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Tuesday, 11 December 1973


Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) -The Albury-Wodonga Development Bill 1973 is an important Bill. It is important to Victoria as well as to New South Wales. It deals mainly with the establishment of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. From a reading of this Bill it would appear to a person who has lived in Canberra for some time that the general work of this Corporation will follow that of the National Capital Development Commission, as we have known it, in the Australian Capital Territory. We can see quite a deal of strength in regard to Government intervention in the development of this area. A speaker in the debate from the Australian Labor Party mentioned the credit that is due to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, in this matter. I think the Labor Party can certainly claim that the proposal for the development of Albury-Wodonga emanated from the Labor Party in Federal Government. I think also that anybody meeting the Minister, Mr Uren, will quickly assess the ability which he has to conduct this matter.

The Australian Country Party as a minor Party in numerical strength in the various States and in the Commonwealth sphere, has had over many years a great interest in decentralisation. Decentralisation in the various States has generally been governed by the attitudes that people have held, the difficulties that have been obvious in encouraging people to live in areas to which they were not attracted, and the encouragement for industries to develop so that housing could be created and used economically in the adequate development of the area. In past years there has been great development in various States, particularly in my State of Victoria. The AlburyWodonga complex will supplement the development that has occurred.

The consequences of this development are yet to be seen. Obviously, it is not the wish of the Opposition to detract from the proposal to set up the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. The Bill deals in a variety of ways with the appointment of the Corporation, something to which nobody would take opposition, and the various provisions which will govern the workings of that Corporation. I believe that matters of concern in the Albury-Wodonga area arise mainly out of the environmental consequences. I have no great confidence that this Federal Government would guide the matter in any way that will have respect for its pronounced views at least on environmental matters. I see great problems arising out of drainage that will occur from the Murray River. I have some sympathy for South Australia in this matter because no matter what occurs in that area there is the problem of drainage from this area if the size of the city is to be as great as was originally said in the area.

My view on this matter is that it would be much better to have a smaller complex and a number of other smaller complexes scattered throughout the States. I hope that this will eventually occur. One has little respect for the Labor Party and its pronouncement on environmental matters when one remembers the comments that were made and the great political stunts that were carried out in relation to Lake Pedder. I remember the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts in the previous government, Mr Howson, saying that the fact that he lost his seat at the last Federal election was due very much to the organisation of the Lake Pedder action group. I admit to Senator Wright that the members of that group were way off key in what they said about the great benefit that would be brought to Tasmania, but what did this Labor Government say it would do? It said that it would stop the flooding of Lake Pedder. There has been a complete negation of that attitude by the Federal Labor Government in consultation with the Labor Premier of Tasmania. I do not think they ever had any reason to suggest that they would bring about the stopping of the flooding of Lake Pedder.

The Labor Party has said it will conduct environmental impact studies before undertaking developments in city areas. What a great confidence trick it played on the people of New South Wales. Without any investigation the Labor Government said that it would build Sydney's second airport at Galston. It had not even conducted an environmental impact study or wondered what would happen to the people of that area. The stupidity of Labor shows up in matters of environment and development. I think that we will find there will not be a study of the effect on the people and the surroundings in the Albury-Wodonga area which Labor has suggested will follow. There is great concern in the area relating to land acquisition and land tenure. We know that the socialist attitude in Australia and the pronouncement of the Labor Government are that the land should be made available on leasehold and that some monolithic socialist structure will take over and lease the land when it has purchased it. I am very pleased that the Premier of Victoria stood up to Mr Whitlam and said that Victoria would not join any such scheme if this was what it would involve. I note now that the final pronouncement is, as I understand it, that the manner in which the land will be dealt with will depend on the recommendations of the Else-Mitchell report.

