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Tuesday, 22 March 1927

Senator REID (Queensland) .- From the answers given by the Minister (Senator Glasgow) it would appear that the Government has not realized the importance of these recommendations. For instance, it should be remembered that blocks sold in open competition often carry a fictitious value, the cost of which has to be borne by public servants, who do not purchase with the idea of making a profit, but with the sole intention of securing a home sit?. Under the present system, hovever, they are compelled to pay unduly high prices, such as are paid by persons who may be speculators. The rates paid will be based on the value of the land, which is unnecessarily high, and consequently public servants will be further penalized. These charges are equivalent to a reduction in salary. The value of the blocks should be based on the price at which tha Government acquired the land

Senator Cox -Which was about £9 per acre.

Senator REID - Public servants should be able to acquire building blocks at the same price, plus cost of improvements, because they are compelled to live there,

Senator H Hays - But they have a right to sell their interests.

Senator REID - Public servants acquire homes with the intention of occupying them and not with a view of making a profit. The imposition of high charges is equivalent to a reduction in wages, and will naturally lead to discontent in the service. The whole question should be dealt with in a commonsense way, and public servants should not be penalized in consequence of outsiders forcing up values.

Senator Ogden - What if the public servant wishes to sell ?

Senator REID - Most of the public servants who will be transferred to Canberra will acquire homes with the intention of occupying them, and not with the object of disposing of them at a profit. The average public servant joins the service to obtain a livelihood.

Senator Thompson - Is it not pleasing to have the capital value of one's land continually increasing 1

Senator REID - The public servants are being required to pay fictitious prices for their land. The increased capital value of their holdings will mean that they must pay increased taxes and rates. The public servants will go to Canberra, not with the object of trading in land, but because they will be compulsorily transferred there. They will remain there until they die or leave the service. We should approach this matter as sensible men. What does it matter to a man if the value of the land on which he has his house increases to £50 a foot? It is of no use to him.

Senator Foll - It enables him to indulge in land speculation.

Senator REID - The civil servant cannot speculate with his land at Canberra. He is compelled to live on his block; he is a fixture.

Senator Grant - Why does he not obtain the leasehold of his block 1

Senator REID - Many public servants will be unable to afford that. Again, the rental purchase terms are either 25 or 35 years, which means that the public servant must pay for his house and land in that period. The term should be not less than 45 years. That would mean a lower annual rental.

Senator Ogden - Forty-five years is a fairly long period.

Senator REID - A house built of Canberra bricks should last well over 100 years; its life should be nearer 200 years. In that case, why should the public servant have to pay for it in 35 years ? The members of the Public Service were fairly well satisfied with the committee's recommendation that the term should be 45 years. The overhead charges of the commission are altogether too high.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - The Government has acceded to the request of the committee and reduced the rate to ii per cent.

Senator REID - In the case of private architects, building houses of varying types in different localities, 4$ per cent, might be a reasonable charge, but not in the case of standard houses such as are being constructed at Canberra by the commission. Many of the commission's houses can only be described as disgraceful. They are no credit to their designers. Throughout them all there is a great similarity of design. Moreover, seeing they are being built under what may be described as mass production methods, the overhead expenses should be a great deal less than the rate charged by the commission. Two and a half per cent, would be quite sufficient to charge.

Senator GRANT - The charge should not exceed 2 per cent.

Senator REID - I remind the Senate that the public servant who goes to Canberra does not go there as a land speculator; he is compelled to go there or to leave the Service. He should be treated fairly. The Government should have made the present dissatisfaction impossible.

Senator Foll - The War Service Homes Commission charges 3 per cent, for overhead expenses.

Senator REID - The War Service Homes Commission builds houses of many different designs all over the Commonwealth, but that is not the case with the Federal Capital Commission. There is much more justification for the War Service Homes Commission charging 3 per cent, for overhead expenses than there is for the charge of 4j per cent, by the Federal Capital Commission for houses of similar design, built in a concentrated area. The houses built by the War Service Homes Commission in all parts of Australia are, for the most part, good.

Senator Ogden - Some of them are bad.

Senator Foll - But not those which have been built in recent years.

Senator REID - In the early days of its history, when houses were rushed up to meet the great demand, many of them were badly constructed, but that is not the case with the homes erected -during recent years. The commission also has prohibited the construction of timber houses in certain areas. Some honorable senators approve of the prohibition, but the time is not far distant when in Canberra there will be in operation a caste system worse than that of India. In one area w;e shall find only those officers whose salary exceeds £800 per annum, and in another those in receipt of from £500 to £800 per annum. Those officers who receive between £300 and £500 will be found elsewhere, in another area, while in yet another district will be found those whose salary is less than £300. In one section of the city we shall find the aristocrats, in another the proletariat, and between them the bourgeois. Is that what we should expect in a city controlled by a democratic Parliament? The Government has made a mistake in acceding to the request of the commission to prohibit the construction of timber houses in certain ai-eas. It will mean that the officers in receipt of small salaries will be forced to reside in some back gully. It would do no harm to permit the construction of a percentage of timber houses among those constructed of brick. The Minister knows that in Queensland there are very few brick houses, and that if properly maintained timber houses will last for 60 years or more.

Senator J B Hayes - If constructed of sound Australian timber.

Senator REID - My house in Queensland which is about 45 years old, is practically as good to-day as when it was erected, and that is true of hundreds of houses in the State. The climate of Canberra may be a little more severe on timber houses than that of Queensland, but a timber house at Canberra should last for many years. This prohibition in relation to timber houses will result in Canberra being divided into watertight compartments based on the salaries of the public servants who will live in them. I do not advocate the construction of inferior timber houses among brick houses of much greater value. In this matter a little discretion would overcome all the difficulties. It would be a good thing for Canberra to allow more timber houses to be erected.

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