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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2041


Senator REID(6.19) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The report of the Task Force on Implementation of Australian Capital Territory Self Government has been in the hands of the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) since early this year. I think the first part of it was made available to him on 21 February and the second on 29 March. It was not made public until 10 May this year. The Minister's tabling statement was, to say the least, disappointing in that he has not really addressed himself to the substance of the report even though, in fact, he had had it for that length of time. A number of aspects about the document cause concern. It is a useful document from the point of view of discussion and it certainly needs to be looked at by this community. I am not convinced that self-government is in the best interest of this community. I do not believe the majority of Canberrans believe that to be the case. The way to resolve that, of course, would be to have a referendum on the subject and let people make their views on the matter known, especially as the report is now available. I would not have thought that the right of people to determine how they wish to be governed was in question. I really wonder what it is that the Government has to hide. It is so adamant that no referendum will be held when previously a referendum was held and the people did say that they wanted no change in the situation which currently exists.

As I said, this report is a very useful document. It highlights the questions that are unanswered. A number of responsibilities are listed for immediate transfer to a locally elected House of Assembly, but the matters about which no recommendations are made really cause the greatest concern. I do not believe that any locally elected assembly would have any bargaining power whatever with the Federal Government once the concept has been established and powers have been handed over to it. The whole debate usually boils down to a sneering reference to hip pocket reaction if finance is mentioned. I point out that this community does not have available to it the same means of raising funds as do State governments. There is no coal that I know of in the Australian Capital Territory. There are no other means of raising revenue. We are not in a position to raise revenue by way of payroll tax, which the States receive. I cannot see the Commonwealth volunteering to pay payroll tax.

A number of areas in Canberra have been developed in a way that is totally suitable and welcome in the national capital but would not be appropriate for a community as small as Canberra's to run and fund itself. Perhaps one of the most significant areas is the future of the Murrumbidgee River and its corridor. It is an important river, not only to the Australian Capital Territory but also to those who live alongside it above and beyond the Australian Capital Territory. In order to maintain that river with a community this size living so close to it resources will have to be devoted to it. This is part of the open space plan. I doubt whether this community could afford to maintain that river as it should on its own. The open space plan which, as I said, includes that river is not dealt with in this report. The report does not explain how the river will be funded in the future.

The police force, Action buses, the future of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority and the lower Molonglo water quality control works are matters which have been left for the future. It is said that those matters are to be discussed and the arrangements determined. I do not believe that is satisfactory. The report said that the Government should, at the earliest opportunity, give a commitment to financing those aspects of this community which are national capital aspects. The Minister significantly did not do so. All he said in his tabling statement was that we would receive fiscal equalisation with the States. He had the opportunity then to say that the Commonwealth would honour the national capital significance of this Territory and he did not do so. He was not asked then to actually commit money; he was merely asked to make that commitment. He failed to do so. I think that we are entitled to wonder exactly what the Government has in mind with respect to the future of the Australian Capital Territory. I think that the people are entitled to have a say. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.