I understand that there will be room for some freehold title as well as leasehold title for industry. There may be merit in both systems, but I would certainly oppose the idea that we should be led into the situation into which undoubtedly the socialist Labor Government wants to lead this country of total leasehold as far as the Northern Territory is concerned and total leasehold as far as any further development in the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. Its proposals with regard to any area developed by the States as a decentralisation proposition are that it should be controlled and leased by them if they receive Commonwealth money. However in this particular proposal we see a breakdown in the rigid policy of the Labor Government being brought about by the actions of a strong Premier of Victoria. I believe that the New South Wales Premier also had some say in the matter. I hope that as much of the area as possible will remain under the freehold title system because under that system there does accrue to the individual a greater interest in his premises than there does in the many instances in which a person has only the availability of a lease. That has been adequately demonstrated in many areas.

The local government representatives from the area are greatly concerned as to what may take place insofar as their future is concerned. Senator Lawrie has drawn attention to this matter. I know that it is stated in the Agreement, which is the Schedule to this Bill and to which clause 6 of the Bill refers, that one of the intentions of the 3 governments is that the proposed development corporation will involve, as far as possible, the established Australian, State and local government authorities in the development of the growth complex.


Senator Wright - What clause is that?


Senator WEBSTER -The honourable senator will find the Agreement in the Schedule at page 12 of the Bill. I am referring to clause 6 of the Bill, relating to the Albury-Wodonga Area Development Agreement, which is the Schedule to the Bill. The point I make is that if the Agreement were in actual fact adhered to it would mean, I envisage, that the local government authorities would be kept in business and that the new corporation would see to it that it developed hand in glove with the central government, the State government and the local government authorities. I suggest it is highly important that this should be so. Any officials coming from Canberra or even from State instrumentalities will not have the knowledge of or be as competent in the affairs of the local area of Albury-Wodonga as the local government officials and, indeed, councillors of the area. It is my view that the Agreement should be held to and that the proposed development corporation should involve in its affairs as far as possible the established local government authorities. That is something which I hope will not be overlooked in relation to this matter.

Albury-Wodonga will be an enormous centre in another 20 or 30 years. One can only anticipate that it will be developed at extreme cost to the Australian community. That extreme cost may be fully justified. It will be interesting to learn from the Government what it envisages doing by way of offering land for housing purposes and at what prices the land will be offered. From time to time we hear of the Government and its Ministers criticising local developers for the high cost of land; yet in an article I read in one of the newspapers at the week-end there was reference to word coming out of Canberra that land costs, even with leasehold title, in the new areas of Canberra can be expected to increase greatly in the forthcoming year and that hardly a block of land is being developed in Canberra at present at a cost of not less than $6,000. We do not know what other hidden costs go into the development of such a piece of land, but we do know that the direct costs associated with the development of a leasehold residential site are about $6,000.

But when a local developer or a private enterprise developer envisages such a figure he is greatly criticised. What will be the cost of housing if the present Government remains in office and continues to pursue those policies which have brought about great shortages in building materials? As is well known to members of both the Opposition and the Government, at present those shortages are leading to a total inefficiency in building and an escalation of the cost of building. Those who are wishing to build at present may be excused for thinking that future development of the Albury-Wodonga area could be a disaster. Present policies must be reversed so that materials will be available to enable work to be carried on properly and economically.

To ascertain what will be the cost of the construction of houses under a government authority one need only look at the announcements which have been made in the last couple of days by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) about contracts being let for further development of Darwin. My recollection is that the average price of the normal house let by the Commonwealth Government in Darwin will be in the vicinity of $ 1 5,000 to $ 16,000. That is the cost of a simple home in Darwin. That amount does not take into consideration land costs. If the average working person is to pay an economic rental on a figure like that he will have to pay at least $40 to $50 a week, which is very difficult if not impossible in view of the present situation in our society.

Irrespective of whether the development is done by private enterprise, forced along by the policies of a Government which has introduced inefficiencies or has been responsible for a lack of materials, or by the Australian Government itself, the costs would appear to be extreme at the present time. The Albury-Wodonga scheme will face problems unless private enterprise is brought into the development of the area. I hope that every provision will be made to enable the local people and the local government authorities in the area to be brought into the discussions and that much of the development which occurs in the area will not be done under government control but by the use of private enterprise.







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