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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15547


Mr MOSSFIELD (12:53 PM) —I want to talk about the future of our communities. Globalisation has brought with it many challenges at both the national and international levels, but it has also brought many challenges at the local community level. In many respects, these have been overlooked by policy makers. The federal government's economic and immigration policies are driving greater changes in our suburbs and our local communities.

The area I represent in Western Sydney is undergoing great changes. There is a huge boom in residential development and its associated increases in population. During the last federal redistribution, the electorate of Greenway shrank in terms of geographical area but grew substantially in terms of population. Urban infill is occurring at a rapid pace. In established suburbs, a single house is torn down and replaced with three or four townhouses or a block of 60 flats is replacing two or three freestanding houses, while suburbs are being built from scratch on vacant land or old market gardens with a combination of low- and medium-density dwellings.

If the industrial revolution of 250 years ago drove the population from rural areas into the cities, it is the technological revolution that is driving people to the suburbs today. Better roads, better forms of transport and communication will allow people to live comfortably on the urban fringes of our cities. We now need to shift our focus to creating policies that will deal with this fundamental shift in the structure of our society.

My colleague the member for Werriwa, the shadow minister minister for urban development and community security, is doing some excellent work in this area. His electorate, like mine, sits on the urban fringe of Sydney and is undergoing changes at a massive rate. We as local members are experiencing these changes first-hand. On an almost daily basis our communities are changing before our eyes. Planning policy is vitally needed. There will be some who will say that planning is a state issue or a problem for local councils, but it is more than that. The forces that are driving changes are national and international as well as state and local. Therefore, I believe there is a role for the federal government in this policy area. We cannot continue to simply pass the buck and wash our hands. This is a challenge that affects all of us, so it is a task for all levels of government to become involved in. Labor recognises this. That is why we have a shadow minister in this area. It is a pity that the government is so short-sighted. It is a pity that the government does not even have a minister for housing or community development.

We have to cease building housing estates and begin building communities. We have to consolidate the trend of moving jobs closer to where people live. We have to ensure that all people, regardless of background or location, are able to grasp the opportunity that the future brings. Who knows what the future holds? A government can no longer simply administrate; it must plan, think to the future and create an environment that will be able to cope with whatever the future may bring. We need flexibility and foresight: two things this government lacks that the Labor Party can provide.

The lines of responsibility have been blurred in this modern age. By ignoring this policy area, the current government is ignoring its proper role, which is to provide the framework for a growing and changing community. We need a national approach, not just an ad hoc approach. Every community is different. I will not deny this. It is what makes Australia a rich and diverse nation. That is why local councils need to be involved: to reflect local conditions, local attitudes and local circumstances. Local community organisations like the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre, Marayong House and the Toongabbie Neighbourhood Centre in the more established areas of my electorate, and the Glenwood Residents Association and Stanhope Gardens in the new residential estates, are all great resources for community building. Each community has different needs and these organisations know their area and have the drive to get results. Each community also faces common challenges, which is why the federal government also needs to play its part.

It will not be easy, but then government never is. It will require a whole-of-government approach, and it is not just planning: it is transport, communications, health, energy, environment, resources, education, industry and employment. None of these policy areas can exist in a vacuum; they all have an impact on our local communities and they must be woven together to form the fabric of our society. It is time for innovation. It is time for daring. The same old solutions will not work in the new modern age. New challenges require new thinking. If we are to be true to the generations of Australians that are to come, then we cannot be selfish in our approach today. We must build the platform on which these communities will stand, and we should not be cutting corners in materials or putting up with shonky workmanship. We, as representatives of our local communities, have been given a great responsibility at a critical time in our history. The status quo is not an option. The decisions we make affect those who are to come. The impact will be felt down through the years and we cannot afford to drop the ball. (Time expired)