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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2022

Dr GUN (Kingston) - It was most interesting to hear the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) profess a great interest in the problems of the cities and say that the Commonwealth should interest itself in the problems of the cities. This makes a very interesting contrast to the time when he was the Prime Minister of this country. I remind the right honourable gentleman of a time in 1970 when I asked him, when he was Prime Minister of this country, whether he would take some interest in the problem of land prices in Australian capital cities. He may remember that I suggested at the time that because the acquisition of land by the Crown had succeeded in controlling land prices in the Australian Capital . Territory, it would not be a bad idea if the Commonwealth helped the State governments to do the same thing in their capital cities. I thought that was such an important question that, although it was a question without notice, I gave the right honourable gentleman several hours warning of the question. Notwithstanding that fact, the answer he gave me was to tell me to take it to my Labor State government. That answer was the height of apathy and utter ignorance, lt sounds quite hollow and cynical for the right honourable gentleman now to try to profess that we are following in the footsteps of the previous Government.

The facts are that this Labor Government was given a mandate to do something about the problems of Australian cities - to bring to bear the resources of the Commonwealth Government to help our great urban problems in the capital cities of Australia. The

McMahon Government's setting up of the predecessor of this arrangement - the National Urban and Regional Development Authority - was only a death bed repentance because that Government realised at the last minute that it had better pay some lip service to something to which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have paid unswerving attention in recent years, instead of a lot of criticism, apathy and opposition.

I would like to say something about the right honourable gentleman's remarks concerning regional development. 1 take it that his proposition is that if we omit the term regional development' this will make the people in the rural areas very jealous and they will think that the Government does not care about rural areas or regional development. The plain fact of the situation is that this Commission is being set up to control, to look at and to try to do something about the problems of Australian cities. One of the things we will have to do is to build new cities because the problems are very great when the cities become too large. But this does not mean that we are going to ignore completely the whole idea of regional development and decentralisation. The basic objective of the Cities Commission is to look at the problems of the cities. If one is going to argue from the right honourable gentleman's point of view that we should mention regional development one should follow that argument to its logical conclusion and say that we should rename the Department of Northern Development the Department of Northern and Southern Development, otherwise the people south of the Tropic of Capricorn will become jealous, and that we should rename the Department of Foreign Affairs the Department of Foreign and Internal Affairs otherwise people will think that the Government is interested only in domestic problems. That is the absurd proposition put forward by the right honourable member for Higgins.

He also mentioned land prices when land is being acquired by the Crown. The right honourable gentleman is apparently refuting the policies of Mr Hamer in Victoria and Sir Robert Askin in New South Wales who made an agreement with the Commonwealth Government on Srd October 1972 for land to be acquired by the Crown in the WodongaAlbury area at fixed prices. Where does the right honourable gentleman stand? In spite of what Mr Hamer, Sir Robert Askin and our Prime Minister decided, I believe that there is a fundamental principle here. Surely nobody is entitled to make a profit from the sale of land out of an increase in value that that person does not put into the land himself. In other words, I cannot for the life of me see why any person should make a profit out of an unearned increment in the value of land.

The Government's policy is very welcome. I pay tribute to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development for the great attention he has given to this subject in recent years. I am sure that under his guidance the Cities Commission will be a great success and will do a great deal for the problems in Australian cities. Of course, urban problems do not just involve physical problems. Everybody knows about the physical problems. I am sure that other honourable members will mention things like the problems of providing roads, sewerage and other services. I am sure everyone would like to say something about problems in the cities such as air pollution, noise, freeways, traffic congestion, accidents and public transport which is inadequate and expensive. We must also bear in mind that there are other social problems associated with cities at which the Cities Commission will have to look as well. I refer to the great social questions of crime, drug taking - I do not mean just the illicit drug market; I mean the immense over-prescription and over-use of prescription drugs - and other associated problems of mental illness that seem to be part and parcel of urban life. These are tremendously important.

I believe it is important to look at the type of cities where people live because I think this in a large way determines people's behaviour. It determines aberrations of human behaviour. It is useless and futile to say that aberrations of human behaviour are due to human frailties, a propensity for sin or something like that. Surely it is fundamental that people's behaviour is determined by their social environment - by their domestic and physical environment. I believe that the type of environment in which people live has a very great effect on their communal and individual behaviour. I instance such things as the size of the cities in which they live, the type of social mix in the area in which they live and the density of population. If these can be modified, an improvement in the group and social behaviour of the community that lives in cities can be achieved. This is sometimes called architectural determinism, if I may use that 'in' term.

One important task of the Cities Commission will be to examine the question of urban growth centres. This very important matter is very close to home for me. The Noarlunga area in my electorate in South Australia is an area which is ideally suited for assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I believe that it is a most suitable example in South Australia for Commonwealth assistance. Certainly it has the most tangible plan. It should not be long before the development of this growth centre is very well advanced. As part of this plan there will be What is to be called the Noarlunga regional centre, which will be a large complex set aside for educational, recreational, commercial, cultural and governmental - local, State and Commonwealth - purposes. 1 would like to see a lot of Commonwealth involvement in this area. Of course, there is already some involvement at this stage. I am pleased to see that the Bureau of Transport Economics is looking at the transport situation in the Noarlunga area and examining the proposition for providing suitable finance and the best way of improving the line or extending the suburban railway line into the Noarlunga area. I understand that the Bureau is also examining the question of electrification of the service.

I have put certain propositions to the Minister. I know that he will give them very favourable consideration. I would very much like to see the Commonwealth assisting in the carrying out of a survey of the needs of this area - the educational, employment, transport, social and recreational needs. This is something that could be done by using the accumulated expertise that the Commonwealth should be able to acquire at fairly short notice. It will not require a large amount of money. It will be thousands of dollars, not millions. I believe it would be of great benefit to the area and it would be a very interesting policy study for some of the other urban growth centres in Australia. Another area to be looked at is whether the Commonwealth departments could be established in this area. I know that the Postmaster-General's Department is already looking at the Noarlunga regional centre. I have mentioned this matter to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde

Cameron) and I think that he may be con? sidering it.

I am not just thinking of branch offices. Perhaps we ought to be looking at decentralising some of the head offices of the Commonwealth Government departments. I know that the Government has in mind that some of the remaining offices that are headquartered in Melbourne will be transferred not to Canberra but to Albury-Wodonga. I think that there is a place for some of them to go elsewhere in Australia. I think I have mentioned to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development - I have certainly mentioned it elsewhere - the possibility of the new headquarters of the National Biological Standards Laboratory being set up in one of these new centres. I could not think of a better place than in my own electorate. Apart from that, I would like the Government to look at the question of providing the headquarters of a lot of these Commonwealth departments outside Canberra because I cannot real y see any merit in having everybody here. Criticism has been made - I think it is sometimes valid - that if the whole bureaucracy is completely centred in Canberra people have very little need to move outside that area and sometimes they may become a little less appreciative of the problems that occur outside Canberra than they otherwise might be.

I have also suggested to the Minister - I hope he will look at the question - that the Government might assist in the acquisition of land for open space and recreational areas It is a bit difficult to develop any theme at great length when one has been allowed only 10 minutes to .speak. I conclude by congratulating the Minister and wishing the establishment of the Cities Commission every success, which I am sure it will have, under his stewardship. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

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