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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1518

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I support the Bill and I congratulate the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) upon the real interest he has shown and the swift action he has taken to tackle the housing problem in Australia. The main approach of the Government towards the need for low rental homes is commendable and is in direct contrast, I suggest, to the attitude of the conservative governments of the past. The desire of the present Minister to take positive action to assist those persons in the community who have been victims of the past Government's lack of concern is recognised. I say this with knowledge of my own electorate and of the community generally. ~ The present Labor Government assumed office at a time when a crisis existed in the housing field. Despite the poppycock and the rubbish that we have listened to this evening every person who has any interest in the housing of Australians knows that this is a fact. Under the previous Government a housing crisis had developed to the stage where in all States there existed long lists of outstanding applications for homes for purchase or rental from State housing commissions. In such circumstances it is difficult to understand the attitude of some of these authorities towards the Federal Government's proposals, lt is difficult also to understand the comments attributed to representatives of certain of the State governments in a country which boasts of progress and prosperity, where massive profits are the objective of the avaricious and where these objectives are achieved by many.

I suggest that there should be no real poverty. I am extremely pleased that 1 belong to a government that has taken action to overcome the problems of many people in this country. This Government is tackling the dreadful problem of poverty through progressive measures, some of which it has taken already and others which it will take in the future. By providing finance to the States for the purpose of making available low rental accommodation this Government is endeavouring to relieve the plight of those in need. If we are to be condemned for this type of humane approach 1 believe every member of this side of the House would be prepared proudly to accept that sort of condemnation. 1 realise thai misfortunes may befall families or individuals and that circumstances arise as a result of those misfortunes which have a detrimental effect on the standard of living of those concerned. Of course people on a decent income have an opportunity to overcome their problems. But there are people in the community who are on low incomes and who are paying high rentals. They have no chance whatever of overcoming any setback. In fact, they have many problems, I suggest, in making ends meet from day to day. High home rental is an imposition from which there is no escape for them. Therefore, responsible government must come to their aid.

I have personal knowledge of many instances in my own electorate where rentals being charged by certain landlords have resulted in the standard of living of many families being drastically reduced. Large numbers of people throughout this nation are on low incomes and pay high rents. Because of their circumstances they will never be in a position to save the required deposit for a home. I repeat that the Minister is to be commended for the action he has taken to ensure that these people have a roof over their heads. I suggest that in my home State of Queensland a very high percentage of people fall into this category. 1 base this opinion on the knowledge 1 have of the impact which 2 factors of State government responsibility have in respect of this matter. The first is the cruel action of the Country Party led government in Queensland in removing rent controls after it assumed office in 1957. The second, and this is of extreme importance, I suggest is the fact that Queensland is a low wage State. Because of these factors the Government of Queensland must take a share of the responsibility for the torment, anxiety and feeling of depression which the classification of needy brings to people whose already low income is reduced because of high rental charges. I state this because before the defeat of the Australian Labor Party Government in Queensland in 1957 rents were controlled and the rights of tenants were safeguarded.

One of the early actions of the Queensland Country-Liberal Party Government after assuming office was to remove rent control and the safeguard which the previous Government had made for tenants. Since these safeguards were abolished certain people in the community have fleeced tenants. Those who were and are still being fleeced have no redress, lt is a case of pay up or get out. This is the situation in Queensland. I have mentioned, of course, that Queensland is a low wage State. We hear a lot of comment from the leaders of the Queensland Government about the activities of the Federal Government, lt appears to me that much of this comment is made to throw a smokescreen around the real problems which exist in Queensland.

Let us examine the wage structure in the sunny State of Queensland under Country led governments since 1957. The last available figures relating to the percentages of the workforce which receive various levels of wages and salary were published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in May 1971. The level of workers at the time receiving less than $50 a week was 1 per cent in New South Wales, 0.9 per cent in Victoria and 3.1 per cent in Queensland. So that, on a percentage basis, for every worker in New South Wales who was receiving about $50 or less a week there were 3 people in that unfortunate position in Queensland. For the same period, 8.3 per cent of the work force in New South Wales received less than $60 a week. In Victoria the figure was 9.1 per cent and in Queensland it was 17 per cent, or about double the percentage of the work force of the other eastern States. Those receiving less than $70 a week represented nearly 21 per cent of the work force in New South Wales, 22.5 per cent in Victoria and over 34 per cent in Queensland. When leaders of the Government in Queensland talk about what is occurring in other areas, they could well have a look at the low wage structure that has been permitted to develop in that State.

People might have been misled because of the advertising prior to the 1972 Federal election. Advertisements appeared in Queensland newspapers stating that Australia was looking for inspiring leadership and suggesting that Queensland had such leadership with its Country Party Premier. I know that that statement upset many Liberals in Queensland and in the rest of Australia; a lot of people were upset by it. I would suggest that while the leadership of the Queensland Premier might be acceptable to the less than 20 per cent of the vote that the Country Party receives in Queensland, from the viewpoint of the workers in that State, they have been led into a situation where they are receiving the lowest wages in Australia, when comparisons are made with the workers of the other States. I mention this fact because it is clear that with low wages and no control over rents, many Queensland families are placed in an extremely invidious position. The plight of these people apparently is not understood by the Queensland Government and, after listening to some of the debate here this evening, it apparently is not understood by some honourable members opposite. If the plight of these people is understood, the expressed attitude of members of the Opposition is not only difficult to understand but also leaves one to wonder just what they think about people who really are in need.

