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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr DRUMMOND (New England) .- I move-

That this House notes with grave concern -

(1)   The dangerous concentration of 55 per cent. of our population in the five mainland State capitals, namely, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth,

(2)   The overwhelming concentration of key and other defence industries in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and Port Kembla, and

(3)   That more than one-third of the total population of Australia is centred in Sydney and Melbourne; and recommends to the Government as a matter of extreme urgency in the interests of balanced development and defence that -

(a)   an expert committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the best means of securing effective decentralization of population, industry, communications and administration;

(b)   the. committee consist of representatives of-

(i)   Commonwealth and State govern ments,

(ii)   local governments, and semiautonomous bodies engaged in water conservation, irrigation, hydro and thermal electric power,

(iii)   transport authorities, including State railways, also road transport, sea and air,

(iv)   authorities controlling ports and rivers and public works, including main roads boards and housing commissions, and also financial and industrial experts;

(c)   the expert committee make recommendations in regard to -

(i)   those industries which should be decentralized;

(ii)   the concessions in taxing, rating, haulage, communications, housing, road and rail to nearest ports of access, financial assistance, provision of water, sewerage, power and light;

(iii)   the conditions under which assistance would be granted, including finance, the selection of areas remote from existing target areas; and

(iv)   the provision of education and medical facilities in new cities to be developed and, any matters appertaining to the above, or which in the opinion of the Committee will assist in giving effect to the programme, including decentralization of government and administration.

Mr. Speaker,having formally proposed the motion, I wish to proceed to indicate why, in my opinion, it is more than fully justified. The House will note that the motion refers to a dangerous concentration of 55 per cent of our population in the five capital cities on the mainland. It refers, also, to the overwhelming and dangerous concentration of key and other defence industries in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and Port Kembla, and to the fact that more than onethird of the total population of Australia is at present concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne. In this uncertain, potentiallydestructive nuclear age I assert that these are facts of very grave concern to the nation and to its Government. Two questions - I fully appreciate - arise when I put forward these assertions. The first is: Is there an excessive concentration of our people in the five State capitals, and, if so. why is this concentration dangerous? According to the official records at 30th June. 1960. the total population of Australia was then 10,280,000, so that in the five State capitals 55 per cent, of the total population of an area of 3,000,000 square miles was actually concentrated in less than 3,000 square miles. The greatest concentration of population, which is' in Sydney, is in an area of approximately 300 square miles. This concentration is dangerous.

I proceed now to another aspect of the matter. I refer to the forecast of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council made on 21st January, 1961'. In a very thoughtful paper prepared for the Australian Citizenship Convention, analysing population and immigration trends, the council suggested that in 1965 the population of mainland Australia would be more than 11,000,000 and, if present trends continued, no fewer than 6,212,000 of those people would be in the five capital cities. Any one with an atom of responsibility cannot but be aware of the grave significance of those figures and the danger, particularly in the present age, of pursuing policies which have brought about this terrific concentration relative to our total population. If those policies are continued, they will simply add to the evil in a very grave manner indeed. I have asserted, Sir, that this concentration is exceedingly dangerous to the nation. Apart from the increase of social evils it may be said from the defence stand-point that to continue along this line of concentration in an age of nuclear and atomic warfare is a form of racial suicide. National survival demands dispersion of population, government and industry as far as possible.

I wish to refer to a statement which was made by a man who is held in very high public esteem in Australia. At the Citizenship Convention to which I have referred, which was held in Canberra in January of this year, in a paper entitled " Quo Vadis " Major-General Sir Kingsley Norris stated -

Among the lessons from the last war were that, in order to meet any great challenge, it is necessary -

(i)   to develop our resources to the maximum, and

(ii)   to preserve them by dispersion.

To the query, " Is the present concentration of the population of Australia in the five capitals dangerous? ", that is also my reply in a nutshell. Thelast war was fought at the end with bombers, block-buster bombs. V-bombs and one atomic bombing. We will have failed to learn the lessons of that war if we do not think now in terms of nuclear bombs, the intercontinental ballistic missile, and probably worst of all the atomic or nuclear bomb fired by an atomic-powered submarine deep under cover from 50 or perhaps only 10 miles away. When one considers that our principal cities in which our industries and population are concentrated are virtually right on the shore, I suggest that that is a possibility which this nation, if it has any sense of responsibility, must take into immediate consideration.

