Fran Kelly is on the right track
I was watching the ABC Drum programme, and a story buried in between the carbon debate, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, caught my attention. It was the Julia Gillard visit to Alice Springs and it opened up the the debate again on housing.
The debate has been raging in one form or another for 40 years or more. What to do about the shortage of housing, and how to build affordable solid housing, to withstand the elements of Central and Northern Australian remote areas.
It is clear, that the housing companies, the bureaucrats and ad hoc Aboriginal building teams are not delivering, simply because of the archaic current construction and delivery methods that have been in place in Territory housing for decades.
What pricked my interest were the comments made by Fran Kelly on the Drum. Fran is the only person in all the years the debate has been going on who has made any sense or offered a solution.
No one on the panel reacted to what she said, It went straight over their heads and little wonder because they are not involved in the construction industry and would not be able to drive a nail or use a screwdriver.
What she said was, that she could not understand why the government doesn’t build houses somewhere and ship them out already built.
Ummmmm they said and moved on to the next item. I know that there has been various attempts, to construct donga type housing in an ad hoc way. If I understood what Fran was saying or thinking, there needs to be a much better engeneering proposition out there for Aboriginal housing. We hear horror stories on a daily basis about the shoddy workmanship, incomplete jobs, and inadequate septic systems.
What is needed is a government funded “roll on roll off” factory to be built in the Territory. Ideally Alice Springs could be the central place with components being manufactured in Darwin, Tennant Creek, and South Australia. The Victorian housing commission, had such a factory at Homesglen many years ago and they turned out great houses in concrete panels design. They built thousands of houses in places like Bendigo and Ballarat in a very short time.
A factory in the NT, using modern technology and construction methods, would meet the future needs of housing in Northern Territory, the Kimberley and Western Queensland. The construction and erection time could be cut significantly.
The transport infrastructure is already in place now with the Ghan, able to transport the materials at reasonable cost, either out of Darwin using the trading partners in Asia, or the Australian manufacturing sector in Southern Australia.
Mobile batching plants can also be set up to construct the floor slabs in communities, teams would build the slabs, and move on then construction teams would follow and erect the homes that would be complete with all of the fittings.
The factory could build enough housing for the Aboriginal communities, the town camps, and also for the town folks themselves. As everyone knows, the costs of building a house in the Territory are enormous in comparison to the other states.
Supplying houses in the future for the mainstream market would ensure that affordable housing was also maintained for Territorians.
If these houses could be built in an undercover factory with overhead cranes, modern factory environment and using modern equipment, it would go a long way to solving the long term housing problem in the Territory.
The government, would be investing in the long term future of the Territory, When the construction of Aboriginal housing was complete the enterprise could be handed over to a consortium of businesses in Alice to continue making houses for the general economy.
That is what I think Fran was meaning, but it went straight over everyone’s head.