T have referred to a great degree to the State in which I live because, after all, I have a fair knowledge of what has occurred there. When the suggestion of Commonwealth assistance to the States for low rental homes was being discussed, the Queensland Minister for

Housing was reported in the Press as saying that he was disappointed with the outcome of the Housing Ministers' conference. It was reported that he claimed that hundreds of Queenslanders will miss out on buying low interest housing commission homes under the new Commonwealth-State housing agreement. One would imagine from these statements that availability of housing commission homes in Queensland is high. One could be forgiven, I suggest, for believing that had this new agreement not been entered into, hundreds of Queenslanders would have been provided with homes for purchase and that Queenslanders who wished to rent a home would have their requirements fulfilled. However, when the position in Queensland is investigated it is quickly discovered that not merely hundreds but thousands of Queenslanders have made applications without success for homes to rent and this has been going on over many years.

It is estimated that outstanding applications for homes to rent from the Queensland Housing Commission rose from 4,900 for the year ended 1971 to 5,504 for the year ended 1972. This represents an increase of 604 outstanding applications or an increase of over 12 per cent. Apart from New South Wales, where there was an increase in outstanding applications for homes for rental, Queensland was the only State where outstanding applications increased and in that State the increase was alarming. Looking at the housing problem of Australia - and I listened this evening while one honourable member opposite spoke about the great job that the previous Government had done in regard to housing - at the end of June 1972 there were with the State housing authorities over 93,000 outstanding applications for homes. What a marvellous record for a government that claims that it did such a good job in providing homes for Australian people! Two-thirds of those applications were for homes for rental.

I am at a loss to understand the great fuss that certain State governments have made about accepting the Federal Government's offers to provide assistance. I would have thought that the Queensland Minister for Housing, for instance, would have welcomed an opportunity to provide homes at low rental to some of the 5,500 applicants who have been unable to acquire a home to rent in Queensland. If the Minister is not aware of trends in Queensland, I suggest that he consults the

Housing Quarterly' and June 1972, which reported, among other things:

Rental houses continued in short supply throughout the State in the June quarter; demand for rental flats increased . . . lt went on:

The Queensland Housing Commission continued to receive a strong Row of applications for rental accommodation.

Turning to the position in New South Wales, according to the information contained in the Housing Quarterly' rental accommodation continued in strong demand in Sydney. There was a slight fall in demand in Victoria, partly due to high rents being charged. There was a short supply of medium priced rental accommodation in Tasmania, and in Western Australia and South Australia there was a slight improvement in availability of this type of accommodation.

It is evident that there is an urgent need to tackle the problem of lack of rental accommodation in Australia, lt is abundantly clear that in Australia we have a housing problem. In some States the position is alarming. In New South Wales it has been reported that the inability of the State Housing Commission to compete with private developers for housing blocks has led to a crisis point situation developing. For the year ended 30th June 1972, approvals for the construction of new government houses and flats was down 28 per cent on the figures for the previous year. Yet honourable members opposite talk about the great record in housing of the previous Government and how the Labor Government which has been in office only a few months has been tardy in doing something in this field. The Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission is reported as having publicly declared that the Commission was in a hopeless position and that if a solution was not found it eventually would go out of business. That statement must reflect on the capability of the New South Wales Government to manage its housing affairs. As a matter of fact, the New South Wales Government has come under attack because of its incompetence in handling the important responsibility of housing. In an unprecedented move made late in July 1972, the New South Wales Liberal Cabinet gagged the New South Wales Minister for Housing because he had the temerity to express concern about the plight of low income earners who were seeking housing accommodation. In Victoria, there is a definite lack of accommodation for people on low incomes. However, there has been reported opposition to the Federal Government's humane endeavour to assist these needy people. The Federal Labor Government is prepared to grapple with the housing problem which exists in this nation.

In the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing he dealt with the terms of the Bill. In the limited time I have available, I will not go into detail, but 1 should like to refer to a statement made by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten). He referred to this humane attitude of the Federal Labor Government and its actions in endeavouring to provide low rental homes for needy people as being an example of some political ideology, suggesting that the socialist attitude was one which demanded that a Labor government should do something about this problem. That is not a bad attitude. I think it is a wonderful tiling to be humane and to care about one's fellow men. Not only in Australia, of course, but also in Britain - I do not think the Government of Britain is a socialist government at the present time - action has been taken to assist people in need. To overcome the housing shortage aggravated by 2 world wars, Britain subsidised new buildings and introduced controlled rents to prevent exploitation of the shortage. Instead of subsidising buildings Britain decided to subsidise the tenants. That is exactly, I suppose, what we are trying to do here. This is the type of action that the Bill suggests. To this end the British Government introduced fair rent1! - that is, the likely market rent that a dwelling could command if supply and demand were roughly equal in a particular area - for all tenants who could afford them. The British Government provided a rent rebate or allowance for those who could not afford them and larger subsidies for local authorities with the worst housing problems.

The United States of America - I do not think anybody would suggest that the United States is a socialist country - has a program of assistance for rental and co-operative housing for lower income families. In the United States of America it is recognised that people on low incomes should be assisted in this way, and a scheme has been devised by which the lower rental families are subsidised. In 1971, the Canadian Government-financed loan company, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, was seeking proposals from builders and developers for the construction, ownership and operation of rental housing for low income families in 26 centres in Canada. Loans might be up to 95 per cent of the required amount, with repayments over 50 years and an interest rate of 7i per cent. The financing arrangements and the rentals agreed between the Corporation and the builders and developers would provide rental accommodation at below market prices for low income families.

In the limited time available to me I have been able to refer to Britain, the United States of America and Canada, where the governments have done something about this problem. I am pleased to be a supporter of a government which, in 1973, is prepared to do something to catch up the lag that successive conservative governments allowed to develop in the field of bousing. I again congratulate the Minister for Housing and 1 sincerely hope that this Bill will have the support of every honourable member of this House.

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