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Tuesday, 23 May 1939

Mr BLAIN - The honorable member reads what he says and ought to know. I point out that Australia* to-day is facing problems somewhat similar to those which confronted the French nation for many hundreds of years. Unless we have an efficient scheme of regional planning the optimum carrying capacity of this country can never be reached. In rebuttal of the jibe that the French nation is not united, Professor Roberts goes on to say -

The French say, with Duruy, that "there is no country in the world with a more real physical unity than France", and argue that while the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Rhonegap give coherence to the country, none of the physical divisions is sufficiently pronounced to create immutable political divisions. The geographical centre, they go on, has been the historical centre, and this creates a narrow solidarity between the provinces.

Under the heading " The Facts of Regionalism" he says -

Most post-war projects' realize that there are three separate fields (administrative regionalism, intellectual regionalism, and economic and social regionalism), and, though all unite in wanting local assemblies as a basis, it is agreed that little is to be gained by confusing these various aspects.

His concluding remarks are as follows : -

At present, the position is that administrative regionalism is practically nugatory (because Republican policy and vested interests have made Etatisme ascendant), sentimental regionalism is constantly growing (especially in Alsace-Lorraine, Brittany and Provence), and economic and geographical regionalism can be stopped by nothing. The very pressure of events is hastening them at a terrific rate, and France, if she wishes to avert suffering, must clearly differentiate such regionalism from administrative regionalism and not lump all manifestations of this phenomenon into one amorphous mass. All told, regionalism, in its various guises, is one of the most significant and interesting phases of post-war French life.

In the citation of this bill the word " development " is used. Unless we group Australia into natural regions by an economic survey, which would mean redrawing the map of Australia, we shall fail to take full advantage of the expenditure of the millions of pounds of money to be made available under this bill in the name of development. It appears that much of this money will be scattered around in the cities of Melbourne and

Sydney. I know that I am not alone in that view; it is shared by many other honorable members who during this debate have castigated the huge monopolies in those two cities. We all affirm our conviction that without certain principles, liberties and rights, we could not regard any organization of society as a tolerable one. As an independent member of this House, I believe in government by persuasion backed by science or exact knowledge. I need not add that exact knowledge is a compelling logic. I do not believe in dictatorial violence ; but I realize, with many others, that the democratic system is on trial. The vote of honorable members on this bill will show just how they stand in regard to the question whether or not we are to take full advantage of the money to be expended under this bill to develop some areas which it would be uneconomic to develop were the money not to be made available. This bill lias a decided defence flavour. It represents an endeavour to preserve peace; but it. seems to mc that this Government has forgotten that in its political aspect the problem of peace is actually one of government. The motive of profit-making, of which we have heard so much in this House during the last week,.has already in other countries, particularly England, to a greater degree than is realized, ceased to be the mainspring of economic activity. The development of the resources available to the community under public ownership or control for the use of the whole community will be further extended in the years to come. I like to think that the same outlook will continue, and that big business, that is, the "commercial complex " will be infected by this ethical outlook. Does this bill suggest that that desirable state of affairs is likely to be brought about? It certainly suggests that there shall be a curtailment of profits-

Mr McHugh - Curtailment is suggested but nothing specific has been provided.

Mr BLAIN - I am afraid that it will be impossible to police provisions for the curtailment of profits. This " might be " bill is thrown down in front of us. It makes no suggestion of spreadability or equity, yet the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) saw fit to suggest national planning. Probably I would not have been on my feet had not the all-embracing term "national planning " been misused during this debate. What a slur on the' host of scientific thinkers, engineers, town-planners, regional planners, business men and sociologists who alone could enunciate a policy of regional planning in this country ! I have frequently stressed the need for such a policy in this country. I am not unmindful of the fact that on the now famous 6th December last year the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), among the members of the Government, was the first to use the expression "national planning" in this House. Prior to that, the Government regarded any suggestion for national planning as blood-red in its origin. Subsequently it began to revise it3 views and regarded this subject as somewhat pink in origin. But now we have the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr." Casey) referring to national planning as an objective of this Government. I strongly object to the use of such an all-embracing word in connexion with this bill.

