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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3117

Mr HOLTEN (Indi) - We have just listened to a speech from the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), I think it was. He does not make many speeches in the House. He is known usually for making interjections. His speech today was about the longest interjection that I have ever heard him make in this House. He has raised matters on which he said I might comment.

Mr Keogh - The truth hurts, does it not?

Mr HOLTEN - He is at it again, Mr Deputy Chairman. He has resumed his seat, but he is commencing his usual practice of interjecting and making wild and unfounded statements. That is his usual occupation. I will not waste my time going into the details of the project he mentioned, which is known as John McEwen House. However, I will make two or three comments on it.

Firstly, John McEwen House was erected after a great deal of bard work had been done by thousands of Australian people who had tremendous admiration for the dedication and ability of Sir John McEwen here in the national Parliament. If the honourable member for Bowman achieves one-quarter of the work that Sir John McEwen carried out for this Parliament and for Australia, I will be very surprised. I was tempted to say that I would give a garden party for the wharf labourers if the honourable member for Bowman ever reached anywhere near the standard of achievement of Sir John McEwen who was such a wonderful statesman and a wonderful member of this Parliament.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Were you not the fund raiser for this project?

Mr HOLTEN - In answer to the Minister who has just asked whether I was the fund raiser, I have just said that John McEwen House was erected as a result of the hard work of thousands of Australian people from both rural and city areas alike who respected the job that Sir John McEwen had done for Australia. In regard to the matter of Government departments leasing buildings, that is purely a commercial enterprise. If space is available and if the Government requires that space, it is quite within the law and within the policy of both the previous Government and of this Government for a commercial arrangement to be made. That is exactly what has happened. Instead of the accommodation shortage being overcome by the actions of this Government, I say that the position will be magnified and worsened by the creation of so many new bodies, such as the 47 new commissions, 10 new government departments and a greater number of public servants. This will result in a greater demand for accommodation in the capital cities.

It is probably true to say that housing in Australia is in the worst mess it has been in for years. There is a problem in regard to money, land, labour, materials and, of course, strikes also are a major worry. Added to all those factors is the general air of uncertainty about future policies of this Government in regard to both land and housing. The total blame for the housing problem cannot, of course, be levelled at the Government. However, there is no question that the very high level of Government spending, the lack of economic responsibility, the overall national policies of the Government and the inflationary climate that is being added to considerably by Labor's financial policies are all factors contributing strongly to the mounting problems and chaos in the housing industry.

The Labor Government is pursuing policies which are concentrated on diverting money for the building of homes from the private sector to the public sector of the economy. The Government started this movement by increasing the bond rate, thereby forcing powerful financial institutions to raise their interest rates on debentures. This fact, plus the fact that short term unsecured notes also are offering peak rates, means that the flow of funds to building societies - which have been a considerable part of the backbone of the building industry - and to savings banks has dropped off alarmingly. Figures released in Canberra recently show that the flow of funds into building societies tumbled 43 per cent from $102m in August to only $5i8m in September. The same disappointing position existed for the savings banks in respect of their intake figures which, adjusted on a seasonal basis, dropped from $167m to $95m in about the same period. This was the situation in relation to the building societies and the savings banks before they raised their interest rates, but it is most likely that the trend will continue. The savings banks have been requested to cut back on loans to assist in an attempt to dampen down the overheated building boom. Building society spokesmen have indicated that they will probably be able to finance only about 54,000 homes this financial year compared with 78,000 last year. This, no doubt, has been brought about partly by Government domination of finance in general and interest rates in particular.

Action on interest rates generally has put a penalty on young people who have a mortgage on their homes and are looking forward to owning their own home in the future. It seems to me that the Government has raised the interest on the bond rate and has turned around to the lending institutions and said: But you carry the can as far as interest on housing loans to young people is concerned.' But, of course, if the Labor Government achieves its policy objectives, eventually everyone will be living in a commission or government owned house or flat on leasehold land. This is a well-known socialist philosophy to which every member of the Labor Party is a committed signatory. As the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) said, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is one of the most dedicated of all socialists. He is one of the first in the queue to use the power of financial blackmail that is possessed by the Federal Government which is centralised here in Canberra. An example of this fact is to be found in his tactics in 'negotiating' - and I query the use of the word - the recent Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. He used financial and political blackmail - tout mainly financial blackmail - to force the States to agree to the terms that they did agree to in the long run. Mind you, they did not agree to the terms which the Minister would have liked. Reference has been made by some his colleagues during this debate to the statement the Minister made on 16 January 1973. What a famous statement that was! What a violent reaction it produced from every State govern* ment - 'Liberal, Labor and Country PartyLiberal alike. In that statement the Minister said: t also propose that the sale of new homes built by the State Housing Authority after June 30 next to 'be severely restricted, if not entirely prohibited, with sales to continue from their existing stock.

In other words, the Minister wanted all the money involved under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement - millions of dollars - spent only on rental homes. That is, of course, socialist philosophy. Luckily that position was prevented from coming about by the State governments. The Minister laughs when I mention 'socialist philosophy'. He cannot deny that he is a socialist and that he has signed the pledge to socialise everything in Australia eventually. That is okay; that is his belief and he is entitled to it. But I do hope that the people of Australia will not fall for the trap and accept the dead hand of depressing socialism upon the Australian community. I will have a bit more to say about that later.

As I said, we saw the principle of financial blackmail being exercised by the Minister in the negotiation of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It was a disgraceful display of high powered dictatorial financial standover tactics and against all the principles that we on this side of the House stand for.

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