and to demolish buildings;

It then goes on to paragraph (j ) which states: to do anything incidental to any of its powers.

In clause 6 of the Bill the Government reiterates:

(a)   to grant money for the building of dwellings . . .

(b)   to build dwellings or take part in or be associated with:

So the Minister is definitely inclined to want to start building houses. The actions of this Governmentthis is in conjunction with the Minister's portfolio- are quite despicable in many ways, particularly in view of the hiring of overseas employment when we have plenty here. Further, the Department has produced a brochure entitled 'Housing under Labor'. This brochure is nothing but a blatant use of public funds for promoting the Labor Party and deriding the Opposition. If the brochure had not set out to deride the Opposition it might have been of some benefit. But it does not delude anyone. The Government is using the media today, using so much of the taxpayers money, to publish its various advertisements and to promote its socialist objectives rather than to talk about the various areas in which it is supposed to be operating. I wonder whether there will be an advertisement on how to get rid of a Speaker because that would be one publication that the people would be delighted to see.

Clause 6 of the Bill which refers to the granting of money states in Sub-clause (2) (d): to provide, or ensure, the provision of, facilities and services for persons in dwellings with which the Corporation is concerned; and

Paragraph (e) states: such functions as are conferred on the Corporation by any Act.

The Master Builders Federation has had a look at this matter and has stated quite clearly in its report that in the absence of more precise definition the functions are without limit in regard to construction or development activities while there is a dragnet provision for catching any other legislation in operation or to be enacted. In other words, it is a complete set-up to take full advantage of nationalising the industry if and when the Government feels it has control of both Houses.

I remind the Minister that in 1973 as the new Minister for Housing he introduced 2 measures concerning State housing in which he tried to dictate to the State governments by saying that they would not be allowed to sell any of the new homes that were being built but that they could sell some of their old stock. He also tried to limit the amount that the States would be allowed to spend out of the federal grant to a very restricted amount on homes built for sale. His view was that all the money should have been used to build houses for rent. He came up with the nice argument that there was a big need for rental housing. He was also aware and I hope that he is more aware of the need to construct houses which the people of this country could buy because the people of this country prefer to own houses than to rent them if it is at all possible. The Minister showed his complete lack of knowledge of the building trade, and this was understandable because he was new to the field, when he offered $6m late in 1973 to build 1500 homes, but even in 1973 to suggest that a house could be built for $4,000 was stretching anybody's imagination except perhaps that of the poor Minister for Housing. No doubt he has learned by reading advertisements in the newspapers and probably somebody has told him that in fact houses even at that time cost $10,000, $12,000 and $14,000, without the land. It is hoped that now when he starts talking about the cost of housing he has elevated his sights somewhat.

The Minister wants the people of Australia not to own their own homes but to lease them. It is all part of his long term plan. He backed off in 1973 under pressure from various State Ministers and from this House. He backed off from trying to set a pattern for total rental housing and he has now introduced this Bill which will set the basis for his long term plan. We on this side of the House will take every possible step to oppose any action by this Government which sets out to nationalise the industries of this country.







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