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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) .- I am sorry to occupy the time of the House at this hour, but in the circumstances I feel it is necessary for me to do so. About two or three weeks ago in the course of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House I referred to the fact that in less than twelve months paint had peeled off the exterior walls of a score or more war service homes in West Pymble in my electorate. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) replied to me in a letter denying responsibility for the bad painting of these homes and setting out his reasons. I quoted his letter at some length and replied to the arguments that he had adduced. In speaking to him since I have gathered that he felt that in justice to him I should have quoted the final part of his letter. I do so now and I shall make some comments upon it. It is in these terms -

If there is any applicant who is dissatisfied with the home provided for him, I would be prepared to release him from the obligations under his contract and grant him a second loan.

In this case, the applicant would have his deposit refunded to him subject to an adjustment being made to cover reasonable rentals during the period of his occupation and the compensation would be paid to cover the fair value of any improvements which have been made to the property.

Of course, the offer of a second loan would not be available where the applicant disposes of his home by selling the property.

Alternatively, if there is any applicant who is unable to finance the cost of any re-painting which he considers to be necessary, it may be possible for the Division to grant him a further loan for this purpose. In these circumstances, the applicant should get in touch with the Deputy Director, War Service Homes Division, Sydney, who will be glad to discuss the matter with him.

In the time allotted to me when I spoke on this matter previously I was not able to quote the whole of the letter. I did not omit the last part deliberately but simply because, first, I did not have the time to quote it, and secondly, because I did not take it very seriously. I did not take it seriously because if a loan were sought from the War Service Homes Division to repaint these homes that had been improperly painted this would be an admission that there was no liability on the part of the War Service Homes Division. This, of course, was entirely unacceptable to me as it was to my constituents.

The second proposition that the Minister put up was that the deposit could be refunded subject to an allowance for rental that had been paid over a period of something like eighteen months or more during which these people had been in possession of their homes. On the assumption that they had paid a deposit of, say, £1,000, this would mean that they would receive a refund of £1,000 less something like £300 representing rental. They then would have to save this amount again before putting down another deposit on another home. Furthermore, they had been in these homes for eighteen months or more; they had formed their gardens, no doubt with much labour and a good deal of loving care; they had sent their children to local schools; they had settled in this particular locality because they liked it and perhaps because it was close to their work. I did not regard the Minister's proposition as being fair and reasonable. Because I did not take these proposals seriously I did not quote them when I spoke on the last occasion. I did, of course, communicate them both to the local press and to the constituents who had written to me.

I do not want to go into the matter any further. I think that the facts speak for themselves. When the paint peels off a house within less than twelve months, there is something wrong with the paint. I am merely seeking justice for my constituents, lt may be true, as the Minister has said, that a builder who was unscrupulous would not be prepared to accept liability. It may be true also that if he were sued he would have to accept liability. But I submit that a government instrumentality should have a rather higher standard of morality in these matters than an unscrupulous contractor would have. So, in justice to the Minister, I have quoted the rest of his letter and have stated the reasons why I think his answer is unacceptable. 1 ask that he reconsider the question as a matter of simple justice. That is all that concerns me. I regret having to occupy the time of the House with this matter. 1 should have thought that the facts would have spoken for themselves and that redress would have been given.

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