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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 554

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide funds to the State housing authorities so that they may quickly build more homes for letting to needy families and persons. These are people who have satisfied the authorities that they are in need of housing assistance. This is the first step to give effect to the intention of the Australian Labor Party to reduce the waiting period for housing authority homes. On taking office the Government decided that the State housing situation demanded immediate action. Waiting lists of the State authorities had risen to well in excess of 90,000 but commencements of government dwellings had fallen in the September quarter of 1972 to an annual rate of only 12,000 about 6,000 fewer than in each of the years 1969-70 and 1970-71 and 3,000 fewer than in 1971-72. On being informed that this sharp decline in commencements was due to a shortage of finance, the Government decided to offer immediate financial assistance. It undertook to make advances at a concessional rate of interest to meet expenditure incurred by the States up to 30th June 1973 on dwellings that they would not otherwise have commenced before that date.

A condition of the Government's offer is that the. additional dwellings to be commenced in this financial year will not be sold. On completion they will be for rental only. Those who seek rental accommodation are usually the more needy. All States have accepted the offer and have agreed to this condition. This Bill will appropriate a total of $6.55m. The amount available to each State, based on estimates by each housing authority of its additional expenditure up to 30th June next, is set out in the schedule to the Bill. In accordance with clause 7, the rate of interest payable on these advances is a very low 4 per cent per annum, and the repayments will be spread over 53 years.

After the Government's offer was conveyed to the States, it was put to the Government that the States be permitted to spend some of these advances on the purchase and renovation of existing sub-standard but structurally sound houses. In many cases satisfactory, welllocated accommodation can be made available more quickly by this means than by the construction of new dwellings. For this reason, and because the renovation of individual houses in older neighbourhoods assists the rehabilitation of these areas, the Government has agreed to this proposal.

Provision for the expenditure of the advances on the purchase of existing dwellings, as well as on new construction, is included in clause 6 of the Bin. As honourable members will know, I have been discussing with State Housing Ministers proposals for a new housing agreement to apply for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1973. One of the Government's proposals is that it will make advances to the States at a fixed interest rate of 4 per cent per annum. It is the Government's intention that the funds needed to complete the additional commencements and renovations begun before 30th June next will be made available to the States early in 1973-74 as part of the advances payable under the new agreement.

I would now like to draw the attention of the House to sub-clause 2 of clause 8 of the Bill. This permits the sale of dwellings with the consent of the Minister. I want to make it perfectly clear that it is not my intention to give consent to the sale of any of these dwellings to prospective home-owners. The States have all agreed to the Government's condition that they must be reserved for renting to deserving persons. The provision permitting sales with Ministerial consent has been included solely to avoid legal complications that could arise in the long-term future if there were no such provision and the land on which they stand were to be required for other uses. Clause 9 of the Bill contains provisions regarding the furnishing of certificates and information that are normally associated with the payment of moneys to the States for specific purposes.

In conclusion let me emphasise a significant feature of this first civilian housing measure introduced by this Government. Consistent with the principles it adheres to, the Government is directing assistance to the more needy - those who are least able to provide adequate shelter for themselves and their families - those who need decent and reasonably-priced rental accommodation. I also ask the House to co-operate in facilitating early passage of the Bill so that the advances it authorises may be paid to the States to enable them to press ahead as quickly as possible in providing more of this most urgently needed accommodation. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.

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