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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1538

Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - lt was really rather pitiful to hear the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) read his little prepared speech following on the information given by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), but we have established here this afternoon one thing that I think is important to Australia, and certainly is important to this House. We have now a clear picture of what Labor Party policy is in relation to home ownership, housing and the development of land. The idea of the Labor Party is stated in the proposal for the discussion of this matter as one of public importance. I want to apply myself particularly to that because it is what members of the Opposition stand on. They all rose to support the proposal - even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - so it is Labor Party policy. It reads:

The need tq create joint Commonwealth-State planning and development commissions in each State to acquire substantial tracts of land in urban areas, particularly on their fringe -

I suppose they would take the lot if they could- to hold it in public ownership and to develop it on a leasehold basis.

That is the idea of Labor members. What they want to do is set up more commissions in Australia - as if we have nol enough commissions. Labor wants to cure every problem by setting up a commission or an inquiry - anything that costs money. Have members of the Opposition any idea of how much these separate independent commissions in each State will cost to administer? Do they understand this at all? We already have a housing commission in every State but they want another commission. I have never heard anything so absurd and so ridiculous.

The great pity about all this is that the honourable member for Reid - bless his soul, you know he is a very conscientious man - beieves what- he is saying, but he does not understand anything about it. That is the trouble; he just does not understand what it is all about. He believes he is right; he believes this is a cure for the problem, but this is the most absurd proposal I have ever heard presented to this House. Honourable members opposite do not seem to have any concept of the problem. I know that prices of land have gone up all over Australia and that they have gone up more in Sydney than in any other capital city. But I have not heard the honourable member for Reid offer any reason for this situation. I will tell the honourable member a few things about this.

Honourable members opposite know that the Labor Party was continuously in power in New South Wales for 23 to 25 years. That Party set up the Cumberland County Council in New South Wales. It also established around Sydney a reservation ring called the green belt. This was supposed to be really good planning. Where is the green belt today? Does anybody know? When the Labor Party was in power in that State - and one cannot unscramble the eggs too quickly - it deprived the people of Sydney of the opportunity to develop and expand Sydney through the unavailability of land. When a few developers, the New South Wales Housing Commission, the War Service Homes Division and other bodies sought to build houses there was not a block of land left for the poor little citizen. There was not one block left. Those who had blocks could ask for any price they liked.

The reason for high land prices in Sydney can be traced back to State Government interference in the first place and to the fact that there was insufficient land to meet demands. This is a very simple matter to cure. It could be cured by private enterprise without any government interference. Does the Opposition realise what it would cost to resume the land its members have referred to in every capital city of Australia? Does the Opposition know what it costs to develop land today? Do Opposition members know the difference between the cost of land a few years ago to the average person and the cost of land today? A few years ago councils and local government authorities got into this planning mood. In developing land they did not require the construction of roads in the way they are required today. They did not require kerbing and guttering, the extension of water supplies, the availability of sewerage or the provision of gas or electricity. The costs for all these things now have to be borne by the developer who subdivides the land. Therefore there has been a complete change in the cost of land per block compared with a few years ago.

Although I could speak for a long time in relation to this matter my time is limited in this debate. Honourable members on the other side have asked: As the Government has imposed this leasehold system and has acquired all the land in Canberra why is it unable to do likewise in the other capital cities? Could anyone imagine a more idiotic suggestion? Originally the Canberra district was a completely barren area with no development whatsoever. The surrounding districts consisted of grazing land. The Government decided to set up the capital city of Australia on this land. This is where the taxpayers' money would be spent to the extent of thousands of millions of dollars in the development of this city. The Government set about in this primitive area to develop Australia's capital. The Government has to own the land in this area. It has to have a leasehold system so as to acquire the increment on the capital value of the land. This is the only way it can be done. This system could not be applied to the Sydney metropolitan area where it has taken over 2 centuries to develop the city and suburbs. Sydney has been developed by way of investment savings on the part of individuals and they are the people who own the land.

Honourable members on the other side have said that the Government cannot impose a leasehold system on some land owned by the Government and not apply it to other capital cities. The Opposition's scheme will not work unless the people of Australia are prepared to turn this nation into a Socialist state, whereby the government of the day would own the lot and would acquire every asset held by every person. It would then be a matter of ladling out what the government thought the people should have, as is done in Russia. If the Opposition's scheme is adopted we will have a Socialist state. Here we have today a complete indictment of the Labor Party that it is in favour of socialising and nationalising the ownership of land in Australia. It is almost unbelievable that the Opposition would seriously put forward this proposal. We all know that land prices have gone up, particularly in Sydney, because, as I mentioned before, of so much government interference in the long time that the Labor Party was in power in New South Wales. There has not been the same percentage increase - the honourable member for Reid has already indicated this from his own figures - in the price of land in Melbourne or in any other capital city in Australia because there has not been so much interference in Victoria and other States.

Mr Uren - What about Perth?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Land prices in Perth increased because of other conditions but recently the price of land in Perth fell and it is still falling. People do not understand the reason for the high cost of land. The whole question of the cost of land is its availability. Do not let anyone forget that no-one can own a block of land for a period of 10 years or more, having paid the rates and taxes on it, without the cost to the owner doubling because you have to add at least 10 per cent per annum to the cost of the land for rates and taxes and unearned interest on the capital invested. People do not seem to understand this.

People who have land on their hands have to get rid of it to get their money back. The price of land is determined by the availability of land. We can never cure the problem of rising land prices simply by expending government money to acquire all land. This method would not relieve the position in the way that members of the Opposition have indicated in this debate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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