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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1652

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - As the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) resumes his seat I feel constrained to say that there goes the voice of the speculator in this Parliament, the mouthpiece of the profiteers, or, if honourable members would like that in Latin, vox speculatorum That term reflects the whole tenor of the speech of the honourable member. Who would think after listening to him that the Opposition is supporting this Bill? Perhaps I should say that the Opposition is not opposing it. That is just one example of the misleading nature of his speech. However, I must confess that we do have a lot to say about the errors of omission in this Bill. We are pleased that the Bill does give assistance to a limited extent. We are happy about a tax free grant being available to some people. We realise that it does provide an amount of gain for a number of people in the community. We are happy that the changes will correct the disadvantages brought about by the decline in the value of money.

When speaking about the decline in the value of money in this community I am reminded of the promise made in 1949 by Mr Menzies, then Leader of the Liberal Party, when he said: 'We will put value back into the pound'. That is the most hollow promise ever made in Australia. An example of patchwork legislation making up for that promise is the Bill which is now before the House. The maximum value of a home which will attract a grant under this Bill is increased from $17,500 to $22,500; of course that is merely taking into account the decline in the value of money. The maximum grant has risen from $500 on acceptable savings of $1,500 to $750 on acceptable savings of $2,250. Of course, again that is taking into account only the decline in the value of money. The savings limit for one year has been lifted from $600 to $900, merely taking into account the decline in the value of money. The examples go on.

The Government's own sins are such that it has to do something to correct them with legislation of this type. In drawing attention to those factors, Mr Deputy

Speaker,I am showing you that I know what is contained in the Bill, although I am going to spend most of my time talking about the errors of omission in this legislation. If the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), who is now seated at the table, would listen instead of talking and trying to be clever with his attempted interjections I would ask him why savings in Commonwealth bonds are not acceptable savings under this legislation. I ask, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether the Minister at the table heard my question. Why are not Investments in Commonwealth bonds acceptable savings under this legislation? I understand that that is the case. I would be glad if the Minister would give an answer in his reply at the end of this second reading debate. I have received a few representations about this particular matter, but they have come only in the last couple of weeks and that is why I have not got in touch with the Minister directly. If Commonwealth bonds are not classed as acceptable savings I hope that an amendment can bc moved to make Commonwealth bonds an acceptable investment under this particular legislation.

I am glad that before coming into the chamber I received in my Canberra office an interim statement of the Secretary of the Department of Housing for the year 1971-72 in relation to the Homes Savings Grant Act. It enabled me to take a quick look at whether my own State of South Australia was benefiting on the average under this legislation. It seemed to me that this was so. Perhaps when the Minister is replying he could also take advantage of this document and tell us which States are benefiting most from this legislation, which States are lagging behind, and the reasons. The main purpose of legislation such as this should be to reduce the misery which is present in our community due to lack of adequate housing, lt is to this that we should turn our minds when considering the legislation. Housing trust waiting lists throughout Australia, I understand, at the moment contain 90,000 to 100,000 names and the situation is getting worse. Can we say that legislation such as this has had any effect on housing problems in Australia when the increase in people waiting for homes has been so marked?

This legislation is shot through with omissions to tackle the real problem which is adequately to house more people. It attacks only one half of the problem of supply-demand relationship. It docs provide more demand for that product which is in short supply, namely, land and whatever buildings are on it. It puts some more money in people's pockets. I do not deny to those people who are benefiting under it what they are getting. It puts more money in their pockets and it creates more demand. But I believe that all the worthwhile surveys in our community on this legislation have shown that the greatest benefit has gone to the speculators. Of every $500 that has been given under this Bill 1 venture to say that at least $250 has gone in extra profit to those who happen to hold land - who happen to be investing in that commodity which is in short supply.

Another thing which this legislation has done, rather, than house more people - and we can see that it has not housed sufficient people because of the waiting lists to which I have just referred - and which is of benefit to the community is to improve the standards of housing. But this is not attacking the main problem. 1 concede that people who have benefited under this legislation are probably in better housing than they would have been without it. They may have larger and better quality homes with more rooms and better interiors. Perhaps better materials are used in those homes. But as far as we on this side of the House are concerned, if we are basing policies on greatest need then the greatest need is to house more people so as to overcome those social problems in the community which are so well exemplified in housing trust wailing lists. This legislation does precious little about that problem.

Let us look at what has happened to the supply side of this commodity - land - in recent years. A survey conducted by the Housing Industry Association from 1960 to 1970 showed that new lots in Sydney increased in price by 150 per cent; the increase in Melbourne was 57 per cent and in Brisbane 52 per cent. In almost the same period, from 1961 to 1971, the average weekly earnings increased in our community by only 80 per cent. That gives some indication of how the price of land has increased out of all proportion to average weekly earnings. Another survey held in respect of the years 1968 to 1971 showed that medium priced land increased in Sydney by 65 per cent; in Perth by 40 per cent; in Brisbane by 34 per cent; in Melbourne by 28 per cent; in Adelaide by 23 per cent and in Hobart by 51 per cent. Over the same period average weekly earnings rose by 43 per cent in Sydney; by 44 per cent in Perth; by 44 per cent in Brisbane; by 42 per cent in Melbourne; by 38 per cent in Adelaide and by 41 per cent in Hobart. That is another example of the price of land increasing out of all proportion to average weekly earnings. This has been during a period when this legislation has operated. It is totally useless as far as its effect on the price of land is concerned. All that it is doing is increasing the demand for land and of course, as I have said, having some good by-product effects at the same time.