Let us see the character of the planning that is being done overseas. I direct attention to the January, 1936, Newsletter of the American -Society of Planning Officials in order to show that this idea is not by any means new. England, of course, is doing as the Americans are doing. The American society's Newsletter states that the aim of the organization is -

To promote efficiency of public administration in land and community planning.

Nothing like that is contemplated in this bill. The report reads -

Thirty-one State planning boards, the District of Columbia, three planning regions and two foreign countries were represented at the Conference on State Planning Administration called by the society and held in Chicago du, ing the second week in December. Representatives came from as far south as Alabama, from as far west as California, Washington and Oregon, and from as far north and east as Massachusetts and Vermont. A resolution was adopted at the conference urging that Congress enact the bill now pending before it providing for the creation of a permanent national planning board.

That is the very thing I have been advocating in this House ever since I have been a member of it. The report proceeds -

Judging by the statements made at the conference and by the many letters received since the conference, those who attended were very well pleased and valuable results were obtained. New York writes as follows: "As 1 stated at the meeting. I feel that it was the first conference ever held which accomplished the purpose for which it was called."

The work of the national planning authority of the United States of America is being done without any shelving or back-sliding. The policy of the organization is clearly stated and it is being effectively applied. In regard to regional organization, such as is very desirable in Australia, the report states -

A regional organization, whatever its varied form, should not be considered as a new form cif sovereignty, even in embryo. It need never develop to the stage where it will have elected officers, a legislative body, and the power to tax. Consequently, the region need not have fixed boundaries. By the same token, the region need have no definite body of citizens.

An Australia-wide planning authority should be established for Australia. That could be easily done if we adopted a regional system in preference to our existing State system, and any difficulties in relation to overlapping could be successfully combated. In this regard the report adds -

Many citizens may consider themselves as belonging to one region for one purpose and to an adjoining region for another. From the point of view of the National Planning Agency, regional planning work should be focussed in a central office to which have been assigned certain problems, largely overlapping because of having different n.real extents.

The statement proceeds to refer to continuous national planning, for any effective national planning must be continuous as it will need to go on for centuries. It, states -

We recommend the establishment, from time tn time, us needed, of regional planning commissions of the general type of those recently set. up in the Pacific north-west and in New England, as advisory bodies for planning purposes in their respective areas. These regional planning commissions have consisted of representatives of State planning boards and of a federal district chairman representing the National Planning Board, and have been advisory rather than operating agencies.

Yet this Parliament scorns to call upon scientists. It regards the scientist as some kind of vermin, or, perhaps I could say, a reptilian creature which deserves no consideration. The President of the United States of America, however, holds quite a different opinion. Shall we dare to set ourselves above him in this matter? The National Planning Board of the United States of America has done remarkably fine work. A great deal of the excellent developmental work in the Tennessee Valley, and in other areas that are now carrying large populations in the United States of America, was inaugurated by the National Planning Board. The President set up this authority to give advice on national planning, and he has not hesitated to develop national resources in conformity with the advice of the Board.

Some such authority must be established in Australia, but unfortunately, the Government has only a limited vision. All it can suggest is that some accounting authority shall be authorized to probe deeply, or perhaps not so deeply, into the activities of the profit-makers. The profit-makers are, of course, very real persons in Australia. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) scathingly indicted them in his speech here a few days ago. He. referred, in particular, to the iron and steel industry, the sugar industry, and one other. He had his own methods of describing these octopus organizations, but it was quite clear that he was deeply sincere in his denunciation of them. I shall describe them in my own way. I suggest that each of the three industries to which the honorable member referred is like a large circle surrounding many smaller circles which touch one another at various points. Perhaps a better illustration is found in the description by a schoolboy of the marine animal foraminifera which inhabit the deepest and darkest beds of parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. His words were as follow: -

Foraminiferaare minute marine animals enclosed in shells perforated by innumerable perforations through which the' animals protrude their tentacles.

