Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1049

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- The committee this afternoon has heard submissions from honorable members opposite supporting the argument put forward by the Government that there is really no housing crisis or housing shortage in Australia at the present time because the Government has maintained an adequate level of home construction during its term of office.

In my view, there i9 no more false and deceptive argument than the one to which I have referred. The number of houses under construction during the time this

Government has been in office has been steadily falling. The number has fallen in practically every year. I refer the committee to the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician. In 1951-52, the number of houses under construction was 81,806. That was soon after me Government came to office. Those houses were built under economic conditions that had prevailed for some years before. As the number of homes under construction does not change quickly, it will be obvious that this figure was reached under economic conditions which resulted from the economic policy pursued by the Chifley Government. From that figure of 81,806 in 1951-52, the number of houses under construction fell to 66,340 in the next year. In the following year, the number dropped to 65,650, then to 60,902 in the next year and to 54,971 in the year after that. Finally, in 1956-57, the last complete year for which I have figures, the number was 55,863. That continuous fall was associated with an equally continuous rise in population. During that period the number of people in Australia rose by 1,221,304, and, of that number, the net intake of migrants for the respective years was 132,000 in 1950-51, 104,000 in 1951-52, 62,000 in 1952-53, 50,000 in 1953-54, 88,000 in 1954-55, 93,000 in 1955-56, and 80,000 in 1956-57. It is Only too clear that with such a rapid increase in the population the significant fall in the number of home units under construction increased rather than reduced the shortage of houses.

Speakers on the Government side have relied upon a survey conducted by the Department of National Development when quoting the housing deficiency, but I point out that this survey completely ignores the existing level of housing in Australia. It ignores the fact that there are over 120,000 sub-standard and condemned houses in the Commonwealth at the present time. Even accepting this completely artificial and unreal basis of attempting to arrive at the true housing deficiency, we still find that deficiency is very substantial.

Mr Whitlam - The department's survey admits that.

Mr CAIRNS - That is so. I ha« never heard that mentioned by any supporter of the Government, either in this

House or elsewhere. We all know that the slums in Australia have been a serious, indeed a grave problem, not for 25 years but for over a century. Hardly any impact whatever has been made on that problem in the last five or ten years.

Mr Whitlam - They are caused by private enterprise.

Mr CAIRNS - And these slums are the result of private enterprise. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) may be unaware of this, because he lives in a very salubrious suburb of Sydney. I understand he travels to the courts at a rather rapid pace in an expensive motor car. I can understand that many honorable members on the Government side may be completely unaware of the housing conditions obtaining in the country, and, in order to acquaint them of some facts, I propose to quote ten cases that I investigated either in or near my electorate last week. They are ten actual cases which show the true crisis in housing at the present time.

The first case is that of eleven caravans parked on a block of land measuring 140 feet by 70 feet. Four of those caravans are owned by the owner of the land and are let by him at £4 10s. a week each to families - man, wife and children. The seven other caravans on that allotment are owned by the people who live in them, but those people pay £1 15s. a week each. This gives the owner of the land a total rental of £30 5s. a week. This for a block of land 140 feet by 70 feet! I am sure he must be a supporter of the Government.

The second case relates to a house which cost £1,000 to build over 35 years ago. It is now let for £7 10s. a week to a man, wife and one child. The total income of that family, including child endowment, is £15 a week. Can any one SuggeSt that it is reasonable for members on the Government side to assert that there is no housing shortage when a man, his wife and child, are compelled to pay £7 10s. a week, or half their net income, in rent?

The third case relates to a house which cost approximately £2,200 to build many years ago. I could not discover how many years ago it was built, but it was let for 22s. 6d. a week until 1956. It is now being let at £10 10s. a week. What are the people who have to pay that rent going to say about the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) who say there is no housing shortage in this country? This house is being let to a man, his wife and three children, and the gross income of that family is £17 a week. They are paying £10 10s. a week rent out of a gross income of £17! ls the honorable member for Parramatta aware of these conditions? Does he know they exist in the capital cities of this country?

Mr Aston - What about the Landlord and Tenant Act?

Mr CAIRNS - Let me inform the honorable member for Phillip, who is completely ignorant of what a Liberal government does when it gets into office, that the Landlord and Tenant Act offers no protection. The protection enjoyed by these people was swept away from them by the Bolte Government in Victoria as from 1st January, 1956. If ever the people of New South Wales are so stupid as to listen to the honorable member for Phillip and return a Liberal government in that State, they will find1 exactly the same thing happening to them.

