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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3689

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I listened to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) speak of his sympathy for men returning from conflict. I bear in mind the debate which preceded discussion of this Bill this afternoon. I will not discuss those matters in this debate or bring them into the contribution which I intend to make, except to say one thing. I agree with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that the motion which was moved earlier today was introduced prematurely. We should have waited until all of our servicemen were home before we started saying some of the things that we said this afternoon. In many instances what was said was uttered for political purposes only. I do not propose to use those matters in my speech.

I see from the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that overall 322,000 eligible persons have been assisted with home finance under the War Service Homes Act. At the present time 188,000 people are receiving loan assistance. A quick mental calculation using the figure of $6,000 per home, which is the additional amount that the honourable member for Reid has suggested by way of amendment is required to be added to the present loan level, gives a total of $ 1,128m. I believe that sympathy must be mixed with a certain amount of practicality, no matter how distressing the situation is. The scheme is a very fine one. I would say that rising costs probably have whittled away the overall benefit of the money to the ex-serviceman. But it is impractical to suggest that $l,128m should be provided with a wave of the hand.

The amount of the war service homes loan has been increased from $8,000 to $9,000 while the interest rate has remained the same at 3 J per cent over 50 years. A great number of people have been assisted under this scheme. The point that I wish to make this afternoon concerns the difference between the cost, of building a house in the south - that is, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne - and the cost of building a house in the Northern Territory. I refer to any part of the Northern Territory, be it Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine or Darwin. I urge the Government and anyone who has the responsibility of working out the amount of a fixed loan or a fixed grant relative to the cost of erecting a home to give consideration to the argument that I will put A person working out the value of such a loan or grant calculates the cost of erecting a building in the south. I take as an example the cost of building a house in Adelaide. I instance the average family home with 3 bedrooms which is between 12 squares and 15 squares in area. The cost of building such a house in Adelaide is between $750 and $1,000 a square. Therefore in Adelaide the cost of a 12-square home is approximately $9,500 while a 15-square home costs approximately $15,000.

When the Government determines amounts for loan housing purposes, it should take into account the fact that in Alice Springs the cost per square of a home of the same type that I have just mentioned varies between $1,200 and $1,500. This means that in Alice Springs a 12-square home costs $15,000 and a 15- square home costs as much as $22,500. The cost of a similar home in Darwin would be roughly the same. 1 believe that housing costs in Darwin were slightly higher a couple of years ago because a great deal of building was going on. A great demand existed for construction work. Now prices there are somewhat keener and I think that they would have returned to approximately the level of costs at Alice Springs. The cost of erecting a home at Tennant Creek is $200 a square more than the cost in Alice Springs. These are the costs which must be met by a person receiving either a war service homes loan or any other form of grant, loan or fixed amount.

I have compared the cost of building an average 3 bedroom family home in the Northern Territory with the cost of building the same home in the south where the determination is made as to what the size of a housing loan or grant shall be. The difference in the cost of a 3 bedroom home in the 2 areas is approximately $5,000 for the 12-square home. With respect to a 15-square home, the difference between the cost of erection in Adelaide and in Alice Springs or Darwin is $7,000, almost as much as the amount of the war service homes loan itself. If the amount of the loan was raised to $15,000, as the honourable member for Reid suggests, the same comparison would apply. Depending on the size of the house that the serviceman built, it would cost bini $5,000 or $7,000 more to erect in the Northern Territory.

I ask why the Government permits people who live in these more remote areas to be disadvantaged to this extent. A difference of $5,000 between the cost of erecting a 12-square home in Adelaide and a home of the same area in Alice Springs or Darwin in the Northern Territory is a large sum of money. I ask the Government to reconsider this situation so that some type of sliding scale may be introduced by which, as building costs rise, some favourable differentiation will be applied with respect to these loans to people who live in the outposts of this country. What is more, building costs in Darwin are escalating even more now with the threatened stoppage of the Western Australian shipping service. A lot of building material and timber is brought up the west coast in these ships. If the service is stopped next month the building costs will go even higher.

Mr James - They do not stop because they like it.

Mr CALDER - They stop because the wharfies take something like 48 days to unload 5,000 tons of cargo. That is why the ships cannot afford to go there. I ask the Government to look at the fixed amount of the loan and to consider a differential for people who live in the outback, where costs are a lot higher. The simple figures that I have produced this afternoon show the cost of building these houses. I urge the Government to bring in a scheme so that these people will have parity wilh those who live in the south.

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