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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) .- I again urge that in all cases an opportunity be given to honorable senators to peruse the Minister's second-reading speech before measures are proceeded with. Under the present practice in this respect honorable senators find it impossible to to analyse properly even an innocuous measure of this kind. The bill is excellent, because it is designed to give immediate relief to the wives and children of soldiers who are now fighting abroad. Honorable senators know that this section of the community is now being scandalously victimized by rent racketeers. That is certainly the case in Melbourne, despite recent legislation passed by this Government, and I have no doubt that the position in each of the other capitals is just as bad. I support Senator Allan MacDonald's remarks on that aspect of the problem. The Government should indicate clearly the procedure under which it is proposed to undertake this scheme. The Minister will recall the malodorous handling of this problem after the last war, and the scandals then associated with the supply of material and the building of war service homes. Whilst this scheme appears to be excellent, I should like to know what precautions the Government intends to take in order to avert the repetition of those scandals. Will these homes be built by private contract, or by the department itself? Have any sites yet been selected for these homes? We do not want to see the spectacle of unsuitable land again being unloaded on the department. This bill is some instalment towards the rectification of present appalling housing conditions in this country. In Melbourne there is a definite shortage of 30,000 homes. This proposal should at least tend to relieve that position, and, at the same time, remove some of the anxieties of members of our fighting forces who wish to safeguard the welfare of their wives and families.

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