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Wednesday, 8 March 1961

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - I have kept a very close watch on movements rn the industry. Of course, one of the barometers of activity in the building industry - perhaps the key barometer - is the movement in the employment situation in that industry. Over the broad field the situation has been that, whereas towards the end of last vear there was an excess of demand on the resources of the industry, both in terms of labour and in terms of materials - imports of materials alone having more than 1 Med over the previous year - there seems to be now a better state of equilibrium between supply and demand, certainly in regard to labour, and some lessening of pressure in the demand for materials. No doubt adjustments of that kind would have had their effects in particular directions, including effects on some of the mills to which the right honorable gentleman has referred.

No doubt he has studied the report of the Australian Tariff Board on the timber industry which would suggest that there is, over all, an excess timber-milling capacity in Australia and that even under the most favorable circumstances the full capacity of the industry could not be utilized. I assure him that it is an aim of Government policy to sustain home-building activity on a basis which is adequate for requirements and which keeps the industry generally in a healthy condition. He will be aware that about £80,000,000 a year is being found from one source or another by the Commonwealth Government for the encouragement of home building. There has been no reduction in that amount, but, of course, we shall keep the closest watch on home building and do what we can to stimulate it where we consider that to be desirable.

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