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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 818


Senator REID(8.22) —It is appropriate when speaking to the Loan Bill 1984 to point out that 8.8 per cent of this year's total Budget has been allocated for interest repayments compared with only 7.1 per cent for education. Perhaps that says a great deal about the state of the economy and our attitude towards education in particular. We are faced with the situation that the deficit over the last two years is $15,000m compared with $17 ,000m over the previous seven years.

I think it is relevant to look at the Budget allocation of $460m for the Department of Territories and Local Government. As far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned the Budget is a national budget, a State budget and a local government budget. All three are relevant. I would not want the Senate to think that I am suggesting that more than $460m should be spent in the Australian Capital Territory through the Department of Territories and Local Government. However, I suggest that it could be spent differently and with better effect.

We should first look at the way in which this Budget allocation is made up. We are told by the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) that the amount of money allocated to the Territory has increased by 41.5 per cent on the allocation last year. It would appear at a glance that a fairly substantial sum of money is being spent. The total amount that is being spent on Canberra may even be used against the people of the Territory. But, of that sum, $111.8m is allocated to the Parliament House Construction Authority for the construction of the new Parliament House. In addition, $60m has been allocated for land servicing, and that is certainly a very important item. But let me remind honourable senators that over the last three months the sale of land in the Territory has raised $35m, every cent of which has gone back into Consolidated Revenue. So the $60m allocated this year can in no way properly be regarded as money given to the Territory. However, it appears that way from the Budget figures and I believe that is misleading. The Commonwealth will get back a great deal more than that from the sale of land which is serviced and the money will go into Consolidated Revenue. Again, this item is not properly listed as money spent on the Territory.

Of the remaining $288m, $199m is allocated to the National Capital Development Commission. However, when one looks closely at that figure one finds that in fact only $31.5m is to be used for new works this financial year. A sum of $6m has been allocated for Commonwealth offices and $16m to national works. It is necessary to sort out all of these figures in order to get some idea of the amount of money which is actually spent here for the benefit of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. We need to do this so that the figures are not distorted and used by other against us, especially at a time when the Territory is proceeding towards self-government. As I said, I believe the money allocated through the Department of Territories and Local Government could be spent with better effect and I am not suggesting that the Department be given more money.

The Budget Papers tabled on Budget night indicated that 1,800 jobs would be created this year through the capital works program. However, given that last year the minister said that 1,600 jobs would be created through the capital works program, I would suggest that with an increased Budget allocation of 41.5 per cent this year we could have expected more than only 200 extra jobs. This indicates that the program in fact is capital intensive and not job intensive.

I wish to say more about jobs. Certainly the unemployment rate in the Capital Territory has dropped to 4.1 per cent and that is highly desirable and commendable. But amongst the unemployed in Canberra are a lot of young people, many of whom have never had jobs and have been unemployed for a long time. It is said that the number is 2,000; it may in fact be more than that. If we are not careful that number will continue to grow each year. These people can look forward to a very depressing situation-no real jobs, no real careers and no real prospects in the community in which many of them have been born and educated and have grown up.

I am not thinking just of the 2,000 young people who are presently unemployed. I am also thinking of young people who will be leaving school and wanting careers in the future. There is no doubt that the Public Service will continue to be the major employer in this Territory. About two-thirds of the Territory's work force are employed in the public sector now. Excellent jobs and a wide variety of opportunities exist within the Public Service. There is no doubt that most people in Canberra will continue to seek jobs in the Public Service from which they will derive a great deal of satisfaction. But it is not sufficient merely to look to the Public Service. It is necessary to broaden the base of our economy. We need a broader division between the public and private sectors. We need to be able to offer more choice, more diversity and more opportunity. I regret that this Budget has not done more in this area. I believe that some of the moneys allocated in the Budget could have been better spent in creating an environment in which real jobs and real opportunities could emerge.

