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Tuesday, 27 August 2002
Page: 5831


Mr LATHAM (10:50 PM) —Yesterday in the grievance debate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the member for Lindsay, said that all levels of government need to be involved in housing, planning and lifestyle issues in Western Sydney. She was highlighting one of the great failures of this government: it has no interest in urban lifestyle and planning policy. In this House I shadow a phantom. There is no minister for housing and urban development. There is no minister for community security. All the great changes in our cities are being driven by federal government policies—economic openness, the migration program and major infrastructure decisions. Yet when it comes to the management and consequences of urban change the Howard government has passed the buck to the states and local government. With the winding back of the first home owners grant, it has no strategy for housing affordability. With its $1 billion cut to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, it has no commitment to social housing construction. With its neglect of planning and Landcom issues, it has no policies for containing urban sprawl and preserving the lifestyle of our cities.

So, too, it has no interest in the No. 1 issue facing our suburbs and towns—the importance of community security. People living in fear and uncertainty in their homes do not care where the solution comes from—local, state or federal government—they just want a solution. All levels of government have a responsibility for community security. If we care about the people we represent—their problems, their fears, the issues on their streets—then we will always try to help them, rather than just blaming other levels of government. Just as Labor believe in federal responsibilities for cities, we want the federal government to play a constructive role in community security. This is why we will establish community safety zones, with more police and community policing resources to tackle specific problems like drug dealers, handguns and gang violence. Just as criminals target certain neighbourhoods, the federal government should target extra resources to fight this problem, in cooperation with the states. Other policies are needed to prevent crime. We should be tough on crime, and even tougher on the causes of crime.

Australia needs a coastguard and an effective Coastwatch to prevent the smuggling of drugs and hand guns—protecting our borders to keep crime out of our suburbs and towns. We also need to rethink the design of our neighbourhoods, learning the lessons of crime prevention research. With my colleague the member for Hasluck, I recently received a briefing from Gosnells council in Perth, on its three-year study into the correlation between urban form and the incidence of crime. The conclusions are stunning. Neighbourhoods with visibility, activity and community life on the streets are likely to have a 40 per cent lower rate of crime. Streets that are within walking distance of major public facilities have less crime. Pedestrians provide a natural form of surveillance. This is why Gosnells is spending a record amount of money on footpaths: to encourage pedestrian activity and surveillance.

The Gosnells `SafeCity' research makes perfect sense. In recent decades we have designed our suburbs to maximise privacy and minimise car and pedestrian movements. Unfortunately, privacy for the resident is also privacy for the burglar. High fences, quiet streets and isolated areas assist the criminals as they do their worst. Turning inward actually increases crime. Cul-de-sacs with fenced laneways are 22 per cent more likely to be burgled. Homes that back onto parks and other isolated places are 37 per cent more likely to be broken into. The best solution to crime is community and visibility. Streets where the homes face each other, where people can see each other's front yards, have a lower rate of crime.

It is not difficult to build our new suburbs this way. `SafeCity' has developed the town planning principles that make this possible, cutting crime by 40 per cent—a huge decrease in crime—simply through better urban design. The federal government should be spreading this success to every local government area in the nation. So, too, it should be initiating urban renewal projects: upgrading the housing stock but also improving neighbourhood design. In Riverview, near Ipswich, the Queensland government's urban renewal program has reduced crime by more than 60 per cent. Labor are not content to leave this issue to the states and local government. We believe in a new cooperative approach to community security, with all levels of government pulling their weight. Nothing matters more to Australia's future than the security and safety of our people. Labor believe in federal responsibilities for cities—affordable cities, green cities and, most of all, safe cities.