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Thursday, 13 October 1949

Mr SHEEHY (Boothby) .- 1 am rather interested in the charges that are being levelled at the Government on the ground that it is responsible for the present unfavorable housing position in Australia. There is no dispute about the fact that there has been a greater productive effort under Labour administration than has ever been made before. A charge was levelled against the Government to-night, as it has been levelled in the past, with respect to the number of man-hours lost to industry. It is wonderful how short the memories of honorable members opposite can be. I remind them that it was left to this Government to make the agreement with the State authorities which is known as the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I also remind them of the words the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) used in this Parliament when he was Prime Minister in 1939. He said on that occasion that the responsibility for housing the people of Australia lay with the State governments. He also said that the Government that he led did not have power under the Australian Constitution to build homes. Another statement that he made at that time was that we were in a war that would decide whether we should have homes or not. But even greater problems than those that faced the Menzies Government faced the Curtin Government. When my late illustrious leader, Mr. Curtin, took over from the rabble we had the Japanese knocking at the doors of this Commonwealth. Japan was then the third greatest naval power in the world and it was allied against us. It was in that period that the Curtin Labour Government was called upon to find the equipment necessary to enable the Mother Country to establish in the Pacific the naval protection that it gave us in the early stages of the war.

I was interested to hear the figures that were cited by the honorable member for Swan. I shall cite a figure published by a non-Labour newspaper that shows that in 1919, after World War I., under the Hughes Administration, 6,000,000 mandays, and not man-hours, were lost. That figure was published by Sydney Truth on the 28th July, 1946.

I draw the attention of honorable members to a charge that was made in Adelaide by a member of the Playford Government's own party regarding South Australia's appalling housing position. I shall quote from the Adelaide News of the 10th August last which is not very long ago. The Government of South Australia happens to be a Liberal government even if it has a socialistic premier at its head. I derive some pleasure from quoting this extract from the only evening newspaper published in South Australia. Incidently, only one morning newspaper is published in that State. I mentioned that fact at a conference in Britain, and those who heard my statement could hardly believe it. The extract reads : -

Charges made by Mr. Baden Pattinson, M.P., about South Australia's " appalling housing position " must be answered by the Government.

Mr. Pattinsoncannot be accused of having a political axe to grind. He is a member of the Government party. Unless the Government AnsWers his charges, the public's high confidence in the State Housing Trust will be shaken.

That statement was published after one of the most vicious attacks that has ever been made on the Playford Government had been made by a member of its own party. Yet we are told by honorable members opposite that we are responsible for the housing of the people of Australia. I received an answer from the Minister for works and Housing only yesterday to a question I asked him in reference to the position of the housing of exservicemen, which showed that in 1946 £375,000 was expended on war service homes. In the last financial year £8,000,000 was expended for the same purpose. Ex-servicemen of World War I. were still battling for homes in 1939. for the year 1938-39 there were 474 outstanding applications from ex-servicemen for war service homes, and the Liberal Government of that time built throughout the Commonwealth the magnificent total of 27 war service homes in that year. Now honorable members have something to hold up their heads about.

Mr McBride Mr. McBride interjecting,

Mr SHEEHY - Honorable members opposite can come into the ring any time they want to do so. I have given the actual facts. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) is one of the most consistent interjectors in this chamber, but 1 doubt whether he can answer the charges of Mr. Baden Pattinson, who is of the same political ilk and attends the same club as does the honorable member for Wakefield, or the charges that I have made to-night that non-Labour governments neglected the ex-servicemen of World War I. Last year 52,000 homes were built which is a record that has never previously been equalled in the history of the Commonwealth. Let us consider the position in South Australia. In the metropolitan area of Adelaide, 1,400 homes were built in 1939. Last year the number built was 3,300. That is a vast increase. I agree that the number of houses built is not yet sufficient to meet requirements, but it must be apparent to the people and to every thinking member of Parliament that the housing position is on a much better footing than it was in 1939. .

Dame Enid Lyons - On the contrary, housing has never been so badly behind as it is to-day.

Mr SHEEHY - I do not agree with the honorable member. Today the housing position is on a much better footing than it has been at any other time in our history. The greatest number of working hours have been lost during the regimes of anti-Labour governments. The illuminating document from which I have quoted and which was sent to me by a large and influential company in Adelaide of which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) is the chairman of directors, contains some very pertinent facts relating to improvements effected since the Labour Government has been in office. I trust that the company will continue to publish statistics which are of so much interest to the people. In 1936, when the non-Labour government was in office, only 863 houses were built in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. I thirds; that I have made out a clear case to prove that this Government has done its utmost to house the people of the Commonwealth. During the depression when I, among hundreds of thousands of other good tradesmen, walked the streets for years looking for work, anti-Labour governments which were then in office did nothing to house the people. The Labour Government had to overcome not only the backlog caused by the inactivities of its predecessors, but also the difficulties caused by the war when all the resources of the nation were devoted to bringing to a successful conclusion a war which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, would determine whether or not our people would have homes at all. Honorable members opposite have indulged in a lot of talk but they have been careful to avoid the facts that are distasteful to them. Their speeches have been made solely for propaganda purposes. I invite honorable members opposite to prove that any of the statements which I have made are untrue and that the charges made by Mr. Baden Pattinson in relation to this subject were unfounded. I invite them to challenge successfully the statement made by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) yesterday in relation to the building of war service homes. These are facts, and facts are very hard things to knock over.

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