I suggest to the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is an overwhelming case to support my contention that the present concentration of our population is dangerous. I recall to the minds of honorable members that during the last war a Japanese submarine surfaced a few miles off Sydney and plugged several small shells into Sydney. Fortunately, only one or two of them exploded and none did much damage. That was the pattern of things to come. If one considers the difference between the nuclear and atomic-powered submarines of to-day and the submarines of the last war, one need not use much imagination to realize the danger to our people, our industries and our very national existence presented by the present policy that we are pursuing as though these things could not happen in this world. Let me emphasize, Sir, that Hitler learned the idea of blitzkrieg entirely from the sweeping charge of our people across the desert when in a cavalry charge we overwhelmed the Turkish forces. He applied that principle to tanks and he practically swept the world before the democracies could recover. That was the pattern of things to come. If we think in terms of the last war and pursue this policy of laisser-faire, we will have only ourselves to blame.

I pass on to my next point which is our industrial concentration. In my resolution I have claimed that there is an overwhelming concentration of key and defence industries in the two major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and Sydney's allied or satellite cities of Newcastle and Wollongong are not far distant from it. Let me give the facts on this aspect of the matter. It is very difficult to arrive at a complete picture of the concentration of industries and em ployment because statistics which would give the complete picture of aeroplane construction and many other aspects of defence industries are notably absent. However, I believe that what I have been able to obtain from official records is sufficiently near the point I want to make to enable the House to assess whether my claim is extravagant and to enable the nation to assess whether there is danger in the present setup.

I considered two important groups of industry associated with defence and key industries, namely chemicals, explosives, &c, and industrial metals, machines, conveyances, &c. For brevity I will group New South Wales and Victoria together and compare them with the rest of the Australian mainland. When I took out these statistics a short time ago, there were 1,124 chemical factories, of which 897 were in Victoria and New South Wales and the balance of 227 in the rest of Australia. In the second group - industrial metal, machines, conveyances, &c. - there were 17,840 factories, of which 12,750 were iti New South Wales and Victoria and the balance of 5,090 in the rest of Australia. The number of employees gives a more complete picture. Australia had 41,324 employees in chemical factories. New South Wales and Victoria had 33,850 of those. In the industrial metals, machines, conveyances, &c. group, Australia had 422,124 employees, of whom 312,781 were in New South Wales and Victoria and the balance of 109,343 in the rest of Australia. The value of chemicals produced annually in Australia at that time was £98,100,000. The value of those produced in New South Wales and Victoria was £83,000,000, leaving a balance of £15,100,000 worth for the rest of Australia. The total value of industrial metals produced was £533,000,000, of which £403,000,000 worth was produced in New South Wales and Victoria, leaving £130,000,000 worth for the rest of Australia. I suggest that those figures speak for themselves. It would not be correct to say that all that production is located in the capital cities I have mentioned, but it is correct to say that it is overwhelmingly located in those centres. Is that the result of a policy of dispersion? Is that the policy which is to safeguard our national existence? If so, I ask this house and the Government to tell me where our second line of industrial defence is.

Let us consider the position in New South Wales. In that State, we have coal of high quality at Ashford, Gunnedah and Werris Creek. Coal and iron ore form the basis of all industry. Recently, iron ore of very high quality has been discovered very close to Grafton. Limestone, an allied requirement, is found, with bauxite, in very large quantities in northern New South Wales. Moreover, we have water in abundance available for conservation; at present, it is conserved only to a small degree. Other States have similar assets, yet we continue to permit a concentration of industry in our capital cities and apparently do nothing about it. I direct the attention of honorable members to this brief statement that was made by the National Security Board of the United States of America in 1954 -

The serious impact of vulnerability is brought out when we consider that 71 per cent, of our industrial workers are contained in 50 of our major metropolitan cities.

That, of course, refers to the United States. But, Sir, here in Australia nearly 60 per cent, of such workers are concentrated in five capital cities. If that is not a dangerous concentration of population and industry, I want to know what is. I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the trend in Australia is such that it warrants serious consideration by this House and urgent action by the Government.

I ask the House: Is the present situation a result of laisser-faire or is it the result of a deliberate policy? I believe it is mainly the result of a deliberate policy in every State on the part of those who control finance, commerce, industry and the press. If my conclusion is correct - I express it with no sense of bitterness but as a plain statement of fact; there is much evidence to support it - that suicidal policy can be reversed by the forces to which I have just referred working in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government. A reversal of policy would speed the decentralization of communications, government and administration by the creation of new centres of administration which, for convenient. T shall call new States. T do not want ?nv o"»e to rise and foolishly say. " You cannot unroot your cities and move your industries holus-bolus to the country ". Of course we cannot. To do that would be beyond our capacity. But they may be uprooted for us willy-nilly. If, following an atomic attack, there were any of us left to carry on, we would have to do something about moving our activities inland.

