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Wednesday, 31 March 1965

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - I wish to deal briefly with only one or two matters. Senator Prowse said that this was not a complete bill and he pointed out some of the things that it did not contain. He did not do too bad a job in doing so. Indeed, at one stage I thought he might be the only man in this place to vote against the Bill. He offered some criticism of the comments of Senator McClelland, who referred to a house costing £6,000. Senator Prowse quoted certain statistics, in the course of which he mentioned £4,195 as being the value of a house in New South Wales and £5,050 as being the value of the house and land. If New South Wales has overcome the problem of land prices to that degree, then Western Australia is entitled to be quite envious. You cannot get a block of land that you would seriously consider for anything like £1,000 today. At least, that is certainly so in Western Australia. In my own suburb I watched the price of a block of land move from £900 to £1,500 in a period of six months, and I watched the price of a prototype house that is being accepted by builders move from £4,000 to £4,500 in the same space of time.

When the Homes Savings Grant Bill, which made provision for a grant of £250 to prospective home owners, was passed recently it gave a vicious spin to the wheel of inflation in the building industry. The same problem id likely to arise following the passage of this legislation. Quite frankly, I cannot envisage any solution to the housing shortage unless the Government is courageous enough, in cooperation with the States, to exercise control over the price of land. The obvious way in which to do that would be to take the sale of land out of the hands of developers. The Government could take over the virgin land and retain control until it was finally made available to the builder for the erection of a house, and in that way costs could be kept as low as possible. Until that is done, I am afraid that it will continue to be a case of the dog chasing its tail.

One unfair aspect of the Bill consists of the many things that have been left unsaid. Far too many times it has been said: " We hope this will happen." I wonder just how much of this indefiniteness will be measured by costs that are handed on to the borrower. Senator Prowse referred to the insurance premium. In view of the fact that the Government has sought the advice and help of lenders and insurers, it ought to know what that premium will be. Senator Prowse referred to it as being 2 per cent. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but I understood that to be a calculated guess. It would seem that in introducing this legislation the Government is making the lending of money for housing purposes equally as safe as the buying of bonds. The Government is using its powers to ensure that people who lend money for home building will not lose their money. It is fairly obvious that the return on money so lent will be greater than the rate of interest on bonds. I wonder whether the Government has looked at the overall situation to ascertain what impact this legislation will have on the loan market.

I would not have participated in this debate if it were not for these few matters that have been raised. When all is said and done, although the Opposition has many reservations about the measure, it does not oppose it. We agree with Senator Prowse when he says that this is not a complete bill. Of course, we do not expect this Bill to do everything that ought to be done in relation to housing. But as long as the Commonwealth remains interested in the build ing of homes for the people, it will be moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, Senator Sir William Spooner was not quite so generous when he addressed himself to the Bill. Speaking from the heights of a man who was formerly a member of the Ministry, he said that he could not foresee the future. I said, by way of interjection, that he was not interpreting the past very accurately either. He invited me to point out where he was wrong. He referred to the entry by the Commonwealth in 1945 into the field of housing for the first time and said that that was a bad step because it was a socialistic approach. When a government uses the taxpayers' money to provide for housing, postal facilities and social services, I do not see how any one activity can be regarded as being more socialistic than the others. It seems to me that all these activities have an element of socialism or whatever else we might like to call it. Honorable senators opposite may choose some other term if it offends them less. Senator Sir William Spooner criticised the Australian Labour Party for making provision in 1945 for the building of houses for rental purposes. When I asked the honorable senator when this approach was altered, he said in 1951, 1952 or 1953. He gave himself a fairly wide range. Of course, the change was made in 1956.

The Minister who introduced the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1945 was generous enough to say that that was not a complete measure. He said -

The Bill does not provide a housing policy complete in itself. The proposed Commonwealth-State housing agreement covers only rental housing of a good reasonable standard, for those who are in need of proper housing accommodation, and who, for various reasons, do not desire or are unable to purchase their own homes. The agreement would not preclude subsequent sale to a tenant at the discretion of the housing authority.

Honorable senators will see in the Bill that a housing authority is a State authority. It is provided in clause 14 that a dwelling may be sold by a State authority at any time after its completion. So it is completely wrong for Senator Sir William Spooner to make out today, with his knowledge of housing, that it was never contemplated in 1945 that homes could be purchased by the occupiers. The honorable senator started with the year 1951 and implied that the moment the present Government came . to office it rushed in to smash the agreement and set up something else. Of course, the truth is that in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954 this Government confirmed the agreement by introducing a bill each year in this Parliament.

Senator Wright - But was it not an agreement binding under its own terms for 10 years?

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