The Budget Papers indicate that the allocation to the incentives to industry program is down 24 per cent on the allocation last year. The program is to provide a mere $570,000 for jobs. I want to remind the Senate of the work that was done by the Canberra Development Board last year. The Board, which has been using moneys allocated to it to attract industry and business to Canberra, has been successful in attracting a couple of large computer companies without the payment of any incentive whatever. In the last two years $1.4m involving 17 companies has been committed under the scheme. That is a very real indication that given the money to spend on the incentives program the Canberra Development Board is able to attract business to Canberra. The Board does not hand out the money it receives in the form of wages. It makes money available to companies for use as capital for infrastructure according to the number of jobs which will be generated by the incentives program. The Board last financial year was able to create one job for every $6,750 it spent. As I said, this money was not used to pay wages.

The money allocated to the community employment program is said to be up 52 per cent this year. The Budget Papers indicate that the total amount to be spent in the Australian Capital Territory is nearly $7.5m, of which $1.7m will be spent through the Department of Territories and Local Government. Certainly, not every person who gets a job through the community employment program would find employment through the incentives to industry program. But I seriously suggest that if more money were spent through the incentives program a much greater number of people would be provided with real jobs, real prospects and real futures. As a consequence, other jobs would flow from that. The community employment program's record shows that its jobs last for an average of 45 weeks and cost $11,600, most of which is wages, and once that is paid out after 45 weeks, that is the end of the job. Some of the people employed in the community employment program do acquire skills which enable them to obtain employment and I am not for a minute suggesting that the program should not take care of the type of jobs and training it can provide. But it seems to me to be an incredible imbalance that the allocation to the incentives to industry program is down 24 per cent but funds for the community employment program are up 52 per cent when, with a more equal distribution between the two, we could create a situation in which many of the present long term young unemployed would have better prospects and those who will be leaving school and looking for careers in Canberra would also have much better prospects.

The other significant area for job opportunities in the Australian Capital Territory is tourism. There can be no doubt about the jobs that flow from that area. It is pointless my taking up a great deal of time this evening dealing with the history of other places but in 1983-84 New South Wales increased its budget for tourism by 95 per cent. The Northern Territory's budget allocated $ 13m for the promotion of tourism but Canberra had a rise of only 3.8 per cent. That does not even keep pace with last year. There was no increase in the amount for the promotion of tourism. The Australian Tourist Commission has received more money and it is clear that the Federal Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) has a very high regard for the benefits of tourism, and consequently its promotion, but somehow the Government does not seem to appreciate the benefits which would flow to the Australian Capital Territory from an increase in the amount available for promotion. There is no doubt that the promotion of tourism pays off. For some time we have been hoping that the position of Tourist Commissioner would be upgraded. In a sense it has been but it is within the Department of Territories and Local Government and I very much regret that that there has not been a decision to create a separate tourist commission because I believe it would be more effective.

The private sector in Canberra is very active in tourism and does a great deal to help itself. A scheme involving the Canberra Visitor and Convention Bureau was established three years ago whereby government and the private sector contributed on a dollar for dollar basis. Three years ago the maximum government contribution was set at $30,000. It remained at $30,000 last year and I regret to say that this year it is still $30,000. In fact, the Bureau has spent considerably more than the $30,000 it is required to spend to match this Government sum. That goes to show the contribution the private sector makes towards helping itself. It does benefit the whole community and creates opportunities for young people which would not otherwise be available.

There is spending on welfare programs for the homeless and unemployed youth. Certainly while we have those groups in our community we must have welfare programs that attend to their present needs but, as I have said, I regret that there are no real prospects of a long term solution for them. It seems to me that at present the attitude is that they should be provided with something like a creche or a kindergarten to care for them while they are homeless and unemployed. It is a pity that we are not really addressing ourselves to their long term needs. Certainly help is needed at present, but let us aim for a better balance.