Honorable members may consider that that is an even more perfect description of these monopolistic organizations than that given by the honorable member for

Indi. But, any spirit of banter apart, it is highly essential that we shall do our very utmost to deal effectivelywith these monopolies in order to ensure that the development of this country shall proceed on sound lines.

Our greatest need is decentralization. Unless the Government is prepared to introduce some measure to ensure the effective decentralization of our key industries, it will lay itself open to the charge of insincerity. In my opinion, the producers of iron and steel should be required to limit their activities to production. They should not be permitted to accept big contracts for governmental construction works. The assent of various administrations to that policy in the past has had highly unsatisfactory results in the North. I know that various contractors have been termed interveners or entrepreneurs because they have dared to tender for contracts for government works which have involved the expenditure of substantial sums of money. It has been said of some of these tenderers that because they have not £100,000 or so behind them they are really men of straw and should not be allowed to tender. The adoption of this attitude towards them has undoubtedly been suggested by the big monopolists which, under current government policy, are not only producers of essential raw materials, but also contractors for works in which it must bc used.

Mr McHugh - Surely the honorable member is aware that the production of iron and steel in this country is practically in the hands of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited..

Mr BLAIN - I see that the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. McHugh) agrees with me. I hope he will also support my contention that the key industries of this country must be decentralized. Last year, when certain honorable members representing South Australian constituencies called attention to this subject, they were told that decentralization was not possible. It will never be possible so long as we permit the producers of essential raw materials, such as iron and steel, to accept government contracts in which the materials they produce are used. Adherence to that policy will result in these huge organizations scorning the activities of companies with limited capital. Obviously, companies which are able to use in contract work the raw material which they produce, will always have an advantageover other companies which have to purchase such raw material from. them.

In the northern areas of Australia - I am not merely referring to my own electorate - small contractors have been deprived of contracts hecause it would he a little more costly to give them to them. If certain authorities in inland towns were given the right to form a company they could produce the smaller articles that are required under the defence scheme. There is no need to concentrate all activities in the south-eastern corner of the continent.

In continuation of my remarks on national planning I shall quote an article by Charles E. Merriman, a member of the National Resources Committee of the United States of America, the adoption of whose recommendations has made for the development of the American continent. There cannotbe development without the aid of scientific men. They are track finders. The article reads as follows : -

The report of the National Resources Board brings together, for the first time, exhaustive studies by highly competent inquirers into land use, water use, minerals and related public works in their relation to each other, and to national planning. The report lays the basis of a comprehensive long range national policy for the conservation and development of our fabulous natural resources. If the recommendations arc put into effect, it is believed that they will end the untold waste of our national domain now, and will measurably enrich and enlarge these national treasures as time goes on.

The following are perhaps the most important recommendations: -

1.   A land purchase programme providing for the retirement of some five million acres of sub-marginal land yearly for some fifteen years, with administration through a permanent land planning section, cooperating with State and local boards and authorities.

I think that that would appeal to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).

2.   A permanent water planning section to proceed with detailed engineering, social, financial and legal studies of seventeen major drainage basins, and the preparation of constructive programmes for their development.

3.   In mineral industries, permanent regulation of completion, adequate to control production, capacity surplus stocks, and protection of the workers. Consideration of retirement of marginal mines was also indicated. Scientific research to foster mining technology was recommended. For all these purposes, a permanent mineral policy committeeis suggested.

4.   A permanent public works administration, preparing a six-year works programme, operating through lump sum appropriations by Congress, and assuming the leadership in cooperation between national and local public works authorities.

