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Wednesday, 20 November 1974
Page: 2614

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - in reply- At the end of a Wednesday night I always seem to be left to hurry through a Bill with insufficient time to reply properly to arguments which have been put. As I have statedhonourable senators will find this on page 2353 of Hansard for last Wednesday- we make mistakes on a Wednesday when we are on the air. We should have controversial Bills on a Wednesday because we cannot stop honourable senators opposite from speaking. The States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and the Housing Agreement Bill are not contested. They are agreed to. But they have been debated all afternoon. Again on a Wednesday a money Bill was introduced and it took all day to debate it.

Senator Davidson - That is not so. We have been dealing with this Bill from 8 o 'clock.

Senator CAVANAGH -Yes, from 8 o'clock. The rest of the day was spent on the first reading of a money Bill just because there was an opportunity to talk. I do not accuse honourable senators opposite of wasting time. I accuse them, on a Wednesday, of an inability to shut up in the belief that their speeches will get them votes at the election. The Bills would have gone through in an hour tomorrow but we happened to deal with them on a Wednesday. Let us look at what has been done in housing. When the Australian Labor Party came into power in December 1 972 there were some 93,000 applicants for housing trust or housing commission homes in Australia. In February, during the first session of the new Parliament, we made a grant to the States of $6. 5m for that current year. The States had been funded for that year but they would have had unemployment in the building industry because in building housing commission homes they had used up the paltry $ 163.2m which the Government had given them for the 1972-73 program. Therefore we had to supplement this amount with another $6.5m for welfare housing. We make no apology for it.

We said that when we came into office we would provide for the needy in society who had been neglected under the previous Government. We did this for welfare housing. This year we are making $3 10m available to the States for housing. This compares with the amount of $ 163.2m which was made available in the last year of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. That is the distinction between the activities of the governments in housing.

Senator Webster - The Minister will not cite us housing numbers, will he?

Senator CAVANAGH -We will deal with numbers directly. The Bills were called on. When Senator Webster got up to speak I told my advisers that if they wanted to go down to the staff canteen for the next hour they could because they would hear a lot here about the socialist Labor Government but nothing about housing. Of course we did not hear anything about housing. Then Senator Baume got up. He said that what Senator Carrick had said was worth repeating. He repeated it. He had no contribution to make to the debate. So what Senator Carrick has said is in Hansard twice. That was Senator Baume 's contribution to the debate. Let me reply to what has been said by those who contributed to the debate. Let us see what has been done. Today there is no unemployment in the housing industry in Australia. Last Thursday night I was speaking to a delegation which was comprised of New South Wales and Victorian housing trade unions. I am known to all the delegates. 1 asked them about the position of employment of members of the trades union in the industry. Last Friday I spoke to the Secretary of the Building Trades Federation of South Australia. No member of a union is unemployed in the building industry in South Australia

We came into office in 1972. We could not buy a house then. One could not buy because one could not get timber for a house. There was a lag of 1 1 months or 15 months before one could get a house completed in Australia. That was the position. The needy of Australia could not get a ouse at all because of the price of land and of housing. In Canberra bricklayers were getting $300 a week. Honourable senators opposite complain because someone gets 17 te per cent on an award wage for Christmas. Houses could not be bought. They could not be finished and they could not be erected. Something had to be done about the housing position. We did something in order to rationalise the housing position. In this process it was not the home builders but Mainline Corporation Ltd and Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd- which honourable senators opposite uphold today- who were speculators. Because of the reduction in the price of land these companies went to the wall as they had to, whatever government was in power. This Government wanted to do something for the working people of Australia. It is not true to say that we do not support home ownership. We are responding to the needy. We think it is essential that they get a home. We did something so that it was possible for those who had the means to buy a home. At the price of homes at that stage they could not have bought one.

These Bills permit in excess of the previous 30 per cent to be made available to building societies and to home owners. They permit the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) to grant a greater proportion of funds for home ownership. This is only rationalising the industry. I say one more thing about Senator Carrick. He was not allowed to incorporate in Hansard a report from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. I believe it was a Victorian report. This was an attempt to show the depressed state of architects in Victoria without recognising that these were not home architects. The honourable senator mentioned that there was a section in the report on home building. But architects are employed in great numbers on big, multi-storey buildings. As Senator Georges told the Senate today those buildings are carpeted but they cannot be let. They were going up and there was no building force for home construction. We could not say that. Because of the lack of capability of someone in the Chair I was refused leave to make a statement. I would have -

Senator Carrick - I take a point of order, Mr President. I find quite offensive the Minister's remark that it was because of the lack of capability of someone in the Chair that he was prevented taking action. That is a reflection on the Chair, Mr President, and I invite you to call on the Minister to apologise to the Senate.

The PRESIDENT - I did not hear the remark.

Senator Carrick - Well, Mr President, I will repeat the remark to you.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I did not hear the remark. Senator Cavanagh, did you make that remark?

Senator CAVANAGH -Whatever the remark was, I will withdraw it. I wanted to make a statement on that occasion. I wanted to say that if the document was tabled so that I could peruse it, rather than its being incorporated in Hansard where I could read it tomorrow and consequently it would be of no value in this debate, I would have been prepared to allow it to be incorporated.

Senator Carrick - You could have looked at it.

Senator CAVANAGH - I did not know that and I was not permitted to ask to look at it. I was not permitted to state my reason for not allowing it to be incorporated in Hansard. Architects are in a depressed state because we have stopped multi-storey buildings. I turn now to the other contribution to this debate. Senator Steele Hall rose to speak. He has never got over his hatred of the Labor Government in South Australia because it chased him out of office. The man whom the honourable senator said has ruined South Australia has been accepted. He defeated the honourable senator as Premier of South Australia and has been twice elected Premier of that State. Senator Hall very unfairly cited the figures of the South Australia Housing Trust to show a decline now compared with the big rise in Housing Trust construction when he held the reins of government in that State. I believe it was the last year of office of the Playford Government. The honourable senator neglected to say that they were Housing Trust figures. In no way did they reflect the building construction rate in South Australia. He compared the figures with those for last year when there was a remarkable reduction in Housing Trust construction.

If anyone is responsible for that situation it was the then Federal Government. In 1960-61 the bulk of the Housing Agreement moneys was allocated to the Housing Trust. It received $8.12m and the Home Builders Account received $3.48m. The total allocation was $1 1.6m. About three-quarters of the money in 1960-61 went to the Housing Trust. In 1973-74 the distribution was as follows: Housing Trust $ 15.5m, Home Builders Account $17.25m; total $32.75m. Less than half the money in 1973-74 went to the Housing Trust and consequently it could not build so many houses. About three times the amount of money went into housing in South Australia and the housing construction rate was up but not through Housing Trust construction. What I have said also shows that the reversing of the contributions- putting the money into the Home Builders Account- denies the statement that we are against home ownership. In view of the time I shall conclude, Mr President, and thank the Opposition for the very stormy opposition that we got to these 2 Bills with which the Opposition agrees. I hope that we can pass these 2 Bills tonight.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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