The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement of 1956 is commonly seen as marking a shift in policy and in political rhetoric, away from public housing provision towards private home-ownership. Before examining the evolution of this policy shift, this paperframes it within the context of the social history of the early 1950s, particularly the post-war affirmation of the independent family, with its commitments to domesticity as a basis of citizenship, but in a period when a severe housing shortage also signalled uncertainties about the reliability of the economic boon. The paper then examines in detail the evolution of the 1956 Agreement within the conservative parties, the Commonwealth bureaucracy and the Cabinet. It concludes that, even though home-ownership emerges from these debates as a central ideological priority for the Menzies government, Cabinet thwarted the attempt of Senator Spooner — as the responsible minister — to abolish the CSHA altogether.
Urban Research Program, Research School of Social Sciences, ANU 1995