Recently-I shall not go over all the details tonight as I have mentioned this matter before-Canberra had a crisis concerning Commissioner for Housing loans. That has had a devastating effect on the community. The Minister for Territories and Local Government regrets that when Labor went out of office in 1975 there was an 18 per cent rate of government ownership of houses but that in 1983 it dropped to 13 per cent. He aims to build up Government ownership of houses. This year $29m has been devoted to this purpose. Vast sums of capital are tied up in the ownership of government houses. Certainly some are needed but surely it would be better to use the money to encourage private ownership and to assist with rents for those who need assistance for a time, and so spread the money further. It is another case of how I believe money available in the Budget could be distributed differently. The allocation for Commissioner for Housing loans, plus an extra $6m for this financial year, has already been used up. People have been left in a very different situation as a consequence. I believe that part of the problem was that the Minister became over-enthusiastic in encouraging people to register for this scheme. I think the money allocated provides about 500 mortgages and it is said that about 2,000 people who would like to participate in the scheme have registered.

It will be particularly difficult for the number of people who rely on a Commissioner for Housing loan to enter into property settlements in the Family Court which would enable them to continue to provide a home for themselves and their children. Commissioner for Housing loans have enabled women or men to borrow money to pay out any existing mortgage and to pay out the other spouse so as to continue to provide a home for the children. I do not know where the money will come from now this source has dried up and I can see a great deal of hardship arising this year. It is unfortunate because a woman who is required to sell her home to settle the property will find herself, in time, on the emergency housing list. The whole cost of providing a house is probably $60,000 or more whereas with a mortgage of perhaps $24,000 or $30,000, which is a great deal less, she may be able to stay in the home that she has. I suggest that the allocation of $460m to the Territory be re-examined to see whether better use can be made of it in that area. This recent problem with the Commissioner for Housing loans has been a most unfortunate fiasco. Many people have been hurt emotionally and I fear that many more will be hurt financially. I repeat my theme: We need real solutions, real hope, real encouragement and better use of resources.

One area which was expecting to do better in the Budget than it did is Tuggeranong. Certainly a large proportion of the money allocated for land servicing and roads is to be spent in that area. Land servicing and roads bring more people into an area but do not necessarily provide services. Two thousand blocks were serviced in the Tuggeranong area last year and 3,000 are to be serviced there this year, a total of about 5,000, which will bring into that area approximately 20,000 people. There will be roads and certainly some more facilities but shopping facilities are missing most of all. Mr Deputy President, I wonder, whether you have tried to buy petrol in the Tuggeranong area. There are two service stations in the northern end of the Kambah-Wanniassa area but none in Tuggeranong. The Chisholm shopping centre should have been under way well before now but the money for servicing the area where the shopping centre is to be was not made available in the Budget. It is perfectly clear that the land needs to be given to the private sector to develop so that it can go ahead with the shopping centre, service station and facilities that are so badly needed in the area. Money has been allocated in the Budget for ambulance and fire brigade accommodation in that area. I wonder whether that can go ahead without the land being serviced, and when will that servicing occur if it is not given to the private sector to do?

Much of the $60m allocated for land servicing could be used for Commissioner for Housing loans and in some of the other areas I have mentioned if the private sector were encouraged to do more. The Minister has become involved with private sector land servicing development in the last 12 to 18 months. I have congratulated him in this place on doing so, but I urge him to do more of that and to use the money thus saved to develop other areas that are needed.


Senator Peter Baume —Did the other Australian Capital Territory senator support you on this?


Senator REID —I expect that my colleague the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan), the other Australian Capital Territory senator, would also support development, especially in the Tuggeranong area. The other promise was that the Tuggeranong town centre would be in operation and that money would be available for that development. No money for that development was provided in this Budget. There has been controversy in the community as to whether it is appropriate for the town centre shopping area to be developed now or later. There is no doubt about the need for the Chisholm centre. It was a promise of the Minister that the Tuggeranong centre would be developed and, to the great surprise and amazement of the people in Tuggeranong, it has not occurred. If the Tuggeranong centre is necessary the Government should put that area out to development by the private sector and not stick rigidly to the concept of it being developed by the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, because it is quite clear that the money is not available for that purpose.

