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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3119

Mr ERWIN (Ballaarat) - At the outset I must say that I do not like socialism and that I do not like these new socialistic philosophies and policies. We are now discussing the estimates for the Department .of Housing. Approximately every 5 years a new housing agreement has been negotiated with the Commonwealth, the 6 States being signatories. The terms of the Agreement were in fact exactly that - an agreement by seven equal partners as to how housing funds would be spent. In the past the 7 housing ministers met regularly and the main argument usually revolved around interest rates and repayment provisions, but at no time was there ever any essence of intervention by the Commonwealth whereby it gave directions to the States as to how the States allocations would be spent. As a policy since 1955 the Victorian Liberal Government has always fostered home ownership amongst low income earners and prior to coming into office in 1955 that Government had estimated that only 52 homes had been sold to housing commission tenants, but in the intervening 17 years the figure has risen to 34,667 out of a total building program of 74,651 units. The Victorian Government has always believed that the ownership of a home is the only opportunity that most people of limited means would have to obtain a real stake in life and its policy was one of no deposit and easy repayments plus a death benefit scheme which relieved the widow of any further repayment on the death of the breadwinner. It also retained a high percentage of houses built each year for rental purposes and kept a fairly even balance between houses built for rental and houses built for sale.

The Minister has said that the annual determination of the amount to be allocated to a State housing authority for housing would no longer be left entirely to the individual States but would largely be determined by the Commonwealth. Funds for co-operative housing societies were to be cut by 33 per cent and all in all the Minister's statement of 16 January emphasised that the new socialist Government to which he belonged was moving very quickly to reduce the incidence of home ownership in the community with only one target obviously in view, and that was to have as many people as possible throughout Australia dependent entirely on the State for their housing needs. Conferences with the State Ministers were held in Canberra on Friday, 23 March, and in Adelaide on Thursday, 5 April, with all seven Ministers present on both occasions. These ministerial conferences were the strangest that have ever taken place. Votes were taken but not the slightest notice was taken of the wishes of the States, as has been the accepted tradition when the Commonwealth and 6 States come together as 7 equal partners.

The first statement by the Minister was that there would be no housing commission houses for sale after 30 June 1973. Then there was a change of attitude by him which allowed for 30 per cent of the homes built with the money provided from the Commonwealth to be sold. Great publicity was given by the Commonwealth to the tremendous concessions which were being offered to the States to allow them to sell 30 per cent of the homes. What utter nonesense this was, when in fact Victoria has been selling in excess of SO per cent of the homes it built each year. Each State spoke strongly in favour of an increase from 30 per cent sales to 50 per cent sales. The States firmly believed, following the Adelaide conference and the unanimous decision to increase their house sales from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, that this would be agreed upon by the Commonwealth. The States viewed with great concern the fact that the final draft of the joint agreement allowed for only 30 per cent sales.

One of the most tragic steps taken by the present Commonwealth Government was the elimination of the $750 home savings grant for married couples. This has been replaced by a proposal that interest on mortgages for home borrowings be tax deductible. But how many young married couples have the initial amount of money in cash which allows them to proceed with a buying program? Permanent building societies, which have done so much over a period of many years in helping people to save and build their own homes, will now fall under the hammer of the present socialist Government. Once again we see the attitude of the socialists is not encouraging people to purchase their own homes. Following the recent increase in interest rates, we can now see a complete winding down of the overall home building program. Throughout Australia many people are in dire need of a home for either renting or buying. Wherever one looks one will find the impersonal hand of socialism playing a most unfortunate part in progress.sively dampening home ownership.

I wonder what the future holds for us in our housing program when all the time this new socialist policy is moving in and taking its effect. Fewer houses are being built, the demand for houses is increasing, strikes are continual, labour and materials are in short supply. Housing is not a pleasant picture as presently seen throughout Australia. Australia is a young, developing and growing nation. We need houses and we need home ownership. We will not progress under a socialistic policy; we will progress only under a free enterprise policy.

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