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Thursday, 2 May 1957

Mr J R FRASER . - I use my opportunity to grieve to do so on behalf of the residents of the country areas of the A.C.T. I think it is true to say that far too many people think only of the City of Canberra when they think of the A.C.T., and tend to neglect or forget the surrounding rural area of some 900 square miles which contains substantial villages and farming settlements, many of which were in existence long before the national capital was established. Today's farmers in these communities are the grandsons and great-grandsons of those who pioneered the area within the Territory. It is true that considerable expansion and substantial building development are taking place within the city itself. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and I do not always agree on the extent of that development, but it is true that major development is being undertaken within the city. Too often, when worth-while causes are advanced on behalf of the country centres and farming settlements of the A.C.T., the official answer is that the necessity to meet substantial expenditure in the city area for the time being prevents the consideration of necessary expenditure in the country areas. This has led to a lag in the development of the country areas and to unbalance of Commonwealth expenditure within the Territory.

As an illustration of this, I should like to mention the position of the village of Hall, which is situated about 12 miles from Canberra on the road to Yass, and which was in existence long before the capital city was established. For years, not only during the term of this Government, but also during the terms of previous governments, the people of Hall, through their elected representative on the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, and their local progress association, have sought to have the water supply - a very necessary facility - extended to the village. Over the years, promises were made, not only by this Government, but also by previous governments. Unfortunately, those promises were forgotten, or for some other reason were not honoured.

Several years ago, when the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) was Minister for the Interior, the people of Hall were told that, if they were prepared to pay for the extension of the water supply to the village, they could have it. On the basis of an estimated cost of £14,000, the people of the village undertook to pay, on the basis of a yearly assessment on each occupied block and each unoccupied block of land in the village, a sum that, collectively, would meet the interest charge on a borrowing of £14,000. Unfortunately, delays occurred, not through the fault of the people of Hall, but within departmental administration, and when the matter was again considered after two or three years had elapsed, the estimated cost had almost doubled. The increase obviously put the scheme beyond the means of the individual land-holders in the village to finance, and as a consequence, Hall is still without a facility which it needs, which should be provided, and which the Bush Fire Council itself has advocated as being necessary in that area. Within the last couple of months, voluntary workers, aided by departmental employees and machinery, fought a difficult battle to stop a bush fire which burned to within 100 yards of the village, and would have swept through it if had not been stopped. Occurrences of this sort are a very important reason why the water supply should be extended to Hall.

The village of Tharwa is a settlement that existed long before this national capital was established. Formerly it was under shire administration and the residents had the right to vote at shire council elections and so govern themselves in their daybyday affairs. As a result of that they have the most magnificent bridge in the Australian Capital Territory. That is an example of what can be done under local government authority. But the people of Tharwa have put up two proposals for the provision of water supply to that village, one by pumping from the Mumimbidgee River and the other by gravitation from Sheep Station Creek to an eminence in the village and reticulation from there to properties. Those people are still waiting for that. They are still waiting for the provision of other facilities not under the control of the Minister for the Interior. One is a rural automatic telephone exchange.

It is interesting to contrast the lack of provision in these villages - properties at Hall are in the main freehold although there are some blocks under leasehold - with the forestry settlement of Uriarra, which is controlled by the forestry section of the Department of the Interior, and where all the land is owned by the Commonwealth. In that village, which is much newer than the other two 1 have referred to, provision has already been made for water supply and provision is now being made for sewerage. I suggest that the fact that this is a Government settlement and that the people there are employees of the Government should not, in the main, give them any advantage over the residents of the other villages 1 have mentioned. I hope the Minister will give early consideration to the provision of those facilities at Hall and at Tharwa.

I would like to express my appreciation of the work of the electricity section of the Department of the interior, formerly administered by the Department of Works, in carrying electricity supply to the rural areas of the Territory. But here again, I must mention the delay that has occurred after promises have been given over the years. No electricity has been supplied to the farming areas of Naas and Booroomba. Supply to these areas has been promised over the years. Various reasons have been given - shortage of copper wire, shortage of materials, shortage of man-power - but I believe that those limitations no longer apply, and that this facility, which means so much to the farmer in the working of his farm, and particularly to the housewife in providing her with ease and comfort in living on the properties, should be supplied. Everything possible should be done to encourage these people to remain on the land.

Perhaps the greatest grievance of the people of the rural areas is the condition of the roads which traverse the A.C.T. Here the expenditure on the city area contrasts most sharply with the money that is expended for the benefit of the rural community, which, after all, is a producing community. It is a community which, in the main, pays very highly in income tax towards the revenues of the Commonwealth, and which might expect a more equitable level of expenditure from the Commonwealth. In general, the roads in the Territory are not good. Admittedly, the Department of Works has embarked on a programme of improvement, but it is not quite rapid enough. The road to Tharwa was to have been sealed when Her Majesty the Queen was coming here as Princess Elizabeth. It was to have been sealed because Her Majesty was to stay at Cuppacumbalong station. However, that visit did not eventuate, and the road was not sealed. I suggest that that work should be done. We might have another Royal visit.

I suggest also that the Weetangerra road - the major road on the north side - should be sealed and as far as possible the Department of Works should endeavour to provide at least pipe crossings or culverts on all the roads serving the producing areas of the Territory. Let us also have a bridge over the Murrumbidgee River in the vicinity of Point Hut crossing. It would mean so much to the areas around Tidbinbilla. Let us have some action, too, on the construction of a bridge on Smith's road over the Gudgenby River to serve the productive area between the Gudgenby River and the Murrumbidgee River.

Those are all works that have been listed, and I hope some force will be put into carrying them out. I realize that very little can be done to dirt or gravel roads in a dry period such as we have experienced. I hope that when the rain comes the work I have suggested will be put in hand. It is work that should no longer be delayed, and in delaying it we are not doing justice to a very substantial portion of the Territory people who are in fact the producers of this area.

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