The best hope, says the author, lies in constituting new federal and state commissions as independent and principled sources of research and policy advice for government on housing and the urban environment generally.Needless to say is an authoritative, thoughtful and remarkably nuanced account of the Commonwealth’s role in housing policy since the 1940s.Pat Troy answers this question strongly in the affirmative and chronicles a betrayal of this position over the last 60 years by numerous actors most notably the Commonwealth Government.
The rot starts with Menzies who seemed blind to the needs of low income earners but few political leaders, Labor or Liberal, are spared.
Surprisingly, two conservative politicians emerge with reputations enhanced: Thomas Playford, long term South Australian Premier who so well understood the connections between housing, community amenity and economic development that he could actually rebuff the feds for a while, and Dame Annabelle Rankin, a long suffering housing minister in the first Holt Government.
He has served on Statutory authorities of State and Federal government agencies.
He was head of the Urban Research Program at the Australian National University and was Deputy Head of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and Deputy Chair of the Australian Housing Corporation.
It also explores the way interpretations of the Constitution have evolved to result in the Commonwealth gradually assuming greater authority over the States in the development and management of our housing (as in other areas).
The book, in large measure, documents the fragile and limited nature of the idea of the Federation and the few opportunities taken to see things as a nation rather than a loose coalition of States.The national obligation was to develop real communities, establishing a close nexus between housing and the then fledgling profession of town planning.Things went well for a while, even if post-war shortages of building materials and recalcitrant state governments proved troublesome.What makes (1996); political preoccupation with short term point scoring rather than long term beneficence; the failure of the planning system on many fronts but particularly institutionalising high costs of development; developers intent on maximising their profits above all else; superficial critiques of urban form based on environmentally determinist ideologies; and the chronic absence of analytical evidence-based policy formation. Certainly, there seems no longer a bipartisan constituency to significantly enhance the low income public housing stock nationally.The Liberals have been ideologically antagonistic for decades and with Labor, well, even there ‘the light on the hill was turned off some time ago’.The real hero here is HC (‘Nugget’) Coombs, Director of Post War Reconstruction in the 1940s.