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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1862

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I should like to devote myself for a few minutes to the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory. In so doing I extend wishes for a happy reign to the new mayor of Canberra, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) who is at the table. I am sure that the former Minister for the Capital Territory would concur with me when I say that it is not an easy task to administer this portfolio. Canberra is the fastest growing city in Australia, excluding Darwin which I think is now increasing at a greater percentage rate. There are very great problems in the ACT, particularly in the areas of land allocation and distribution, and of housing and the allocation of housing. I know that the former Minister has had a great deal of difficulty in trying to arrive at a formula that would give the greatest number of people access to the small parcels of land available without doing a great deal of injustice to those who were in need. I sympathise with the former Minister. I recognise his problem and I recognise too that the present Minister has a big problem to solve.

He inherits a new land and housing policy. The former Minister, Mr Enderby, announced a policy to try to overcome the problems. I am sure that the present Minister will have to adjust that policy from time to time to meet the changing needs. One of the worst aspects of the present land and housing policy in the ACT as I see it is that a home seeker will now not be able to enter into a contract with a builder to build a home according to his own requirements and standards. This is how I read the policy and I hope it is not the case. If it is the case, I hope that the Minister will be able to amend the policy to give people an opportunity to deal with a builder privately once they get a block of land and that they will be able to build a house according to their own specifications.

There are many areas throughout the statement produced by the former Minister which cause me concern. These comments are restricted to the proposals-dealing with the single unit residential lease allocations. Before dealing in detail with the statement it should be understood that I certainly, and I am sure my Party, wholeheartedly support the aims of providing leases at minimum cost to needy and young people. The reduction in lease premiums and the elimination of land shortage has been the greatest single problem in the ACT. The shortage of land has caused the great escalation in land prices. It is fair to say that the former Minister inherited a problem from the former administration and that sufficient funds were not made available to turn off sufficient land to meet the needs of the growing population. Obviously some administration at some time will have to muster the courage to determine the size to which Canberra should be allowed to grow. Once that decision is taken, measures must be taken to ensure that the growth rate does not outstrip the program. A shortage of supply compared to demand has certainly contributed to the escalation of prices and to the crisis that has been on our hands.

One of the ways of overcoming the immediate problem would be to engage private developers, under the strict control of the National Capital Development Commission, to complement that body in turning off a greater number of building blocks. This was tried in the Northern Territory at Darwin by calling tenders for a developer to turn off a number of blocks to try to complement the supply of land in Darwin. I commend that suggestion to the Government because there is an alarming shortage of land. The Minister will have to contend with a serious problem until that is overcome.

One of the worst features of the new policy is that it eliminates the freedom of choice by the lessee of a builder, as he must negotiate with the builder who has been allocated the site in which he is interested. It eliminates competitive tendering. It discriminates against the employment of architects by those who wish to employ them and to gain the benefits associated with their employment. It produces a situation conducive to corruption, where a builder allocated prime land can negotiate additional payments undisclosed to the review board. It increases the amount of capital and paper work between the producer and the consumer, thereby increasing costs. It eliminates the right of the individual to build his own house if he is qualified to do so. In the event of the builder being allocated poor land, for which there is little demand, construction standards will suffer in order to produce a cheap job that will sell readily. There is no control to ensure that at this critical time the lease is held by persons living and working in the Australian Capital Territory.

I believe that there are a number of ways in which some of the problems here could be overcome. I put these forward on my own behalf. I do not commit anyone in my own Party to them. A program to house the needy and underprivileged should be defined and initiated because, although we talk in terms of need, as far as I know the needs qualification has not yet been defined adequately. I am sure that it will have to be defined properly in order for it to achieve the purpose for which it was designed. Leases or government houses should be allocated to first timers who satisfy a means test otherwise similar to that at present proposed. The 5-year usage conditions should apply. For those who wish to live and work in the Australian Capital Territory but do not qualify in the above category, leases should be allocated by auction and not limited to first timers. The 5-year usage conditions should apply. Having satisfied the demand by making available sufficient developed land for individuals wishing to take up leases in the above categories, a further group of leases for freelance builders obtained by auction, either singly, in groups, or in large development neighbourhoods, should be made available. The development leases should be sold only to persons who satisfy the 5-year usage condition. After a proper balance has been achieved and the present critical situation eased, the requirement for the 5-year usage could be relaxed in the former category.

I just put forward those thoughts in the hope that the incoming Minister and the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory might give some consideration to them. I do so constructively and not in any destructive sense, because I recognise that there is a very great and real problem here in the Australian Capital Territory with respect to the provision of land and housing to meet the current level of demand. I hope that the Government will see fit to look at the prospect of making land available to developers by tender in order to assist the National Capital Development Commission in turning off a larger number of serviced blocks of land to help overcome the problem and so to relieve the incoming Minister of one heap of -worry.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)- 1 call the Minister for the Northern Territory.

Mr Calder - Is the Minister closing the debate?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - No. The honourable member will have an opportunity to speak, but the Minister may speak at any time during the Committee stage.

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