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Thursday, 11 October 1956


Mr LESLIE (Moore) .- I was very interested to hear the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) give us another of the many interpretations of Labour's nationalization and socialization policy that we hear from the other side. Almost every day we are given another definition of Labour's nationalization policy.


Mr Bryant - I rise to order. In what way is this related to the Estimates before the committee?


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN

The honorable member has not proceeded far enough to allow me to decide that.


Mr LESLIE - If the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) is unaware of the meaning of nationalization he should not be sitting where he is. However, his confusion is understandable, in view of the further definition that he has been given to-night. The honorable member for Werriwa, in replying to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), said that government transport services provided cheaper travel. 1 do not deny that, but government transport can always fall back on the taxpayer in order to make good its losses. The natural consequence is that all government transport in Australia is in a shocking state, and is operating at a serious loss. 1 remind honorable members that private transport operators have not the assistance of a subsidy, and cannot fall back on the taxpayers if they show a loss. As a consequence of the need to equate charges and costs, they must demand higher fares. As the honorable member for Swan pointed out clearly, they have to meet additional imposts such as licence and registration fees and taxes. Government transport services are not called upon to pay any of these charges, but, unfortunately, they are forcing many private transport companies out of business, and making people rely on government transport, which makes good its losses simply by collecting more money from the taxpayer. Indeed, those who do not use these services at all - the residents of rural areas - must help make good transport losses in the urban areas.

Returning to the Australian Capital Territory, I thank the Minister for replying to some of the points that have been raised. I thank him especially for his explanation of the item to which I referred specifically. Had time permitted I should have referred to many other items of which I should have liked an explanation. No doubt the Minister would have been only too glad to supply it. I still stand convinced that I am right in saying that it is time that the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory, and of the City of Canberra in particular, were presented to Parliament in a form which would enable us to assess the costs of the normal civic administration as distinct from the costs of administration consequent upon this being the National Capital, and the site of the Parliament.


Mr Daly - What does all that mean?


Mr LESLIE - If the honorable member cannot understand what I am saying, he would be better off in a kindergarten. I could recommend a very good one.


Mr Calwell - It must be the one that the honorable member attends.


Mr LESLIE - It is the one thai I attended a long time ago. While 1 was there I learned something, but I suspect that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will never learn. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Eraser) said that apparently I spent very little time in Canberra. I mav say that I take every available opportunity to look around this city. Certainly. J do not go on conducted tours. During the parliamentary session I fly to Western Australia and back every week-end. 1 point out to the honorable member foi the Australian Capital Territory that 1 come to Canberra not to enjoy the sights as does the. tourist, but to work. I am obliged to work here on three days of the week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday 1 must spend the day in the air, because only a daylight air service to Western Australia is available. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are all working days for me. and 1 spend them in my own electorate. Therefore, my time is evenly divided between Canberra and my own State. I would vers much like to come here as a tourist ami if, in common with the honorable membe for the Australian Capital Territory, I hat! time on my hands, I would probably do so. and enjoy some of the sights. But my job is certainly full-time.

On the question of cost, I remind the honorable member for the Austraiian Capital Territory, and other honorable members representing electorates on this side of the continent, that in 1933 the Commonwealth went to great lengths to defeat the Western Australian referendum on secession. Apparently, Western Australia was so important to the Commonwealth that it was prepared to expend considerable sums of money and much effort in order to make sure that, despite the long distance to Canberra and the cost to the nation of sending representatives here, the State would not be lost to the Commonwealth. There can, therefore, be no quibble about the cost of transporting Western Australian members to this Parliament, especially when they divide their attention equally between their States and this capital city, wasting no time in either place.

I wish to refer, once again, to the provision of finance for the Australian Capital Territory. I emphasize, that from the Estimates the cost of administering the

Australian Capital Territory is not clear. From the total figures shown, apparently the people of the Territory are subsidized to an extraordinary extent in their normal civil functions - quite beyond what applies in any other part of this country. As I have said before, it is true that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory pay income tax, sales tax, and all of the other taxes that the people in the States are called upon to pay. Of course, members of Parliament also pay tax. But, in addition, the residents of local government areas in the States have to provide the money for their own civil administration.


Mr J R FRASER - The residents of Canberra also pay rates.


Mr LESLIE - I do not deny, that they do. According to the "Year-Book" published in 1954, which contains the latest available figures, the total expenditure by 147 local government authorities in the year 1950-51 was. £3,424,844. All of that money was raised by means of direct taxation levied on the ratepayers in the various districts. It was not subsidized by either the Commonwealth Government or the State governments. For the same financial year, the vote for the Australian Capital Territory was £1,216,500, which included provision for the various aspects of civic administration to which I have referred. The total expenditure by local government authorities in 1950-51 included the cost of general administration, debt services, including interest, redemption and exchange - for which no provision was made in the vote for the Australian Capital Territory for that year - public works and services - roads, streets and bridges - health administration, sanitary and garbage services, street lighting, council properties, grants to fire brigades, hospitals, ambulances and other charities. Provision for many of these items, as well as for additional items, was made in the vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I admit that, because Canberra is the Seat of Government and we want to make it a national city - as the Minister said, something worth while, and I am not averse to that - certain civic costs are provided for in the vote. I am not quibbling about making Canberra a real city.


Mr Calwell - I thought you were!


Mr LESLIE - But it cannot be denied that the people of this place do not contribute to the cost of civic administration to the same extent as do people in other parts of Australia. The people of Canberra enjoy an enormous benefit because of the national decision - if I may use that term - to make Canberra a grand city.

I reiterate that, from the Estimates now before us, it is impossible to see whether the cost of the removal of garbage, and other civic services in Canberra, is being borne by those who enjoy them. The only way that that could be shown is by a separation of the accounts. However, that would require a further step to be taken; it would require some form of local government to accept local responsibility. It is local responsibility that I want to see in this place. So far, I have seen no evidence of a desire by the people of Canberra to assume that responsibility. I should like to see the people here battling to obtain a voice in the control of their own civic affairs, and expressing a determination to carry local responsibility. If they said that they were prepared to do that, and agitated for the establishment of a form of local government, I cannot see why they should not get it. They should get every worthwhile reform. I believe that this reform would be worth-while, and I favour it.


Mr Calwell - Why does not the honorable member introduce a private member's bill to give it to them?


Mr LESLIE - 1 have never yet been guilty of subscribing to Labour's policy of foisting on to the people something that they may not desire. It is up to the people of Canberra to indicate that that is what they want. This is a democracy - a free country - and it is for the local people to say what they want. It is all very well for the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to say that he believes in the introduction of local government to Canberra, but I want to see some indication from the people here that that is what they want. I have read the evidence that was given before the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra. The idea seemed to be uppermost in the minds of some of the witnesses that if the Government would give the residents of Canberra certain things, they themselves would do certain other things. Why do not the residents seek, straight out, the right to carry their own local government burdens? Until I see evidence of a definite indication by the people of Canberra that they are prepared to give, as well as to receive, I shall not let this question rest.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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