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Thursday, 13 October 1949

Mr TURNBULL (Wimmera) .- Perhaps the Chair will permit me to reply to the remarks that have been made by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) about lotsplitting laws.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The Chair prevented the Minister from proceeding along those lines. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) may not deal with that matter.

Mr TURNBULL - What the Minister said was incorrect. I propose to relate my remarks to the Estimates for buildings, works, fittings and furniture for the Parliament, hostels for migrant workers, and reception, training and holding centres for the accommodation of migrants. The estimated expenditure upon the last two items is £3,200,000 and £1,050,000 respectively. The expenditure of those sums of money will involve the employment of much labour and the use of large quantities of materials. Although it is gratifying to know that many migrants are coming to the country, I object to the proposal to expend over £4,000,000 upon the provision of accommodation for them at a time when many Australians are without homes. In to-day's issue of the Melbourne Herald there are extracts from letters about Australian families who are suffering hardships because of lack of accommodation. One of the letters reads as follows: - " L.P." of Grovedale, via Geelong, writes : " My husband and I and our nine children have lived in a tent for the past four months. We have to give up the tent for Christmas. Can any onelet us a house in the country, near a school ? My husband can do any sort of work."

There is no reason for honorable gentlemen opposite to laugh at that. It is a very serious matter. Another letter reads -

For two years, a couple with three children have been living in an unlined outhouse in an East St. Kilda backyard. " This is a fibro-cement building divided into two ' rooms ' with a three-ply partition ", writes " Libra ". " The section in which our two boys sleep has only the tin roof as a ceiling."

Mr Thompson -Shame!

Mr TURNBULL - It is a shame. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.

Thompson) is a good Christian gentleman and deplores the fact that people must live under those conditions. The Government proposes to expend over £4,000,000 on the provision of accommodation for migrants, but I believe, and I know that my belief is shared by some members of the Labour party, that our own people should receive more attention than they are getting. Another letter which may be of interest to the Minister for Works and Housing, reads as follows: - "If we could only get a place for 12 months it would help. We are trying to build through the War Service Homes and should have our place completed by then," writes " Worried ", of Footscray.

Honorable members opposite have often referred to the depression years and have said that many people then lived in tents. Those days have not gone. Australians are living in humpies throughout the country because they cannot get houses. Parliament House is being extended to provide accommodation for an unnecessary number of members, but the material that is being used for that purpose could be used to build homes for the people. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told us that we are living in the golden age, there is a great shortage of houses. War service homes are not being built in sufficient numbers. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is concerned only about the migrants who are coming to this country and is prepared to expend over £4,000,000 to provide accommodation for them. The Minister will shortly try to bluff the committee, but he knows that in his own electorate there are many people who cannot get homes. How many families in Melbourne are living in one room or with their relatives? The Government is spending money without any thought at all for them. We want houses now more than ever before.

Honorable gentlemen opposite have often asked why more houses were not built in Australia in 1935 and 1936. I travelled in Australia extensively at that time, but I did not see any evidence of a housing shortage. The housing shortage has arisen since the war. In 1935 and 1936 the people lived in decent homes of their own and not in other people's houses, but the position is different now. I am, of course, prepared to admit that the principal reason for the present housing shortage is the effects of the war. I object to the expenditure by the Government of large sums of money upon unnecessary projects such as the extensions to Parliament House at a time when many people are without homes. If this nation is to be a contented one and if greater production is to be achieved, we must give the people proper homes to live in. Many young men who married after they were demobilized from the armed forces, are unable to obtain homes. Others will not marry until they have homes. Although the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) talks at length about the necessity for populating this country, and the Commonwealth is expending large sums of money on accommodating migrants, I consider that the expenditure of money to provide houses for our own people would ultimately produce the best possible Australians, namely, the children of Australian parents. The birth-rate is being retarded because many young married couples have not adequate accommodation in which to raise families. That statement cannot be denied. The Government should not incur heavy expenditure on the erection of public buildings before our people are adequately housed in this so-called "golden age".

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