I should now like to deal with the matter on a different basis. One of the leading experts and leading steel makers of America has pointed out that 3 per cent, of America's plant and machinery becomes obsolescent every year. He has suggested that that obsolescent plant could be replaced by plant established on new sites and in new buildings and surroundings. Incidentally, such a transfer would give the workers a much healthier and safer situation in which to carry on their life work. One of the most horrifying features of what could happen under the impact of a nuclear attack on this country is that if five nuclear bombs, delivered from the air, the sea or anywhere else, landed on our major cities, all our centres of communication and administration would be completely wrecked. I believe that, quite apart from the fact that this country would be more healthy and better developed if there were more States, we would have additional centres of civil administration and police control. If a crisis occurred, even though it was not as great as that which I think is possible, in the absence of such centres of administration, communication and control we would have to depend upon martial law and martial government. I refer at this stage to a document that was issued by the civil defence authorities in New South Wales and which contains this statement from a very authoritative source in the United States -

The point is that one cannot, by pronouncing the words "martial law", create a capability that does not exist, or that is at best very small. Army units might in some areas, where civil governments were either prostrate or destroyed, be able to govern, using the devices of martial law, or "martial rule", as it is sometimes called. But to expect the Army to govern the country, or even to extend substantial aid in emergency operations, is totally unrealistic.

Having, I believe, established that there is a dangerous concentration of industry and population under the system that has developed since federation, and having indicated that it is essential to break through from that system, which has failed so miserably, and to establish as soon as possible new centres of government and administration, I pass on to what I suggest is the first step that should be taken. That step, as indicated in my motion, would be a gathering together of Commonwealth and State authorities and all whose knowledge is essential to bring about a dispersion of population and industry. It may be said that I have been too lavish in my suggestion. I am not concerned about that, Sir. I am not concerned about the establishment of a committee which would sit endlessly and go through the humbug of presenting facts and figures and then forget all about them. What I am concerned about is doing something that will achieve results. I believe that we cannot bring about an effective dispersion of population and industry unless we bring together the best brains in finance, government, development, transport, education, health and every other activity that would be associated with such a dispersion, either by establishing new cities or adding to existing cities. As the Commonwealth controls finance through the system of uniform taxation, it is for the Commonwealth to give a lead and for the local government authorities to assist by rating. The job of bringing forward practical means of promoting decentralization by providing adequate transport facilities is one for the States, and the harbour and river authorities must provide the best means of water transport. The education authorities must see how they can accommodate the transplanted or growing populations in new areas under a programme of decentralization.

For these reasons I am not wedded to the establishment of the committee in any particular form, with respect to either its composition or the manner in which it operates, whether through an executive assisted by sub-committees in all the States or by some other means. Those who comprise the committee must be people who realize the dangers in centralization and the need for decentralization. They must be people who are anxious to try to repair the damage that the mistakes of the past have done and to prevent similar mistakes from being made in the future.

I think that I look at my country in much the same way as every other Australian looks at it. I am sure that we all stand appalled when we project our minds into the future and see the possibilities that lie ahead if we allow Australia to remain only partially developed. We must realize that centralization is building super-targets in small areas at certain parts of the coast. In saying these things I do not discount the contribution that Tasmania can make in the cause of decentralization. That contribution can be very valuable, and I have said nothing about it only because it does not affect my case. I have not mentioned the really fine work that the Commonwealth Government is doing on the Snowy Mountains scheme and various other projects. One would be foolish to scout those things, but they do not go to the heart of the problem,.

The real problem is this concentration of population and industry in a few places. Why has it occurred? I say that it is the result of a deliberate policy implemented by people who are powerful enough in every way to impress their views on Australia. I plead with those people to reverse the direction in which their power is applied and to recognize the danger to themselves, to the people generally and to Australia as a whole if the present process of centralisation continues. I urge them to bring their great influence behind a move for the real decentralization of the forces and resources which can do for Australia the job that is needed.

Let me indicate in just a very few words some of the dangers of the present position by reference to the concentration of defence industry in the industrial area of Maribyrnong, which, I believe, is only four or five miles from the heart of Melbourne. What a lovely bang there would be, if one may express the idea in such terms, should a modern missile be directed at Melbourne! What devastating effects there would be on the population of that city! Recently representatives of 600 or 700 manufacturers in country areas of Victoria approached the Premier of that State and said: "This ever-growing concentration of people is the result of deliberate policy. We ask that that policy be reversed in order to give industries and towns in country areas a chance to expand ". I say the same sort of thing for New South Wales, my own State. I plead with this Government and the House not to allow to pass this opportunity to act. My motion is not proposed for party or personal ends, lt is proposed because 1 am seised, as I am seised of nothing else, of the belief that unless we in Australia move - and move quickly - there will come a day of reckoning from which we cannot escape.

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