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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 97

Senator REID(4.08) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I wish to make some comments in relation to the Canberra Development Board because there have been suggestions recently that finance for it may be one of the things cut in the next Budget. Members of the Government representing Canberra have suggested that this is a premature comment, that it is nonsense and that it is not likely to be. The Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) has not denied that it is so. It is common knowledge in Canberra at the moment that the Department of Finance is sending out notes everywhere seeking to cut back. The Minister himself, speaking in the House of Assembly last Monday week, made it very plain indeed that there would not be much money around in the next Budget. The Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, speaking on radio last week, also indicated that the Commission expected its budget to be cut significantly this year.

The reason I suggest that we are entitled to be concerned about the fate of the Canberra Development Board is that last year its funding was not increased. The very area in which it is necessary to give attention to development in Canberra, that is, the expansion of the private sector and the security of jobs for young people that the Board can establish, was not looked after in the Budget last year. It is reasonable for people in Canberra to feel concerned that the Board may be subject to cuts this year. The matter was addressed by the Chairman of the Canberra Association for Regional Development last Tuesday at the opening of the new offices for the Canberra Development Board. He expressed the views of that organisation that it is important to Canberra that the Board continue. Every State has its organisation for developing private sector businesses and factories and the Board has done that in Canberra.

The record of the Canberra Development Board in establishing jobs is extremely good. It has been able to create jobs, spending at the rate of $6,700 for each job but, as I said, it has had too little to spend. The amount it is spending does not go, of course, on wages but on establishing capital and infrastructure which causes a job to come into existence. The jobs are likely to be permanent and available for young people into the future, and are likely then to cause other jobs to be created. I contrast the record of the Canberra Development Board, as I have done previously, with the record of the community employment program. Jobs under that program were costing $11,500. It is now said, of course, that they cost only $10,655 in the Australian Capital Territory but the length of time of the job has dropped from 45 to 36 weeks. One could wonder whether some scrambling of figures is going on in view of the fact that the Government promised 65,000 jobs in 1984-85. Perhaps by providing them for a shorter time it is costing less to do so.

It is important for our community that the Canberra Development Board continues. It is important that the Minister and the Government understand the need to diversify the Australian Capital Territory economy so that Canberra is not just a Public Service town. If cuts are to occur-the Government seems to be making it pretty plain that there will be-they should not be in the area of development of tourism and of the private sector.