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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1528


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I support this Housing Assistance Bill. I recognise the difficulties with which the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is faced. There is pressure on the housing industry as a whole and in many parts of Australia but not throughout Australia there is a shortage of houses for rental. The number of houses to be provided under this Bill is comparatively small. 1 believe that the Minister referred to 1,500 bourses but I think, as another honourable member pointed out earlier in this debate, that that is an exaggeration. The amount of money provided is unlikely to allow the construction or purchase of more than 500 or 600 houses of a reasonable standard. That is a small number in comparison with the number of units being approved for building from time to time. I think that building approvals are running at the rate of about 175,000 a year. That assessment is based on the figures for last month but it may not be as much as that when the whole period of 12 months is taken into account.

Homes for rental were provided by the last Government to an extent not always realised. The most important way in which that was accomplished was through the Aged Persons Homes Act. Under that legislation the Government, by paying a subsidy of $2 to Si, has been providing 4,000 or 5,000 houses a year, which probably is 10 times as many as will be provided under this Bill. Admittedly some of those homes do not provide independent accommodation but they substitute for a house, and what the previous Government did in this respect needs to be kept in mind.

Accommodation for rental is needed. 1 admit it and assert it but I think that the past Government did a great deal in this respect. The program which we initiated last year and which I hope will be carried to completion by the present Government was a crash program for hostel type accommodation and this will meet a large part of this need. I hope and believe that the present Government will continue with the very excellent scheme which we of the previous Government initiated. 1 think that in a way it is a good thing that this Bill relates only to a small scheme. I do not know how much is to follow but I hope something, though not too much, will follow. It is not quite safe to have this kind of thing in the hands of the Labor Party although I admit that there is some need for it at the present time and I commend what has been done on this small scale. We all remember the attitude of the Labor Party towards this matter. It was expressed most succinctly by Mr Dedman when he was a Minister. He said on behalf of the Labor Party that we do not want people in Australia to own their own homes because that would only make them little capitalists. That is not the attitude of the Liberal Party. We believe that people should be encouraged to own their own homes.

While there is a need for a certain number of rental homes and while I think that this is a good Bill which I hope will be followed by other Bills in a similar vein, though not too many, we have to be on our guard against the development of the Labor Party ideology which, say what they like, at the present moment definitely is opposed to people owning their own homes because that makes them too much a part of the structure of society which the Labor Party is trying to break down. 1 qualify all these remarks by saying that there is in Australia at present a need for more rental housing and that is why we on this side of the House can support this Bill. But perhaps we should be exploring some alternatives for the future. For instance, in the United States of America the whole housing situation has been made more liquid so that people can buy and sell houses very much more readily than they can in Australia. To some extent this is a substitute for rental housing because people do not want always to be tied to the one spot. It may be that they need to change their employment. It may be that they need to go to some other place. With all these things it is a case of adopting a reasonable approach and not a doctrinaire approach. It has to be an approach which is to some extent flexible and which tries to fit the policy to the needs of the situation.

I think the Minister for Housing will agree with me that there is a need for more rental houses in Australia, particularly in certain localities where there is a housing shortage. Also we must recognise that in Australia, thanks to the policy of the previous Government, at present we do not have an overall housing shortage although we do have a shortage of low cost housing. This is particularly true in respect of young married couples. Young married couples who have been accustomed perhaps to 2 incomes in the family find that this state of affairs will not or at any rate should not continue following the birth of the first child. For these young married couples we need to be doing a lot more than we are. I hope very shortly to introduce into this House a Bill aimed at this problem of helping the young married couples particularly in respect of housing difficulties which they must face on the birth of the first child which prevents the continuance of the earning of 2 incomes in the family.

This is one of the most important social problems which we have to face. The problems of old age and invalidity have been very largely, but not entirely, overcome by the measures that we have taken. However, rising on the priority list now is surely the need to do more for the young married couples at the lower end of the income scale. People who are young tend to be at the lower end of the income scale for obvious reasons. The financial difficulties that these couples face are not entirely concerned with housing but most of their financial difficulties are centred on their housing problems and would be amenable to solution if their housing problems could be more readily solved. It is for this purpose that I am hoping in the course of the next few weeks to introduce a Bill into this House. I hope that a measure like the one I shall put forward - one of progressive social outlook - will commend itself to the Government. I hope that the Government will not look on it purely as something with which it can score political points but instead as something that it can support because this problem faced by young married couples of financing their house in difficult circumstances which can be aggravated by the birth of the first child is one which the Australian people as a whole have to face. It is one of the biggest social problems still remaining before us.







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