The fourth case I wish to mention relates to a house that was let for 17s. 6d. a week and which is now being let for £6 6s. a week. It was let for 17s. 6d. a week before the Bolte Government removed the protection accorded by the Landlord and Tenant Act to cases such as this. Since the removal of that protection, the rental has been increased to £6 6s. a week.

The fifth case relates to two pensioners who rent a double room in which there arc no cooking facilities other than what they can attach to the one electric power point in the room. They are paying £4 10s. a week for that room.

The next case is that of two pensioners living in a double room with a kitchenette, for which they pay £4 10s. a week out of a combined pension of £8 15s. a week. And the honorable member for Parramatta does not think there is any great housing shortage at the present time!

The seventh case is that of one pensioner occupying a single room for which he is paying rent of £3 a week. That room has no cooking facilities whatever. All the cases I have mentioned so far relating to pensioners are typical of what is to be found over and over again in every industrial city in the Commonwealth. Yet honorable members opposite say that the Government's housing record is satisfactory!

The eighth case relates to a house in which six families are living and for which those six families are paying a total rent of £34 10s. a week to an agent of the owner. That house was let to one tenant at £1 15s. a week until 1957. It was occupied by one family - it was built originally to house only one family - who paid £1 15s. a week until 1957. It is now occupied by six families, and I think that those six families have a total of seventeen children. Is that evidence that there is no housing shortage in this country? Is that evidence that the Government's housing record is completely satisfactory? Are such Government supporters as the honorable member for Parramatta and others who spoke a little while ago completely ignorant of this situation? Or are they aware of it and, for political reasons, deny its existence? What is the explanation?

The ninth case relates to a threebedroom house which was let to a Scottish migrant with four children for £12 12s. a week. After a considerable amount of pressure and agitation on my part, this case was eventually taken up by the Victorian rent investigator, and the rental was reduced to £6 6s. a week. When that happened, the migrant-owner of the house moved into it, with his motor cycle, which he parked1 in the back yard, and, for three months, he made himself so objectionable that the tenant eventually was forced to leave.

The tenth case - these are all cases that I investigated in recent weeks, most of them last week - relates to a family in which there are five children. That family has been on the waiting list of the Victorian Housing Commission for three and a half years. They are paying 35s. a week for a house which for fifteen years has been condemned as being unfit for human habitation. In several rooms in that house, when standing in the middle of the room you can see daylight in several places in the ceiling. Those are the conditions in which fellow Australians of honorable members opposite are required to live at the present time, yet they talk about the housing record of this Government being satisfactory. No record has ever been more unsatisfactory or more discreditable to any government in the history of this Commonwealth than the record of this Government in relation to housing.

While these things are happening, the Minister for Labour and National Service is endeavouring to distract the attention of the electors of this country by telling the old story of communism in trade unions and all the rest of it, without being concerned about these fundamental economic factors which determine the social and political health of the country.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The honorable member knows that Australia has one of the best housing records in the world.

Mr CAIRNS - I have heard enough about that. Of course, you can point to India, to China and to countries which are in poverty and say that your record is better. I could say that the Minister's arrival at Essendon aerodrome, which is just like that of the Sheik of Kuwait, accompanied as he is by two or three typists and a secretary, reminds me of what the Sheik of Kuwait is doing on the Persian Gulf at the present time. Let us put an end to those stupid comparisons. Of course, Australia is in a better position than a lot of other countries, and Australia will be in a better position still in the years to come. If the position is not improved by this Government, it will be improved by some other government. We are not satisfied with this Government's record in housing or in anything like it. The Minister for Labour and National Service comes into this chamber and gives us pious platitudes in answer to prepared questions. His garrulity is excessive. It is more noticeable than any other characteristic of the Minister.

At the same time that this is happening in the field of housing, he pledges himself to the maintenance of full employment. If you ignore altogether the existence of 60,000 to 70,000 unemployed in this country at the present time, then platitudes such as " It is seasonal " or " We are watching trends" may be quite all right, but we are not prepared to ignore the overall employment situation. It is not enough to try to maintain full employment with overinflated expenditure. Let us have a look at the total of employment, a subject over which the Minister has been appointed to preside. First of all, take the aggregates which we are given in June of each year. In 1955 the aggregate was 2,801,000. It was only 2,889,000 in April, 1958, nearly three years later. Notwithstanding an increase in population, only 80,000 more people were employed in this country. The total number of people available for work in Australia must have risen by from 180,000 to 210,000. When we look at the number of those in civilian employment, we find that the position is considerably worse. These are the real responsibilities of the Minister, but he is not more than a political propagandist.

Suggest corrections