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Thursday, 13 October 1949

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) cited figures in connexion with the construction of war service homes. I have here reports issued by the War Service Homes Commission which show that those figures were inaccurate. The honorable member for Boothby, shouting very loudly, told a hard-luck story about returned soldiers of the first world war who had waited for twenty years for homes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Minister stated that in the year 1938, 29 war service homes were completed and 474 applications were approved. His figures were correct as far as they went, but the commission's report goes on to point out that up to the year 1938, 21,374 houses had 'been completed, so that construction was at the rate of more than 1,000 a year. That shows that the 474 applications constituted an average waiting list of that time. That compares more than favorably with what has been achieved since this Government has been in office. I am not criticizing the War

Service Homes Division, which is an efficient organization; I am criticizing the policy of the Government. In 1945, only eight war service homes were completed.

Mr Scully - That was a war year.

Mr WHITE - The war ended that year, and by that time many returned men, who had been discharged from the services, were looking for homes. In 1945, 3,500 men were waiting for homes. In1948, the number of homes completed was 1,244, but the number of applications was 13,338, so that the department was falling behind. It is a pity that Ministers and their supporters should endeavour to falsify the facts.

To-day, I received a reply from the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to a question which I had placed on the notice-paper asking how many Royal Australian Air Force squadrons were in service in December, 1941. I had asked the question because of statements that had been made of the unreadiness of the Air Force at the beginning of the war.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The committee is discussing the Works Estimates for the Air Force, not the strength of the Air Force.

Mr WHITE - I am talking about the number of squadrons in the Air Force. The Minister replied to my question by saying that in December, 1941, there were in the Royal Australian Air Force twelve squadrons and one ambulance unit. Up to that point he was correct, but why did he omit all reference to the squadrons which were at that time serving overseas ? In the United Kingdom squadrons Nos. 452, 455, 458, and 460, the last two consisting of Wellington aircraft, were operating. There were also two fighter squadrons, Nos. 450 and 451, in the Middle East.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote has expired.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Progress reported.

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