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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 1927

Mr INNES (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and Minister for Works. Is it a fact that the Minister is planning a task force to investigate the Government's future role in industrialised or systems built housing with a view to reducing costs? If this is so, will the Minister give an assurance that if such plans come to fruition the homes mass-produced in factories will not be uniform or dull in design and construction, and that proper regard will be paid to the need for factory built houses to be of high quality, with a wide range of variation in the design? In other words, will he make sure that the industrialised home building does not lead to any lowering of standards or a lack of individuality?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is true that I am contemplating the appointment of an investigatory group which will undertake a very short term operation to examine the potential of industrialised or systems produced housing. It would be highly presumptuous of me to anticipate the result of such an inquiry, certainly before the appointment of the investigatory group and, for that matter, at any stage during its progress. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we are to face up to the expanding need for housing production in Australia this is probably the opportune time to do it. Whereas we produce about 163,000 houses a year at the present time, it is estimated that in the next 5 years we will need to build about one million houses. This demand is coming upon us at a time when all the shortcomings of the previous governments are becoming manifest. That is to say, we have a shortage of tradesmen.

Mr Whittorn - Sit down.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Balaclava may wave his hands in derision but the fact is that the shortage of carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and the like was certainly not created by the present Government. It takes some years to create such a task force. It is obvious that with this expansion of the demand for housing we will need to look at the question of producing houses in a more effective way. I have mentioned that it is opportune and timely to be looking at this because of the demand. It is certainly opportune to look at it from the standpoint of other factors, especially as the whole housing industry is about to move into metrication with the associated system of preferred dimensions in the metrication concept. It would be highly fortuitous if we were able to identify some desirable systems of factory produced homes - modular homes - and virtually set out with government encouragement to bring building processes into the twentieth century. It would be absurd these days if one set off to have a car made in individual components, which is the way we build houses. It would be absurd to go to someone and say 'Design me a car'; to someone else to build the chassis; to someone else to build the engine; and to someone else to build the body; and put the components together. That is the way we have been building houses.

I was asked whether, if we move into a systemised and efficient process of building houses, we will sacrifice anything to mediocrity and uniformity. I think every honourable member would hope that that would not be the case, and this Government is anxious to ensure that it will not happen. There is a process which is in operation in other parts of the world and which some of our entrepreneurial people believe can be accomplished here, which involves the utilisation of interchangeable components. It seems to me that our task force will identify this potential and I hope that before this year has concluded we will be able to bring forward some systematised housing processes which State housing authorities and private manufacturers can utilise so that we can get the benefit of good-

Mr Sinclair - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Are you going to permit Ministers in this House to completely waste question time as the Minister for Housing is doing this morning?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party knows quite well that no point of order is involved. I have appealed to honourable members to keep their questions brief and to Ministers to make their answers as brief as possible. I call the honourable member for Parramatta.

Mr RUDDOCK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr Speaker, I address my question-

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sorry to interrupt, Mr Speaker, but I have not concluded my answer. I want to be respectful to the honourable member for Parramatta because it will be his first question. I certainly did not intend to make a long answer to the question I was asked but I responded to provocation. I conclude by saying that it is hoped that the proposals that I have been talking about concerning exotic characteristics, new technology and new materials that one sees in commercial building can be brought to bear to great advantage in the home building industry as well.

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