Mr Deputy President, you may recall that I have spoken previously about the international standard sports facilities funds that we did not receive as a result of the activities, or the lack of activity, of the Minister, which funds would have generated $2m, having been first allocated in 1981 for the development of international standard sports facilities in Canberra. I shall not repeat the sorry story tonight. The fact is that five sporting groups were recommended for funding by a committee of the House of Assembly set up by the Minister for that purpose, but somehow it took so long to advise the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism what was to happen to the money that it was lost to the Australian Capital Territory.

More money is allocated in this Budget for international standard sports facility development. I hope that we will receive not only our share of that money but also the balance of the amount of which we were deprived previously. There is a certain amount of urgency involved for at least one of those sporting bodies; that is, the water skiers. The world championships are to be held here on the Molonglo River in January 1985. That important event will bring many people to Canberra. If one tries to water ski in that area one will find out just how primitive the facilities are. It is a beautiful stretch of water and it is very suitable for water skiing, but there are no proper and good facilities for getting boats into the water; there is no secure ramp for jumping; there is no electricity; and there are no toilets. Whenever an event is held there temporary power and transportable toilets have to be provided. For $200,000-not a huge sum-which could have come from those funds that facility could be developed in a way which would enable a world championship event to be held in much better surroundings. I ask the Minister to give his attention to this matter urgently to see that these five groups, none of which is located at the Australian Institute of Sport, are at least given an opportunity to develop their facilities and to bid for international standard events in Canberra. It is an important part of the tourist industry that we be able to attract these events and the people who come with them to Canberra. I suggest that this matter requires early attention.

The Minister was congratulated in the Canberra Times recently for what was called a coup in his agreement with the New South Wales and Victorian governments over the arrangements for the refund from those States to the Territory of profits from the sale of lottery tickets here. I was pleased to see the result of his negotiations. They took a long time. The Minister who preceded him had attempted to reach a similar conclusion. I understand that the present Minister has entered into a treaty with the New South Wales and Victorian governments. I would like him to make a copy of that treaty available so that people can know exactly what has been negotiated. There is some confusion in the community as to what concessions have been made, as to which lottery tickets cannot be sold here as a consequence of this agreement and the right to sell tickets at the same rate. Whether the agreement will have any effect on sporting groups and others running lotteries is not known. The way to clear up this confusion is to make the treaty available so that everybody can see exactly what has occurred and know what the consequence will be for the future.

I cannot speak on the Budget without referring to the development of Civic and the acute parking problem which exists there. The private sector could develop parking facilities in Civic, but not unless it knows that the Commonwealth will not compete with it next door, as it were. If there is to be private sector development of parking it needs to be planned in a way which makes it secure. If that is not to be the case, something needs to be done. It was widely expected, with good reason, that the question of parking in Civic would be addressed in this Budget. If the Commonwealth is not prepared to come to an arrangement which makes it attractive to the private sector, I suggest that it reorder its $460m so as to make funds available to address the problem of parking in Civic. Perhaps a better bus service would be a part of that. I appreciate that this is a chicken and egg situation, but something needs to be done so that the traders in Civic are not more disadvantaged than they are at present. We should not have to miss out both ways. If the Commonwealth is not able to provide parking facilities it ought to be able to come to a commitment which will enable the problem to be redressed.

Education is another area that has caused some concern because of the amount that has been allocated. Funds have not been allocated in addition to those allocated last year, which funds one would expect with new schools being opened. There is concern in the community about the McKellar primary school not going ahead. The reason for that school was the acute difficulty for young children crossing busy roads from their homes to get to the other available schools. I hope that something will be done to see that that does not become a problem to young children. I hope that something will be done to redress the problems of the other new schools, money for which was allocated last year. How are we going to staff the new schools with teachers and ancillary staff by merely spreading the present allocation more thinly? It is a matter to be addressed. (Quorum formed)