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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 418


Mr THORBURN (Cook) - Mr Deputy Speaker,may I add my congratulations to the many that have already been expressed to you and ask that you convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his appointment to that high office which is a fitting tribute to the years of service that he has given to this Parliament and to his electorate. This new Government comes into office with all the enthusiasm, vigour and expertise that is needed to form the best and most progressive government this country has ever known. It comes in at a time when the nation cries out for change and progress, and no section of this country cries out more than does the section at the local, level. Successive Commonwealth Governments have refused to recognise the relationship that should exist between governments at all levels. They consistently have refused to recognise local government as other than a child of the States and something that should be the responsibility of the States.

This year a convention is to be held to discuss the Constitution of this country. Some progress may be made at that conference but one would not have to be a prophet to realize that the States will protect zealously the sovereignty they have and that in fact not a great deal of change will be achieved irrespective of the necessity for change, but change Will come. It will not come from the inspiration and initiative of government, from where it ought to come. It will come with the assistance of communities - the same communities that elect governments and expect governments to provide for them the initiative to provide change. These communities are fed up with inadequate schools, sewerage systems, housing and hospitals and lack of proper planning. No longer are State and local government boundaries and areas of responsibility, created over a century ago, necessarily satisfactory to meet our modern needs. Not since 1861 has there been any significant change in any State boundary, and this is despite the concerted attempts by groups of people in organisations like the new State movements in New England, the Riverina, and north and central Queensland to effect a change more suitable to the area of responsibility today. There have been moves in some State. Parliaments but these also have failed. Fortunately in New South Wales there is at present an inquiry into local government boundaries. One should not be too critical of other governments unless I suppose one looks at this Parliament. Like culture, tradition certainly has some place in our community. But when tradition impairs the proper functioning of this House then it is time that the House took it upon itself to consider the situation.

An honourable member in his speech yesterday used the words 'an expensive debate' but immediately corrected himself and said an extensive debate'. I suggest that he was right in both respects. The time honoured tradition of divisions in this Parliament is a useless waste of time. In an age of electronics and computers we should be looking for something more progressive and more in keeping with the times than our present system. It is an indictment of the Parliament that we have not looked at the ceremonies performed in this place to ascertain whether they can be modernised. I agree with members of the Opposition and Government supporters who have spoken in this debate that more information should be provided to Opposition supporters and that they should be given greater access to information so that we can have in this Parliament a proper forum. Honourable members would then be able to debate intelligently and with conviction the things that come before this House. I hope that this will eventuate under this Government. It certainly did not apply under the previous Government. Some change has been made in this House and I commend Mr Speaker for his leadership. It is possible that he. has shown the way in this regard.

The Cook electorate is situated on the southern perimeter of Sydney. It has a population of some 100,000 people, half of whom are' under 20 years of age. The electorate has the privilege of having within its boundaries the birthplace of Australia where in 1770 Lieutenant James Cook landed on our shores. In this electorate 2,000 young people leave school every year and seek job opportunities or go on to higher education. Most of the population in the area is in the middle income group. We have all the social problems that a community of this nature would have. Many young families in my area pay $25 to $35 a week in rent and very often they are receiving incomes of less than $65 a week. I think that very few of these people added much to the statistics released yesterday giving the average wage at $104 a week.

We do not know just what are the social implications for those people who are affected by the inadequate housing in the States. Today some 400,000 people are urgently in need of housing. This represents a housing need of approximately 93,000 homes. The States over the years - and the Commonwealth must accept its responsibility - have failed to meet the needs of housing especially for the low income groups. I think there is a definite need for a type of housing for young married couples such as a low rental type of housing suitable to accommodate young married couples over the first years of marriage. These people cannot possibly accrue any savings while they are paying the enormous rents that they have to pay in the competitive housing market today.

I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) say yesterday that the State governments have taken some initiative in freezing land prices in the areas that are going to be developed for housing by this Government in co-operation with State governments. Too many fortunes have been made in the past by the stroke of a pen changing the planning provisions pf an area. Unfortunately the people, who have made the fortunes have not always been the original owners of the land. The land has been purchased by development companies and then when rezoned for housing vast fortunes have been made, forcing up the price of land and the price of housing generally.

In the field of urban and regional development this Government will show the way. Our cities are choked, our streams are polluted and our public transport system is a schemozzle. Yet governments have not shown initiative by doing something about decentralisation. I am sure that under this new Government we will see - and we will see it in the first 3 years - some reasonable progress made in the field of urban and regional development. Decentralisation will no longer be a catchery but a reality. People will be able to move from the cities into country areas which are not only well planned and desirable but which will provide everything they need for their living. Over recent years governments have failed consistently to show initiative and it is very apparent in the building industry today that there is a grave lack of tradesmen and a grave lack of recruitment of apprentices to service this industry. Yet nobody seems to know how bad the position is or how serious it will be in the future as we strive to build houses which the people urgently need.

In the field of social welfare nothing significant has been achieved in the 23 years the previous Government held office. We have already indicated our intentions - and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had tabled a statement today - in regard to one of the great needs of this country. I refer to the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme. I commend that scheme to the House. There is no more urgent need than a compensation scheme for people who in the prime of their life for some reason are stricken down, whether it be bv a heart attack or some other illness, and their families left destitute in a short space of time. This area of social welfare was neglected by the previous Government. No attempt was made to overcome this enormous problem. Frequently these people are rehabilitated within a reasonable period only to find that they are totally incapable of meeting the enormous debts which they incurred during the period of their incapacity. There is a very great need in this area. I hope that this scheme is expedited so that the people of Australia can rest easy knowing that there is a scheme to provide for them in time of illness or injury.

It has been very obvious in recent years that the existing health schemes will not be able to cope and that people, particularly in the lower income groups, will not be able to afford the necessary insurance to provide them with the benefits of a proper health and hospitals scheme. I am quite sure that in a very short space of time this Government will again show leadership in this regard and will be in a position to provide an alternative scheme to the people so that they will be able to get proper health services. Also, by showing the initiative and the enterprise it will be able to reduce the enormous need for people to be hospitalised. Health services in the home will be made available to people who previously would have had to go into hospital.

I commend the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) on the work that he has done so far. I can think of no other area which needs greater activity. Already the Minister has been able to achieve a great deal. He has had numerous conferences with the State Ministers. I am quite sure that within the next 12 months we will see a rejuvenation in this field and possibly a reduction rather than an annual increase in the waiting list of people for this urgently needed accommodation. I am proud to represent the people of Cook in this Parliament. I look forward to participating in the debates and deliberations. I hope that they will be upgraded over the period in which Labor is in office. I offer honourable members my co-operation at all times.







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