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Tuesday, 26 March 1957

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) . - I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the very important debate in which the House is now engaged. Before I come to the main matter of my speech I desire to extend my meed of congratulation to the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I listened very attentively to both of those honorable members. I want to congratulate them on the temperate and well-thought-out speeches that they delivered and say that in my opinion they will, in the years to come, be an acquisition to this Parliament. 1 listened very carefully to His Excellency's address, and I have also read it since it was printed and distributed to honorable members. In my long parliamentary career I have never heard or read a more futile Speech made on behalf of any government. It 'contained no promises, no suggestions, and no gleam of hope for the future. Housing, the most important issue of all, was passed over by the Prime Minister with the assurance that there was no crisis. Despite what he said, there is a surplus of both materials and labour. I wholeheartedly support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) because I believe, sincerely, that the Government is deserving of the severest censure for having failed to honour promises that it made as long ago as 1949.

This afternoon the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) read to the House an advertisement, inserted in the press as long ago as 1949, containing promises by the present Prime Minister on this matter of housing, which is one of the most serious and important problems confronting the people of Australia, especially those who cannot obtain a home because of this Government's failure to give adequate financial support to State building programmes.

The Prime Minister, in replying to the Leader of the Opposition, said he was satisfied that there was no crisis in the building industry, and that it was a question not of money but of materials and labour. The Prime Minister must know as well as we on this side of the House that that is not in accordance with fact. During the last two or three weeks this has been proved beyond doubt by the building industry of every State. If ever a Government deserved censure it is this Government, for its lack of sympathy towards these unfortunate home-seekers, and for the way in which it is treating the States.

Though the Prime Minister said that he was satisfied that material and labour alone were holding up the housing programme, one of his own Ministers - who, incidentally, is personally interested in this phase of activity - admitted on at least three or four occasions in his speech last week that there was a serious housing crisis in Australia. He made certain suggestions with a view to overcoming that crisis, thus contradicting his own Prime Minister. He said - and this has been referred to by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) - that in New South Wales thousands of homes were occupied by only one person. The only inference one could draw from that observation was that this should not be allowed - that no one should be permitted to live alone while other homes held five, six or perhaps seven families. He implied that some law should be brought down to compel such persons to take others into their homes. Yet he assures us that he does not believe in controls! In short, his only suggestion for solving the problem was that it was wrong for one person to occupy ;i home.

Further proof that the Prime Minister has made an untruthful statement is provided by the fact that last week the State Housing Ministers of Australia, at a lengthy conference in Melbourne, were unanimous that there was a housing crisis. The Liberal Premiers of Victoria and South Australia - who ordinarily support this Government - were loudest in censuring it. They agreed that the crisis was attributable to the attitude of this Government in refusing to allow the States sufficient money to carry out housing programmes.

During last week's Building Industry Congress in Sydney, a prominent official, who is also a New South Wales Liberal party member of Parliament, protested to the Prime Minister that the Federal Government was responsible for the serious position in which the building industry now found itself - the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has given us certain figures tor New South Wales. Representatives of the building industry were prepared to visit Canberra to give the Prime Minister definite information, based on their practical knowledge of the state of the building industry. Very few Government supporters realize just how far-reaching are the ramifications of the building industry because it affects so many people. Let me consider the position in Queensland.

Mr Edmonds - Where are the honorable members from Queensland?

Mr GEORGE LAWSON - I was going to mention that. Before I do so, I want to say that I have a knowledge of the building industry in Queensland. The reason why I support the proposed amendment wholeheartedly is that I am sincerely sympathetic towards those unfortunate people who have been thrown on the unemployment market as a result of this Government not providing sufficient funds to allow the Queensland Government to carry on its very progressive housing policy. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has asked whose fault that is. I say, without fear of contradiction, it is the Federal Government's fault that that position exists to-day in every State of Australia.

I regret very much that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) are not in the chamber at the present time, because I intend to confine my remarks to statements made by those two honorable gentlemen.

Mr Edmonds - Misstatements.

Mr GEORGE LAWSON - They were " misstatements ", as the honorable member for Herbert points out. The statements and charges made by those two honorable gentlemen were dishonest and untrue. The honorable member for Lilley came into this chamber and made untruthful and unwarranted charges agains* the Queensland Housing Minister, the Queensland Housing Commission and. las1 but not least, the Queensland Labour Government. Tt appears to me that there are a number of Queensland members who are in this Parliament for the purpose of continually knocking the Queensland Government. They are known as the " knockers of Queensland ", because every speech that they have made while they have been in this Parliament has. been made in order to try to destroy the Queensland Labour Government, particularly prior to an election. Fortunately, they have never been able to do that, and they will never be able to do it. The Queensland Labour Government will be in office when they have sunk into political oblivion.

T shall get back to the honorable member for Moreton. On Tuesday last, the opening day of this session of this honorable Parliament, he rose and asked a question of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). That question, in my opinion, was asked deliberately for the purpose of paving the way for his colleague, the honorable member for Lilley, to come in again with vile, untruthful, dishonest statements.

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