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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1596

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - Continuing the debate on the Defence Service Homes Bill 1973 that was in progress before the suspension of the sitting, it is interesting to reflect on many of the attitudes that have been expressed by members of the Opposition who are, as we have found in the short time that my party has been in office, once again giving an indication of all the wonderful things they want to do now that it is too late. The outstanding fact in this vitally important government responsibility of satisfying the housing needs of Australians is the failure of a generation of Liberal-Country Party governments to accept this responsibility. They made no real effort. (Quorum formed.) Despite the interest shown by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who called the quorum, he was not able to drag many of his colleagues into the chamber to hear the debate that he said is of such a high standard. The fact is that previous governments failed to keep abreast of the needs by way of either financing rerequirements or providing regularly adjusted maximum loan amounts. I am pleased to support this Bil] and to congratulate the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) on its introduction. It is refreshing to have at last a Federal Minister for Housing who has the competence to understand the responsibility of his portfolio and who has the ability to tackle the problems, many of which have lingered for years due to the failure of previous governments to give any real leadership to the housing industry associations and to the housing industry in general.

In the area of responsibility covered by this legislation, the Minister has been very quick to introduce these important and progressive changes. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) earlier this evening referred to the fundamental changes embodied in the proposals. He claimed that the whole spirit of the legislation is to be changed. I remind honourable members that it is appropriate that the spirit of the original proposals previously reflected in the War Service Homes Act is now to be reflected in the Defence Service Homes Act. We accept this fact. As I said by way of interjection during an earlier speech, this Government is a government of peace and not a government of war, as were previous governments. We desire to provide the benefits of this important provision to all serving personnel regardless of where or how they may serve in the future. We hope that in the future they will not need to serve overseas for this country in the field of battle, as it was previously necessary for them to do under the existing provisions of the Act, in order to obtain these benefits, lt is interesting to note that one of the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) is that the effective period for qualification under this Act be a period of service of 6 years. However, he represents the party that was prepared to bring people forcibly into the Service for much shorter periods of time than that. It is also interesting to look at how his Government looked after the members of the Defence forces while they were serving the nation and how it looked after them by way of the provision of accommodation.

On at least 2 occasions during the previous Parliament I asked about that situation and answers to my questions disclosed that at 30th April 1971 there were no fewer than 4,458 serving personnel awaiting allocation of accommodation. Over 12 months later on 30th June 1972 there were 5,253 servicemen awaiting allocation of accommodation. Such was the interest the previous government had in the housing needs of serving personnel. It was little more interest than it had in the needs of ex-servicemen who had completed their service and qualified under the Act. Year after year, despite the urging of members of the Australian Labor Party when in Opposition, previous governments failed to provide adequately for progressive increases in the maximum loan available to serving personnel. Yet here is the Opposition now complaining about a provision in the Bill which will allow former national servicemen to benefit. It complains in very loud and clear terms about the unfair advantages to them because we wish to include all serving personnel within the provisions of this Bill. The Opposition wants to exclude certain sections of ex-servicemen, yet it was prepared to accept their service in the interest of previous governments when it had the responsibility of providing accommodation.

As I have shown, the previous government failed to provide that accommodation and failed to provide it even when the serving personnel had completed their years of service. Now the Opposition directs its attention to those national servicemen in particular and wishes the Government to support an amendment which would exclude national servicemen from the provisions of this Bill. One of the important aspects of this Bill is that it gives the people eligible under its provisions an opportunity to get a reasonable maximum loan, lt certainly was the intention of this Government prior to the election to increase this amount even further and in the Minister's Press release on 16th January, prior to the introduction of this Bm, the following appeared:

Mr Johnsonsaid that because of the substantial funds needed to fulfil other election promises in relation to housing, he bad proposed to Cabinet a progressive raising of the limit, firstly to $12,000 and then to $1 5,000.

It is worth repeating this evening that it is the clear intention of the Government to increase the limit from $12,000 to $15,000 during the life of this Parliament. One of the major problems facing people today who require housing is the escalating price of land. I think we should congratulate the Minister for Housing for the attention that he has given to this problem. His concern is shared by many thousands of young people who today find the price of a block of land far beyond their reach. I can cite examples of the recent skyrocketing of prices of land in Brisbane. In the middle of 1972 about $7,000 had to be paid for a block of land in the new Brisbane suburb of Belbowrie. In 12 months the price of a similar block of land has skyrocketed to over $10,000. At Ridgewood Heights, on the fringe of my electorate, the price of a block of land has increased from about $4,000 to about $6,000 in 12 months. In Springwood, an outer Brisbane suburb on the way to the Gold Coast, the price of land has increased in less than 3 years from $2,500 to over $7,000.

Mr Martin - It is worse in Sydney.

Mr KEOGH - Yes. The land boom that has occurred in Sydney for so many years because of the irresponsible attitudes of the previous government, which turned its back on this problem, has spread to the outskirts of Brisbane. It will be necessary progressively to increase the maximum loan allowable in order to keep pace with skyrocketing land costs, lt is fairly obvious that the Government intends to tackle this problem in other ways. One immediate step that could be taken to attack the problem would be the imposition of a capital gains tax on speculators and developers who are now making excessive profits because of their immoral attitude. They know that people need land and they also know, as the old saying goes, that God has stopped making land. Because no more land is available the speculators are buying it up and selling it at profits ranging from 100 per cent to 200 per cent.

A step that the Government could well consider would be the restriction of the capital appreciation of residential land to a fixed percentage. A fixed relationship with the consumer price index would be a fair and reasonable basis for calculation of the profits on land sold by speculators and developers to home builders. A capital gains tax of even 100 per cent could then be imposed as a curb on the disproportionate prices now being charged for residential land. This could be applied to both subdividers and speculators. 1 believe that the provisions of this legislation are well worthy of praise and of putting into effect as soon as possible. Because of the pressure of other business in the Parliament this measure has been before the House on various occasions since 7th March. I trust that very shortly this debate will be completed so that people may benefit from the worthwhile provisions of this proposal. J commend the Bill to the House.

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