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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1588

Mr ASHLEY-BROWN (Mitchell) - Mr Speaker,I have much pleasure in supporting the Defence Services Homes Bill 1973. It is very pleasing to note that the new proposals will extend benefits to, (A), members of the forces on continuous full time service on or after 7th December 1972 who, before or after that date, completed or complete 3 years' effective full time service; (B), a person engaged for full time service of not less than 3 years but who is discharged on medical grounds before completion of 3 years service, unless discharged before the completion of 12 months service; (Q, persons undergoing training at a naval, military or Air Force college who successfully complete their course of training; (D), persons commissioned under the) undergraduate scheme after they have given 3 years' effective service following the completion of their studies; (E), national servicemen and national service officers serving immediately before 7th December who complete the period of service for which they were engaged to serve or who are discharged on medical grounds prior to the completion of their service; (F), to those national servicemen serving at 6th December 1972 who voluntarily chose to complete the period for which they were originally enlisted; and (G), to single and widowed nurses and ex-service women without dependants who served overseas with the forces in the 1939-45 War.

The scheme has always provided that the widow of an eligible person will be eligible for war service homes benefits. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is to be congratulated on the efficient and capable manner in which the 3 Services of the Australian forces have been studied and consideration given to entitlements long overdue for review as far as war service homes are concerned. This Bill also extends benefits to accredited representatives of welfare organisations who served overseas with the Australian forces, either in World War II or in warlike operations since the last World War under conditions where their services would qualify them for benefits. It seems incredible, Mr Speaker, that to date representatives of welfare organisations such as the Young Men's Christian Association, the Salvation Army, the Australian Comforts Fund, the Young Women's Christian Association and the Australian Red Cross Society that served in all theatres of war with distinction, such as North Africa, Greece, Crete, Papua New Guinea, Malaya and Singapore, have not been recognised and given the opportunity to participate and have the same rights as a returned person under the War Service Homes Act.

Returned men in this House will remember only too well the tremendous job done by the welfare organisations in all theatres of war where Australian troops were fighting. I am sure they will remember the work done by the Salvation Army, the tremendous work done by the Red Cross and the facilities for recreation placed at the troops' disposal by the YMCA. Many representatives of these organisations died, were wounded or became prisoners of war. Surely then these people who were under no obligation to go to war are entitled to the same rights and privileges as the returned serviceman or service woman. This Bill recognises their services and, although a little late in the day, makes a contribution by including them within the structure of the War Service Homes Act. It is estimated that 1,000 welfare representatives of all categories served overseas during the Second World War, plus an estimated 100 who served in warlike operations since then. Does the number really matter? This House should not quibble if the number is 1,000 or 2,000 in view of the tremendous job they did during the war years.

The next most pleasing feature of this Bill is the recognition of the single and widowed nurses and ex-service women, without dependents, who served overseas with the forces in the 1939-45 War. As the Minister for Housing has stated, these people would not qualify for housing accommodation under any of the public housing schemes of the States and they would find it difficult to obtain a housing loan from institutional lenders on account of their age and their sex. The Minister for Housing is to be commended for the recognition of these people in this Bill.

The War Service Homes Act came into operation on 6th March 1919. Its original purpose was to provide homes for servicemen and service women returning from the 1914-18 War. Subsequently, the benefits of the Act were extended to persons with appropriate qualifying service in the 1939-45 War and, subject to the prescribed conditions, to persons with service in connection with warlike operations in Korea, Malaya, or as defined in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1968. Since the inception of the war service homes scheme 327,262 ex-servicemen and women, and their dependents, have been assisted to acquire, complete or enlarge homes.

During 1971 the War Service Homes Act was amended. The principle change effected was to increase the maximum lending limit to $9,000. It is the intention now to increase the maximum loan from ยง9,000 to $12,000. We realise today that with the upsurge in values, both in land and the cost of building, $9,000 is not sufficient. Statistics show that in 1971-72 of the 15,834 homes built, $9,000 covered only approximately 57 per cent of the average cost. Today it is difficult to acquire even a modest home in the Sydney metropolitan area - I am sure the same applies to most other State capitals - for less than

Si 5,000 or $20,000. Land prices and building trends indicate that prices will continue to rise and this, of course, will mean that the Government, at a subsequent date, will have to give serious consideration to a proposed limit of perhaps $15,000. The intention of the Act is to increase the maximum lending limit under the scheme to enable loans to be made up to 100 per cent of the value of properties against which advances will be made. The deposit is to be 5 per cent of the total cost and the maximum period of repayment is to be up to 45 years, except where purchasers or borrowers are female dependants when it will be 50 years, and the interest payment is to be 3i per cent. It can be seen that the conditions will be such as to allow the eligible person an opportunity to purchase a home which, under norma] circumstances, just could not be afforded, with the low deposit, the spread of repayments over 45 years and interest at the rate of 3} per cent. A war service home is very reasonably priced and I am sure can be afforded by the returned serviceman on the average weekly wage. This Bill will attract and retain regular servicemen. It will give them security and it will give them a living standard on a par with civilians with regard to housing costs and conditions. After discharge, the exserviceman or woman will not be faced with the task of financing a home at a much greater cost and over a shorter period, but will have a home which in quality and attractiveness could not be better. I compliment the Minister for Housing on the introduction of this very good Bill.

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