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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 3373

Mr Enderby asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   What percentage of Commonwealth public servants transferred to Canberra in each of the last 10 years was allotted Government accommodation immediately upon arrival.

(2)   What percentage of persons who arrived in Canberra in each of the last 10 years, in circumstances where they would be entitled to a housing allowance of the Regulation 97 type, received this type of allowance instead of being allotted Government accommodation immediately.

(3)   What was the average period that the persons referred to in part (2) received the Regulation 97 type allowance before being allotted Government accommodation.

(4)   What was the longest period for which a person had received a Regulation 97 type allowance in Canberra.

(5)   What sum has been paid by way of Regulation 97 type allowance in each of the last 10 years.

(6)   Were payments made to the public servant concerned or to a landlord or to someone on his behalf; if the payments were made to someone on his behalf, to whom were the payments made.

(7)   How many persons received the benefit of a Regulation 97 type allowance in each of the last 10 years.

(8)   In determining the amount of a Regulation 97 type allowance in Canberra, (a) what procedures are followed to ensure that an equitable sum is paid and (b) what safeguards exist to ensure that the allowance is not excessive.

(9)   Was it ever a requirement that premises in respect of which a Regulation 97 type allowance was sought should be fair rented under the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory before the allowance was given; if so, for how long did this requirement exist.

(10)   Has the requirement now been discontinued; If so, when and why.

(11)   If the requirement has been discontinued, will be ensure that it is re-introduced.

(12)   Are there any records or estimates available to indicate whether Regulation 97 type allowances increased substantially or at all following the discontinuance of the requirement for premises to be fair rented; If so, what do they reveal.

(13)   Can lie say whether there is any relationship between the significant drop in overall applications to have fair rents determined following the years 1965 and 1966 as indicated in his answer to question No. 4317 (Hansard, 2nd November 1971, pages 2881-7) and the decision not to require premises to be fair rented before a Regulation 97 allowance is granted.

Mr McMahon - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Department of the Interior has advised that an average of approximately 60 per cent of compulsorily transferred Public Servants are housed immediately on arrival in Canberra. This figure relates to the last 5 years as earlier statistics are either not reliable or readily available.

(2)   I have been advised by the Public Service Board that because Government housing is allocated immediately where required, compulsorily transferred Public Servants do not qualify as a group for Regulation 97 allowance. As regards other Public Servants moving to Canberra, while actual figures are not readily available, it can be said that in almost all cases, Government housing is not made available immediately and therefore these officers would be entitled to Regulation 97 allowance pending the allocation of a Government house in the normal manner.

(3)   and (4) The Department of the Interior has advised that an average waiting time for the allocation of a new 3-bedroom house during the last 10 years is about 3 years. It would be reason able to assume that the average waiting time for public servants in receipt of Regulation 97 allowance would be about the same.

As the longest waiting time for a Government house was 42 months in the .10 year period, it is assumed that the longest time for which public servants were in receipt of Regulation 97 allowance would be the same.

In relation to the remaining parts of the question the Public Service Board has advised:

(5)   and (7) That records on which to base an answer to these questions are not available. But so far as sums payable under Regulation 97 are concerned Hansard, 27th August 1968, page 609 gives a figure of some $400,000 for the financial year 1966-67. Figures for 1968-69, 1969-70, 1970- 71 are in round figures $519,000, $637,000, $903,000 respectively. So far as the numbers of public servants receiving allowances are concerned a survey made in June 1971 produced a figure of 946 as at 30th June 1971.

(6)   Payments under Regulation 97 are made only to the officer involved. (8), (9), (10) and (11) Regulation 97 payments are made on the basis of an upper rental limit which is fixed by the Public Service Board from time to time after a survey of the market of suitable available houses. Each officer contributes according to a scale based on what he might reasonably have been expected to pay if a suitable unfurnished house were available. The amount of contribution is greater for officers on higher salaries than for officers on lower salaries. The detailed procedures to be followed by Departments are set out in instructions issued by the Public Service Board.

Payment of a rental subsidy has never been restricted to officers occupying premises which have been fair rented following application under the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. An officer choosing to rent premises above the rental limit set by the Public Service Board must normally bear the excess rental whether or not the premises are fair rented. The intention is to give an officer freedom to select premises which best meet his needs within the framework of an upper limit which is known to him.

For a period which concluded in 1965 an officer in Canberra renting furnished premises which had been fair rented had applied to him a slightly higher upper rental limit for allowance assessment purposes. This arrangement was discontinued in 1965.

(12)   There are no records or estimates available to allow a clear conclusion to be drawn on this point. It appears, however, that there was an increase of some 10 per cent in average Regulation 97 rental subsidy payments in Canberra between 1968 and 1971. A spot check in 1968 showed an average subsidy of SI 5.91 per week (see answer to Question No. 252, Hansard, 10th September 1968, page 878) and the Board's survey of June 1971 showed an average subsidy of $17.55 per week.

(13)   Details are not available of the occupations of applicants for fair rents which would show whether there is any relationship between the lower number of applicants referred to by the honourable member and the changed practice introduced in 1965 as referred to above.

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