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Wednesday, 3 November 1954
Page: 1209

Senator MARRIOTT (TASMANIA) . - Obviously, a measure which provided £30,000,000 of the taxpayers' money would he worthy of close consideration by any upper chamber of a parliament. The debate on this measure, I believe, reflects an almost acknowledged trait of the Australian character. The Senate has decided to back the favourite, and the favourite, in this instance, is the policy of the Menzies Government in respect of war services homes which, I remind Senator Sandford, are "rising fast " throughout Australia to-day. The hill, will increase the maximum loan for the financing of homes which have not been built under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act, to £2,750. This reflects another important feature of the policy that was put to the people by the present Government parties and approved in 1949. We believe in home-ownership. We are opposed to the Labour policy as voiced by Mr. J. Dedman when he called people who own homes " little capitalists ". Therefore, I support the legislation because it will help more ex-servicemen to become the owners of homes. The war service homes scheme has proved outstandingly popular, and it has been greatly broadened by the application of this Government's policy. To-day, war service homes are so popular that even the increased financial allocations that this Government has made have been unable to meet the demand. Officials estimate - and I have no reason to doubt them - that 25,000 applications for war service homes are being made each year. This bill will provide, it is hoped, for the building of 6,040 homes in the present financial year. It will finance the purchase of 3,520 existing homes for ex-servicemen. They will be new homes built by private contractors, " spec " builders, and so on, and approved by the War Service Homes Division. The measure will also enable the purchase of 2,000 old homes, making a total in all of 12,160 homes. On the basis of an average of four people to each home, we in this Parliament are agreeing to legislation that will result in home ownership for 50,000 Australians in the current financial year. That is a step of which any government could be proud. Largely as the result of the increased allocations that have been made by this Government for war service homes, more homes for ex-servicemen will be in the course of construction at the end of this financial year than ever before in our history.

There is another aspect of the bill that I should like to stress. The Government has decided to remove the limit of £3,500 on the total purchase price of an existing house that an ex-serviceman may wish to purchase. I remind the Senate, too, that this Government has, since it came into office, made available for homes for exservicemen and war widows, a total of £147,000,000, including this year's allocation. Last year, the provision was £28,000,000. This year it has been increased to £30,000,000. In addition there is a little more than £1,000,000 which remained unexpended at the end of last year. I shall refer to that matter later. Senator Sandford suggested that the Loan Council was ruled by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth - two people ruling five Premiers! He implied that the Australian Government had kept down the amount of money available for home building. I remind him that the Premiers of South Australia and Western Australia, and I think also the Premier of Tasmania, voted with the representatives of the Australian Government to decide the amount of loan money available in Australia to-day. Again, Senator Sandford is wrong. The £30,000,000 which has been made available to exservicemen and war widows under the war service homes building programme of this Government has come out of revenue, not from loan funds.

I think that any government, however wise or generous it may be, can learn from the most simple member of the Parliament, and, perhaps, even from the newest member. I wish to make two suggestions to the Government and the War Service Homes Division in respect of war service homes policy in the coming year. I referred, a little while ago, to the fact that, of the £2S,000,000 voted, approximately £1,000,000 was left over at the end of the last financial year. I say that, although the division should not be extravagant, it should be generous and sympathetic in dealing with applications for assistance under this legislation, and it should do all that it possibly can to expend the money that this Parliament votes wholeheartedly, with all political parties supporting the appropriation. I hope that, in dealing with cases which require ministerial approval, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) will be very sympathetic. If a case goes through the ordinary processes and ultimately reaches him, it goes to him as the final arbiter. For that reason, I hope that he will be sympathetic, and even generous, in making a decision. If he finds that, in the course of his duty, he has to say, " No " to an application which has come so near to being approved, I hope that he will not refuse it outright, but will say to his officers, " Bring it forward in the month of MayBy then, we shall know how the money is being expended in respect of cases which, have been approved ".

I picture the situation in which a number of such cases will be put up by the head of the division, and the Minister will be told, as he could have been told this year, " We are going to have a little over £1,000,000 to spare at the end of this year, but these borderline cases will use up some of the money that the Parliament has voted. They are definitely not cases that you can rule out without argument. The Parliament has voted the money, and it is obvious that the applications which can be regarded as proper for advances cannot use up all the money that has been voted. Therefore, we havebrought back to you these borderlinecases so that you may agree to them and let these people, who have hoped and waited for assistance, be given suchassistance. There is not a person in Australia who would deny them the right toa loan under the legislation ". My motto, if I may have one, in regard to this legislation - although it is not my motto in regard to all legislation - is " Obey the act, but spend the money that Parliament votes before the end of the financial year is reached".

In 1951, the Parliament agreed to deletion from the act of a provision relating to the taking over of existing mortgages. I believe that, since 1951, it is not possible for an ex-serviceman or a war widow to go to the War Service Homes Division and ask it to take over a mortgage which was held by a trading bank or some other private instrumentality. I know that the Government is sympathetic in this matter, but I hope that it will be able, next year or the year after, to bring that section back into the act. In many instances, because the vendor wants a quick decision, ex-servicemen who propose to purchase homes arrange a mortgage through private enterprise, with a lawyer, a -bank or some other lending authority. An ex-serviceman who does that then says, " I am an ex-serviceman. Because of my service during the war, I am entitled to help from the War Service Homes Division ". When he conies to the division and seeks help, he is told, " In 1951, for very good and just reasons, the Parliament of Australia deleted from the legislation the provision under which you might have received help ". I hope that that provision will come hack, but I also hope that the War Service Homes Division and the Government will do all that they possibly can to publicize the fact that an exserviceman purchaser of a home cannot obtain help from the War Service Homes Division, under our present legislation, if he enters into an agreement to purchase and arranges a mortgage, but does not tell the division about it beforehand.

I consider that the points I have raised ave important, and I hope that they will be heeded. Having referred very little to Senator Sandford, I now wish to agree with him in paying a sincere tribute to the work of the officers of the division. I speak not only from my own small association with them, but also from information which has been given to me by ex-servicemen and war widows who have dealt with the division, particularly in Hobart, and who have vouched for the fact that its officers are applying the legislation justly and dealing with those who seek help and advice with the greatest courtesy. I think we can ask no more than that from the public servants of the Commonwealth. I support the bill.

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