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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1821

Mr THORBURN (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Minister for Housing and Minister for Works. Is it intended to amalgamate the Departments of Housing and Works? If so, what advantages could accrue to the home building industry?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Consistent with the declared attitude of the Prime Minister, it is intended that all Ministers will hold only one portfolio, and accordingly the 2 departments will be amalgamated. The marriage of the Departments of Works and Housing will bring the Department of Housing into association with about 14,000 employees of the Department of Works. The Department of Works is a very large and accomplished department, as honourable members know. It is responsible for servicing other departments and it expends something like $600m a year. When the merger takes place - it will not happen next week, of course, but it will happen as quickly as possible because there is a need to take into account the welfare of the employees - it is likely that the amalgamated department will be called the Department of Construction and Housing. It seems to me that considerable benefits would accrue to the housing industry by bringing the expertise of the Department of Works into relationship with housing. About half the personnel of the Department of Works comprises a technical force of engineers, architects and the like of world renown and they undertake work of a very important nature overseas. The expertise in the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation also would be available to assist in endeavours that might be directed towards the housing industry. It seems to me that there is a great deal of merit in heading out to achieve every possible degree of economy and efficiency in the utilisation of all our construction resources, whether they are manpower, material or anything else. This Government's inclination is not to put housing into a backwater. It is the intention of the Australian Government to take whatever initiatives it can, in proper consultation with the States, to undertake housing enterprises in the name of the Australian Government Towards that end there will be hard and accelerated application to such matters as national building codes and research authorities so that we can' get into proper relationship the 3 facets of the construction industry - money, manpower and materials. In addition we will be looking at ways of building houses less expensively, and I am hoping that it will not be long before the Government gives approval to a proposal to introduce a task force which will examine-

Mr Sinclair - Another one?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Another one, but it is regrettable that in the 23 years of Liberal administration no headway was made towards meeting the need to produce houses less expensively. In the words of Rudyard Kipling: How very little since things were made, things have altered in the building trade. We will make certain that things do alter in the building trade in the sense that we will produce houses in an inexpensive way as quickly as possible. I mention these matters to indicate the potential which will derive from the sensible bringing together of these 2 departments, and I have no doubt that home seeking Australians will derive very great benefit when effect is given to these amalgamations.

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