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Thursday, 11 September 1958


Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) . - I should like to speak for a moment or two on behalf of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) who is unfortunately ill and unable to attend the Parliament. I want particularly to comment on two matters to which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has directed attention. One was that homes would be released to defence transferees only. I do not think that the honorable member should have said that because only very recently - on 26th August - the Minister for the Interior told him that approximately 100 homes would be surplus to defence requirements and could be made available. The Minister did not give a direct undertaking as to the number, but did indicate that some houses would be available to persons already in Canberra.


Mr J R FRASER - In January!


Mr CRAMER - That may be so. The honorable member knew that when he made his speech, but he endeavoured to convey the impression that no houses would be available to persons on the local waiting list. He referred also to a diminution in the construction programme over the years, and mentioned especially 1953, 1954 and 1955. If he will think back to those years he will recall that there was then a boom in building throughout Australia. The building figures at that time were a record. The honorable member himself used the word " spectacular ". One could very well use it in speaking of everything that this Government has done in the housing field since it has been in office. In the intervening years it has .been impossible at times to obtain all the labour necessary to carry-out the contracts that the Government wished to let. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory knows that that is why the building figures for certain years were not greater. To-day, more labour is available and there is greater competition for building contracts. This Government, so far from being guilty of any neglect, suffered from the boom that it had fostered in the building industry by its Commonwealth-State arrangements and the money that it made available. Therefore, the argument of the honorable member falls to the ground.

I was very pleased to hear the congratulatory remarks of the honorable member for Griffith and I shall certainly convey them to the Minister for the Interior. Indeed, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory was himself not uneulogistic in referring to what was being done. I agree that the new commission will give a wonderful stimulus to the development of Canberra. It will be able to apply itself completely to the work of development which .every one agrees is necessary. The movement of defence personnel is of course essential, as the honorable member .knows. It does not mean, in the slightest sense, that there will be any neglect to provide homes for .people already awaiting them in Canberra. The Government is well aware of .the fact that they are waiting and is doing everything it can to help them. We may look .forward to a flourishing building programme .in the hands of a statutory authority charged with the responsibility of concentrating all its efforts upon the development of the Australian Capital Territory.

The establishment of the commission by the Government was a splendid idea. It is answerable to no one except the Minister, as prescribed in the act. It can carry out its own work uninhibited in any way, and we may expect great things from it.







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