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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1155

Ms FATIN —Can the Minister for Defence say how many houses will be provided for defence personnel in the current expansion of HMAS Stirling? What priority does the Minister give to solving the pressing housing needs of Service personnel?

Mr BEAZLEY —I thank the honourable gentlelady for her question. In the last two Budgets allocations have been made for l06 new houses to be built for naval personnel at HMAS Stirling. An additional 42 houses will be provided in the next two financial years. These new houses will all be in the suburb of Rockingham in the electorate of Brand. An additional benefit of this program is the boost it provides to the local housing industry. The expansion at Stirling is due to the home porting of destroyers at that base. HMAS Stuart is already there and HMAS Swan will arrive either late this year or early next year. The current housing program, to take the point the honourable member is making more broadly, is aimed at reducing shortages in areas where they are most severe, replacing the worst of the stock and upgrading existing houses where there is an economic justification for doing so.

I might say, because there has been a degree of public comment lately and some allegations that this Government is unconcerned about the conditions of servicemen, that the present situation contrasts very markedly with the performance of our opponents in this area. Under the 1984-85 Budget, we will be spending in the current financial year some $48m on new and improved housing for servicemen, which is an increase of 30 per cent on the allocation in l983-84. The major cause of the housing problem, the major reason why we are obliged to have what is an extensive increase in the housing building program, is the problems caused by the so-called Garland freeze on housing expenditure that lasted from l977 to l98l for the defence forces. My Department has calculated that if the expenditure over those years had continued at average levels there would now be some l,500 more defence houses of good quality available for use by servicemen. In this area, as in so many other areas, this Government has paid appropriate attention to the real needs of the defence forces and Defence Force personnel. Our record will stand up against anything that our opponents can put to us in this area.