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Tuesday, 9 June 1970


Mr CROSS (Brisbane) - The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) said that there were several things that would forever remain within his mind. In the speech which he has made J found that he spoke in a confused way on a number of matters and that he was evasive and divisive. First he put forward a number of his own experiences in local government matters in Queensland. None of us would deny any of these experiences, but he put them in such a way as to attack a previous Labor Government of Queensland. At the time when he went to Brisbane seeking an increased water supply for the shire of which he was a member, he was a member of the Australian Labor Party. At. a later time when unhappy events occurred in the Australian Labor Party in that State he was one of the gentlemen who sided with every Cabinet Minister bar one when the split in the Labor Party took place.

I think it ill behoves him to be political about his approaches at that time. The Labor Government, it is true, made its mistakes like anyone else. But the Labor Government in Queensland after the Second World War made a survey of Queensland's natural resources and set under way development programmes some of which continue to the present time. The largest irrigation work carried out by any government in Queensland was the Tinaroo scheme, which was carried out for a long period of time by a Labor government. It may be that the honourable member for Kennedy is confused by the fact that the foundation stone bears the name of a Country Party Premier. But may I assure him that the scheme originated from and was planned by a Labor Government. The very city which is the centre of his electorate - Mount lsa - owes its prosperity to Mt lsa Mines Ltd. 1 would like the honourable member for Kennedy to read a book by Blainey entitled 'Mines in the Spin if ex' which points out that, without the assistance of the State Labor government over many years, thai enterprise would not exist now. In addition to this, I would like the honourable member to read about the way in which the Country Party-Nationalist pArty government of the depression days declined assistance to Mt Isa Mines Lid and nearly put it out of business. So much for the north of Queensland and the matters raised by the honourable member for Kennedy.

The Australian Labor Party has raised for discussion today this matter of public importance because local government is important. The functions of government are to ensure the well being, comfort, health, education and betterment of people wherever they may live. We have the misfortune to live under a federal system. We all know the background to that system and the compromise that took place. We all know the differing background of local government in this country as compared with overseas. The facts of the matter are that this federal system is used by people at all levels of government to pass the buck. There is no level of government to which this more aptly or more readily applies than local government. In Great Britain and in Western (Europe, national government arose out of local government Local government therefore is stronger and. in most cas?s, much better financed than it is in this country.

Local government in Australia, as a level of State government and State administration, by and large arose out of the convict settlements and the old authoritarian governments as set up before Australia had representative government in 1S52. Australian local government has never recovered from its origins or from the fact that it is a level of delegated responsibility from the State governments. The Brisbane City Council, whose case and some of whose special disabilities I intend to p'ace before the House very briefly, is 3 months older than the State of Queensland, lt has a budget larger than that of Tasmania, lt has many budgetary problems. These are obvious in the Brisbane City Council because they all can be put together in the one document.

Greater Brisbane amalgamated 20 !o;al authorities and several boards at the time it was formed. In the other State capitals, these responsibilities are carried out still by a multitude of small local authorities and many boards. They are not carried out .as economically, soundly or efficiently as they are administered by the centralised administration of the city of Brisbane. I thank the honourable member for Kennedy for the kind remarks that he made about the present Lord Mayor and administration for their very substantial achievements in Brisbane. But there are a number or ways in which this centralised scheme in Brisbane is disadvantaged financially and 1 feci that in some of these fields avenues exist for Commonwealth assistance. Allow me to give the House some examples.

Firstly, the Brisbane City Council carries a substantial transport deficit. This is brought about by the fact that transport in the city, with the exception of railways, is the function of the local government. In Sydney and Melbourne, for example, these transport deficits are carried by the State government concerned. This means that the Commonwealth Government through its taxation reimbursements assists to pay the transport deficits in Sydney, Melbourne and other southern capitals whereas this charge is carried by the ratepayers in the city of Brisbane.

Again, certain Commonwealth activities cast an increased burden on local government. I will give some examples of this. The city of Brisbane makes concessions to pensioners, both repatriation and social services, by way of transport passes and other concessions, lt grants very substantial rates concessions to pensioners. In the southern capitals, these transport concessions would be made by State government authorities and, to some extent, the cost of those concessions would be met by taxation reimbursements from the Commonweailth.

Further, Brisbane has a major airport at Eagle Farm where a new terminal will be built - we hope rather sooner than later - and the very complex installation that will rise there with Commonwealth expenditure will impose needs on the city of Brisbane for roads or for rapid transport access by railway or the like to that airport. Again, a substantial measure of this cost accrues to the local government authority. I believe that the Commonwealth Government could make grants to local authorities to assist them in matters such as airports where the Commonwealth has the responsibility to provide the facility but where the provision of that facility imposes a great burden on the relevant local authority.

Other Commonwealth activities cause concern to local authorities. I have had some complaints from individual electors living downstream from the Enoggera Army camp in Brisbane. Recently, the developments undertaken there - the cutting down of trees and the erection of further buildings - have meant that when a decent downpour of rain or a period of heavy rainfall occurs in Brisbane people are being flooded in this area because of drainage problems. So, the development of this defence installation has meant an increase in cost by the provision of additional drainage facilities to the Brisbane City Council. 1 believe, and the Australian Labor Party believes, that more pan be done by the Commonwealth to assist local authorities directly. I know than an improvement was made as far as the cities are concerned by the provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which grant financial aid to local authorities. But, in relation to that scheme, the Queensland Government has channeled most of the money to the Main Roads Department. Only $670,000 came in the last financial year to the Brisbane City Council. The Main Roads Department, which is required to spend a certain amount of its money in urban areas, spent millions of dollars on work but nothing really went back to the local authority.

I believe that the Commonwealth could look at the question of paying rates to local authorities in respect of Commonwealth property. In the last financial year the provisions which enabled the Commonwealth not to pay rates on Commonwealth owned land cost the Brisbane City Council $212,000. 1 believe that in many other ways the Commonwealth Government could assist local authorities. We, on the Labor side of this Parliament, do not believe that the Commonwealth Government should do what the State governments do with regard to local government. The State governments shrug their shoulders and regard local government as a level of government which is no concern of theirs. Local government is the form of government closest to the people, ft is tremendously important to the people. It is time that the Commonwealth Government was involved directly in the problems of local government.







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