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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2411

OFFICIAL OPENING OF 'CONSTRUCTION HOUSE' CANBERRA - 27 APRIL 1971 - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE RT HON WILLIAM MCMAHON, CH MP

Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 27/04/1971

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2411

PRIME MINISTER
OFFICIAL OPENING OF " CONSTRUCTION HOUSE
CANBERRA 27 APRIL 1971
Speech by the Prime Minister,. The Rt lHon. William Mc~ ahon, M. P.
I would also like to thank Mr. Williams and Mr. Box on your
behalf, and on behalf of myj wife and myself as well, for inviting
us today. It is most appropriate that the building and construction
industry should decide to build this magnificent national headquarters
building in Canberra. It's hard to imagine a more apt way
for the industry to display its presence in the national capital.
This city which is as much a tribute to the construction industry
asit is ' oour own planners, architects and engineers. There are
three industry organisation partners here in Construction House.
Firstly, the Master Builders' Federation of Australia which is well
known and respected in Canberra. It has been submitting the views of
the industry to the Federal Government on a wide number of matters
of industry concern for a long time. And last year, my Government
was pleased to co-operate with your industry in sending an official
survey mission to South East Asia to help Australian contractors try
to win competitive contracts in that developing region.
During the last three or four years, Australian consultanfts
have been successful throughout the South East Asian region. It
would be natural for Australian building and construction companies
to be looking for a similar trend in the export of their skills.
This region is virtually on Australia's doorstep, and it is one
where Australian building could make an important contribution in
applying the world standard of competence it has reached.
I will be visiting Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore myself
soon, and my Government attaches very great importance t-o our
relations with these closc neighbours to our north whether in
defence, in aid and development pr. ogrammes in cultural relations,
or in the growth of trade. We would like nothing be~ tter than to see
private enterprise doing more in backing up and developing the
Government's efforts to stranqthen our ties with these nations.
0 I A 17

The Australian Institute of Building is a newcomer to
Canberra. But its vital role in establishing and maintaining
standards is well known in the building industry. The third
member of the triumvrirate occupying this building, the Master
Builders' Association of the A. C. T. deals with the day-to-day
industry problems in Australia's fastest growing city. And it
does that well, as the evidence of our eyes shows.
In a short ten years, building in Australia has grown from
a modest to a very large industry. It is now an industry which
helps significantly in setting this nation's growth pattern. And
much of the credit for Australia's development in the past twenty
years must go to it. its influence in Australia's growth,
development and standard of living are, of course, visible everywhere.
Let me elaborate Investment in physical capital is one
of the mainsprings of economic progress: It has rnThyed a key role
in Australia's strong rate of economic and population growth.
The building and construction industry is responsible fbr
something over half of total fixed investment and about 14 per cent
of gross national expenditure in Australia: But its importance
does not end there. Through its demands for materials the industry
affects output and investment throughout many sect6rs of manufactu-'
ring industry. It is also a very large emnloyer of 430,000 people,
or 9 per cent of the national workforce, according to the last
census. But if you take account of related industries, building
and construction could be said to be responsible for employing
about 15 per cent of the workforce; you have rapid growth as well.
In those ten years, total spending on building and
construction has gone up by about 140 per cent. That compares with
an increase of 12o% in gross national spending generally, because
your industry is such a mass user of scarce resources, i-t has an
important responsibility to make a maximum contribution to growth
by making the best and most efficient possible use of those
resources thus both your industry and our own economic policymakers
have a strong interest in the soundly-based growth of
building and construction activity.
Continuity in building and construction operation raises
productivity, encourages technological innovation and facilitates
longer-term planning. Stability in your industry makes it easier
for us to maintain stable growth and full employment in the
economy as a whole. That's why we are very pleased to see the
development of, and increasing professionalism in organisations
like the Master Builders' Federation..
The Federation and its affiliated bodies have also found
themselves increasingly involved in industrial relations, and
Master Builders' Associations have recently featured prominently
in major industrial disputes in the industry. I can recall some
recent disputes in New South Wales which have proved very costly
both to employers and individual employees, One particular
building union resorted to the use of physical violence and
caused damage to property in pursuing its demands. ./ 3

But I am confident that under the guidance and co-ordination
of your Federal organisation now established in Canberra, industrial
relations in the building industry will bring increased employeremployee
harmony. I would not want to leave such a distinguished
audience as you are without some comments on how we in the Federal
Government see our role in relation to your industry, particularly
in relation to housing.
It has become almost a cliche of the political scene that in
Australia we enjoy the highest level of home ownership in the world
and one of the highest rates of housing construction. But no matter
how well accepted and commonplace those statements may seem to some
observers, they show a solid record of achievement against which
current problems and criticism must beweighed. There will always be
problems to be overcome. But we are not resting on our record in
this vital area of housing which is so closely identified with the
everyday life and aspirations of Australians. On the contrary,
we are carrying on and improving the record of successive Liberal/
Country Party Governments, in the increasing involvement of the
Commonwealth in housing.
Housing is one of the few portfolios that I have not held
during my ministerial career and that's mainly because it was
established in comparatively recent years. I seem to have had my
chance in just about all the others. The total is thirteen portfolios,
they tell me. Our position as a Government with respect to
housing is that we believe every Australian family should be well
housed and housed in a fashion of its own choice. We recognise
that Government assistance is necessary to achieve this aim. But
we believe such assistance should be implemented in a co-operative
rather than in a domineering and bureaucratic way.
We take the approach that we can co-operative successfully
with private enterprise, and this new building and this national
capital are testimony to the success of that approach. We also
believe we should co-operate with the state Governments in helping
them to fulfill the housing needs of the people as speedily as
practicable. More recently, we have taken a number of decisions in the
housing area. For example, last December we made new arrangements
for Commonwealth financial assistance to the states for housing.
As a direct result ther ' have been substantial reductions in the
interest rates charged by all state authorities. They represent
the greatest reduction in housing interest rates in a quarter of
a century. The interest charged on dwellings sold by the state
housing authorities and financed by co-operative societies have
been reduced substantially, and the benefits of these reductions are
being passed on to home buyers. We have also relieved the States of
the need to provide housing for members of the armed forces. This
has released additional funds for civilian and welfare housing.
We are also paying the States $ 1.25 million a year for the
next five years towards rental reductions for the really needy. / 4

Since the last Budget, the maximum advance under the war
service homes scheme has been increased by $ 1,000, and interest
charged by our housing loans insurance corporation has been reduced.
At the Premiers' Conference in February, we provided additional funds
for state works, and a number of states have stimulated their home
building programmes as a result.
These are all decisions taken to assist housing, but another
problem the industry faces is the rising costs of land. This
problem can only be solved by co-operation b tween all levels of
Government and private enterprise.
As for the future. You can be. assured that we will. o. continue
to improve and update Government asistance in the housing area, as
we have dcne in the past: We are proud of our record. But we
acknowledge that there are still many policy aspects of housing
which we should be looking at. Having said that I want to thank
you again for inviting us here today, and I have much pleasure in
declaring construction house officially 6pen.

Transcript 2411