5.   Continued encouragement of and cooperation with State and regional planning boards.

6.   Collection of basic data for planning, including a financial balance sheet for the Federal Government, a census of population and employment, completion of standard maps of the United States of America, basic scientific studies of land and water resources.

7.   A permanent advisory national planning board to serve as a general staff for the President. It was suggested that this board consist of not more than five members appointed by and responsible to the President, with a rotating panel of consultants and a skeleton staff made up of government personnel, and others brought in for special inquiries.

It is that permanent body instead of what has been suggested in this bill that I am desirous of seeing set up. This bill allows the Government to choose its advisers as it thinks fit; but it is a permanent body of advisers that is needed - men on high salary, not with administrative authority as some honorable members think proper, hut with authority based on exact knowledge.

There arc three outstanding considerations in looking at plans for planning: -

1.   The necessity and value of coordinating our national and local policies, instead of allowing them to drift apart and pull against each other.

2.   The value of looking forward in national life, of considering in advance, rather than afterward, of preventive measures as well as remedial.

I submit that these conditions exist in Australia. In proof of that I refer honorable members to the report of the

Royal Commission on Bush Fires in Victoria. That report should have awakened honorable members to the fact that there is no co-ordination and that there is jealousy even between departments in a small State. How then can we have co-ordination in an area of 3,000,000 square miles unless we have a national planning authority. Mr. Merriman continues -

3.   The value of basing plans upon the most authentic collection of analysis and facts.

It is an error to conclude that all planning: involves regimentation of a deadening nature.

He is up against that all the time. He does not believe in regimentation interfering in the lives of the people.

I am not referring now to the objections of those who think of regimentation as an interference with their robber-baron privilege of private exploitation and oppression, but to those who sincerely believe that there is a danger of sacrificing something which is valuable to civilization.

Wise planning makes provision for decentralization as well as for unification, for territorial and individual decentralization, for independent criticism, judgments, and initiative, for preserving and creating free areas of human activity. The zoning of power is as important in political as in economic organization. We may plan indeed for fuller liberty - and indeed are now so planning.

Sound planning is not based on control of everything, but of certain strategic points in a working system. Control of these points holds the system in balance, reconciling order, justice, liberty. The best planning willfind these strategic points shown by the social directives of the time, with least delay, and sees no more points than are necessary for the purpose in mind.

What happens is: -

1   . Change is too long delayed.

2.   The re-adjusters violently seize more than they need; and

3.   Eventually the re-adjusters restore what they would not have taken if they had been wiser.

I am not unmindful of the complexities and difficulties in the way, but dangers lie around as well as ahead, from non-action as well as action. We cannot proceed as if nothing had happened in recent years, or couldever happen again. Our doctrines of liberty, equality and democracy are not to be regarded merely as legal phrases to be paraded and celebrated on memorial occasions. No modern social structure is secure that does not promise more to the body and soul of those who feel themselves disinherited by the present order of things.

If there is affliction and bitter distress, it is becausewe will not reach out and take the gift of the gods in our day. There is food. shelter, clothing, adornment, relief from physical and mental disease, leisure for the appreciation, enjoyment, expression of the human personality in richest form, if we arc ready to reach out the hand and take them, through thu social, economic, political arrangements that condition 'them. lt we can look the facts in the face and not do what we do not like; if we can consult our fears less and our hopes more; if we can think more in terms of the present and future and less in terms of the past; if we can show inventive ability in social and industrial arrangements equal to that developed in technical advancement, we can realize the promise of life more fully than even the prophets have ever dared to dream.

That article sums up planning from the technical side right down to the human problem. This bill does violence to my intellect. It makes reference to "national planning". That term should never be used until a board exists comparable to that which exists in the United States of America from which the President of the United States of America is not ashamed to take advice. Therefore, I say that if Country party members who come into this Parliament advocating the formation of new States support this bill in the name of national planning, it is about time that the large body of country people who sent them here found other representatives who would more truly voice their opinions and support a movement for the regional development of country districts.

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