I will remind honourable members how this is related to the Bill because as I understand it the rationale behind the Bill is to improve housing conditions in Australia and perhaps to reduce the great misery that is created by a lack of housing. Although we are Federal members I suppose there is not one member of this House who represents a metropolitan area who would not get a tremendous number of housing inquiries brought to him each week in the course of his electoral work. This gives us an idea of just how silly it is for the honourable member for Bennelong, the previous speaker in this debate, to get up and talk about this as being a State problem The States are not in a position to do anything about this problem. Leadership has to be given by the Commonwealth. If the honourable member was not present in the House last night, he may not be aware that at long last, because we are in an election year, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has grasped this fact.

In his decentralisation statement, inadequate though it was in so many areas, he at least conceded that we have to have a few growth centres throughout Australia, that we should concentrate on them and that the Commonwealth itself must take up land in these centres because it is only by this means that we are going to be able to tackle the problem of the supply of land in our community. I might add that those matters on which the Prime Minister touched last night in his paper on decentralisation were, as somebody said at the time, only a matter of rehashing what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has been saying for 10 years. Of course it is Labor Party policy to do just this - to have the Commonwealth itself set up a land development authority in order to have a control over the supply of land. I think there is no greater social problem in our community which should be tackled than this. I believe this is the only way of tackling it. I myself am at this stage unconcerned as to whether the authority should merely lease the land or indeed sell it. But if the authority is to sell the land so that there may be a revolving fund, the sale should be made only on the condition that the land can be sold again only to the authority, perhaps at an appreciated price related to the decline in the value of money in the meantime and the value of improvements which have been put on the land.

Another factor which of course must be mentioned when dealing with the problem of housing is the putting of a ceiling on the size of Melbourne and Sydney and, soon, my own city of Adelaide and other large capital cities in Australia. It is only by doing this and by creating job opportunities elsewhere outside these capital cities that we are going to be able to tackle this problem of the price of land. I must mention in this context the one heartening initiative taken in Australia in recent years, namely that which was taken by Don Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, when he announced the machinery to plan Murray Newtown in the electorate of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles).

I am very glad that the honourable member for Angas, even though he is a Government supporter, recognises that that is an excellent initiative because once again it is only by the Commonwealth being able at this early stage to put aside land for the building of a new city and controlling the price of that land that we will in future control the price of land. We need new cities. Adelaide needs a new city far less than Sydney and Melbourne but unfortunately for Sydney and Melbourne they do not have a government which believes in this sort of planning because they are dominated by members such as the honourable member for Bennelong and the out-of-date attitudes which he expounded in the course of his speech on this Bill. I might add in this context that the Opposition has no intention at all of abandoning the excellent country towns that do exist. But the people in those country towns, if they have the facts put to them as the facts should be put to them, must realise that it is only by choosing country growth centres that we are going to get decentralisation away from the big cities.

I know that I am just about to be told by the Minister for Housing that I am straying from the provisions of the Bill so I will tell the House why my remarks are still very much related to it. This Bill deals with only one part of that supply-demand relationship in the housing situation. It will stimulate demand but if the real problem is to be tackled we have to do something about the supply of land in this community.

I summarise by saying that we do have a housing crisis in this community, that this Bill does not help it in any way, that our problem is a shortage of serviced land, that housing construction costs have increased but in no way has that increase been at the same rate as the increase in the price of land. Only when we have a Labor government which will use the proposed land authority to buy up land will this plan for new growth succeed. Indeed, the Government has indicated that it is prepared to buy up land, but until we are prepared to buy up land around our cities as well as in growth centres we will not be able to do anything about this problem of housing in the community - a problem which this present Government has had 23 years to do something about and a problem which steadily is getting worse from day to day.

Sir JOHNCRAMER (Bennelong)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Doesthe honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - I do. The honourable member for Adelaide during the course of his speech said that I was not present in the House last night when the

Prime Minister made his statement on urban and regional development and that I knew nothing about the proposed authority. I was present in the House and, if the honourable member looks at Hansard over the last 15 or 20 years, he will find that I have advocated the setting up of the authority which was announced last night.

Mr HURFORD(Adelaide)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr HURFORD - Yes. If the honourable member for Bennelong looks at the Hansard record tomorrow he will find that I did not say that at all. I said: 'If he was not present in the House last night, he would not be aware'. I did not say that he was not in the House last night.

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