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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2371


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(10.49) —The Government has no basic disagreement with the contributions made by the Opposition shadow Minister, Senator Lewis, and Senator Reid. The Government and the Opposition agree that Canberra's Civic centre requires redevelopment. The Government believes that public consultation is essential and that there should be private involvement which will bring about certain stated objectives. We are debating a disallowance motion and I think it has to be conceded that the Senate has been very generous to Senator Vigor in allowing him to incorporate in Hansard a whole range of matters relating to his particular view. In fact one might even go to the point of saying that he could have his name in the Guin- ness Book of Records for the number of incorporations he placed in Hansard during his speech. I suppose it is his right to do that. But it is also the right of the Government to govern. To that extent the Government has engaged in extensive consultation with the citizens of Canberra. As Senator Lewis has correctly pointed out, there was unanimity in the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, which was asked to examine the redevelopment proposals.

One matter that has to be understood by the citizens of Canberra is that they have the most planned city in Australia. They have a city that has a large public involvement in that planning process. It is a city that has decentralised its shopping facilities, as was pointed out in the debate. Many new shopping developments have taken place close to the major residential areas. In that process we have seen the decline of Civic, the main centre of Canberra.

I have always expressed the view that what Canberra seems to lack most of all is a soul, a common area to which people feel attracted to the degree that it comes alive not only during the daytime but also in the evenings. In Sydney there has been the same decentralisation of suburban shopping complexes; nevertheless there has been a revitalisation and regeneration of the inner city area, particularly the downtown section which now in the evening is filled with young people going to films, coffee shops, discos or any of the other important facilities that make up a cosmopolitan type of society. It has even been suggested to me that what Canberra needs is a Kings Cross concept to complement the development that should take place in a modern city.

The Government has been aware of the parking problems. Any objective analysis would show that Canberra probably surpasses any other capital city in the world in the off-street parking that has been provided over the years by the National Capital Development Commission. There is no doubt that the more car places that are provided, the greater is the response. There is an insatiable demand that the planning authorities always have to consider when they set out to provide for the convenience of citizens and shoppers. Of course, that is exactly what is at the core of the redevelopment that is to take place.

The important element that perhaps Senator Vigor ignores is that there is a need for an overall planning concept for Canberra. When the construction of the new Parliament House concludes sometime during 1988, that work force will have to be given alternative employment. So any delay in the concept of the redevelopment would mar the planned approach that the Government has accepted as part of its responsibility for looking after the total environment of Canberra. As the work force from the new Parliament House is displaced, it will be absorbed into the other public building and private development that is envisaged in these proposals. To that extent any delay suggested by the Australian Democrats will have an impact on that overall planning concept for employment, a very important process that the Government accepts as part of its total responsibility. After all, had we not been put in our present position by the Democrats' action with respect to self-government for Canberra, a number of these matters would have been in another jurisdiction. Because we were confronted with an intransigent position in the Senate, of course the responsibility has passed back to the public area-to the NCDC, the Minister and, in the case of this development, the Joint Committee.

The Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) has acted properly and sensibly in the way in which he has applied himself to his areas of responsibility. Late last year he gave notification of his intention to vary the layout plan for the City of Canberra and its environs. Members of the public have been involved. He set out specifically to stimulate public interest in the discussion of these important new proposals. The Department of Territories advertised in the Canberra Times on five occasions the variations that are the basis of the redevelopment proposal. On five occasions advertisements were lodged in the newspapers between 17 December 1986 and 3 January 1987. Displays were arranged in various shopping centres and places of public assembly in Canberra.

Then, of course, a resolution was adopted which gave the Joint Committee the opportunity to participate in the redevelopment proposals. As Senator Lewis has correctly pointed out, there was unanimous approval by the Committee. It is not often that we get unanimity on committees, but there was a feeling that this new concept for Canberra was an exciting one and one that would bring about the regeneration of the central business district. Of course, that is always an important objective. The Committee heard evidence about traffic, about parking and about what has happened to population growth in Canberra in recent years. It accepts that there is a need for retail space to be set aside, for proper planning concepts to be adopted and for employment levels to be taken into consideration. All the public authorities charged with responsibilities in these various areas were consulted and their views taken into consideration.

An understanding of the basic objectives of the redevelopment was that we would have a great deal more private investment and private involvement in the project. There was an understanding in the NCDC and the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services that no more government offices would be located in Civic until such time as we had met our requirements in that area. So in every sense there has been consultation. In every sense there has been co-ordination with the Government's committees, the people's committees and the public at large about the policies to be adopted for the redevelopment of Civic.

The Government cannot quarrel with the basic motivations to which Opposition members have referred during the debate. It is an exciting project, and one that I am sure will capture the imagination of the citizens of Canberra. It will take into account all the matters referred to by Senator Vigor. Both the short-term and long-term parking problems will be resolved. Developers will be required to provide off-street parking; that is an essential prerequisite of any retail development. If shops are built but proper parking facilities not provided, the development will not prosper. The Government and the developers are correct in accepting their responsibilities in providing public facilities. Of course, the public sector will also play a part in providing sufficient parking. I must tell Senator Vigor that Canberra, of all cities in Australia-I would almost go so far as to say in the world-is well placed in environmental, parking and development matters. To that extent we cannot, under any circumstances, support what I think I am entitled to call the nuisance disallowance motion that has been put forward by Senator Vigor.

We appreciate that the honourable senator spends a great deal of his time examining the way in which the public authorities in Canberra operate, and that is part of his responsibilities as he sees them. However, it is part of the Government's responsibilities to make the decisions. It has made those through the consultative processes of Parliament and the community at large, and we are entitled to say that all the issues that the honourable senator has raised have been considered-if not in public, certainly within the various government committees operating in Canberra.

Therefore, I believe that the disallowance motion should not be supported. I thank Opposition members for their constructive comments this morning. I am confident that the disallowance motion will not succeed.