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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2066


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - I should like to join in this debate and talk on 2 points. I. want to foreshadow first of all an amendment which proposes to change the name 'Cities Commission' to 'Cities and Regional Development Commission'. I believe this proposed amendment was mentioned in the House one night last week by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). He will not be here today to move the proposed amendment, but 1 will do so. The other point to which I want to draw attention is the question of orderly development of the proposed new centres and the sort of land title that will be prescribed for them. This gives me a great deal of concern. I feel that we ought to be a little cautious about moving too rapidly until we know exactly how land titles will be worked out between the Commonwealth and the States.

I commence by saying that I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in putting so much effort and enthusiasm into fostering the idea of the establishment of more regional centres. His efforts to get agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to Albury-Wodonga have been commendable. This has been a part of a policy that was started by the previous Government. I had a good deal to do with getting the Commonwealth interested in participating with the States in a more active policy and program for helping with sub-metropolitan areas and with regional development. Naturally, I am delighted to see these activities being carried on.

I believe that the concentration of population in our great capital cities is one of the nation's greatest problems. It will become manifestly greater as time goes on, unless something constructive and positive is done about it. Quite aggressive leadership will be required to make proposals such as those contained in this Bill a reality. Some of the old conventions that we have accepted may have to be bent a little to mould into this new policy that I believe is vital for the nation. We cannot allow Sydney and Melbourne, principally, to continue to grow in the way they have. We know that if the present trend does not change the population of those cities will double by the year 2000, which is only 27 years away. It we have problems at the moment with respect to urban living, we can imagine how much greater those problems and pressures will be if we cannot find a way to alleviate them. I believe that the method that should be adopted is to try to spread the Australian population in a better manner than the manner in which it has been distributed in the last 2 or 3 decades. 1 accept the concept that much work needs to be undertaken in the cities. Very great problems exist for local government authorities and State governments in attempting to meet growth pressures. We all are well aware of the environmental and social problems that have to be tackled. The stage has been reached where the Commonwealth will have to help foot the bill for some of this development. 1 think that it would be quite wrong if the major emphasis were placed on trying to correct the problem in the sub-metropolitan areas. I believe that if that course were adopted the problem would be intensified and more people would be attracted into those areas. This nation has to work out policies for greater dispersal of population not only to regional growth centres but also to every town and hamlet throughout the Commonwealth.

I have always looked at the idea of regional growth centres as being just one of the prongs in a major attack with the idea of trying to hold population in existing settled areas or to spread population into less populated areas. I think it would be quite wrong to concentrate on that one method only. The planning of a growth centre with a concentration of activities in one specific area often can act adversely on the surrounding cities until that growth centre becomes a selfgenerating metropolis. An example of this occurred in Canberra in the course of its 40 or 50 years of development. In the early stages, when public funds were being pushed into its development, Canberra drew on the resources of surrounding towns, such as Queanbeyan, Yass and Goulburn, and this reacted adversely against them in drawing away some of their labour force.

It will be a pity if, in the creation of these regional growth centres, the population of towns in surrounding areas diminishes. A broader based policy needs to be formulated so that, in the fostering of this growth concept, every town and village in the area surrounding a growth centre will have government funds available to it should an industry desire to go into such an area and develop. I am very pleased at the program that has developed in New South Wales. In that State the Minister for Decentralisation and Development has available to him funds - either loans or grants - to assist in the development of an enterprise in any town within the State. As a result, hundreds of new commercial enterprises have been started thus giving more employment opportunities. I believe that if the Commonwealth is to provide massive funds for these regional growth centres then some supplementary assistance for these other types of development programs would also be necessary.

I see the development of a regional centre not just in itself but as the centre of a huge spider web network in which it would have to be ensured that the surrounding towns were given a degree of assistance. Because of my concern that we should not just concentrate on the metropolitan areas, I believe that the title of this Authority should also include the words 'Regional Development'. To talk of it merely in the terms of 'the Cities Commission' gives the impression to country people, rightly or wrongly, that it is only for the cities. I cannot help forming the impression that the present Government is more interested in concentrating its funds in this area than in adopting a broader national approach and giving emphasis to regional centres. I think it is appropriate that the title of the Authority should include the word 'Cities'. I do not deny that.. But I think there should be added to the title the words 'Regional Development*. This would embrace all communities and it would not have this bias that appears so immediately. The Government has shown a bias in its policies towards rural industries and to the mining industry. There is certainly a lack of sympathy and not much sensitivity about how this will affect people seeking employment and general commercial activities so I would have to think that in its approach to this matter of urban development the Government will concentrate entirely on the cities.

There has been a lot of talk about the number of these regional cities in which the Government interesting itself. I do not know whether it is correct - and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development who is seated at the table might inform me on this - but I have been told that the Government is looking at something like 11 or 12 cities throughout Australia as possible growth centres. This is commendable in one way but I would be frightened if 12 or 13 areas or thereabouts were to be mentioned as growth centres until a firm plan is worked out as to how the authorities in each one of those areas will operate in relation to the local government authorities which are already there; how the land is to be acquired, under what terms the land will be acquired; and whether the development will be based on a system of leasehold land title.

I have taken it from the statements that the Minister has made that he wants the development to be undertaken on a leasehold basis in accordance with the principle adopted in Canberra. I can understand why he wants it on a leashold basis - so that there will be complete control over the planning and the development of these areas. But there are a lot of people who have other ideas as to whether they want a leasehold system. I have not had any clear indication from the State governments as to whether they are going to accept the recommendation of the Minister.

Let us not name 12 possible areas around Australia and have a continuing brawl as to what the land titles are going to be. I believe that once an area is named action will then have to be taken to prevent undue land speculation. I think the State governments and the Commonwealth Government have recognised this point of view.


Mr Uren - Some State governments.


Mr ANTHONY - Well, some State governments. It is not unanimous by any means. It would be quite wrong if massive amounts of public funds were to be employed in developing these regional centres only to the advantage of speculators who might go in and take advantage of increments in land values. So I acknowledge the problem which is generated.

If 12 areas are mentioned and if it becomes necessary to make a proclamation about land values in those areas, it would be a most regressive step for normal development in these areas. Nothing would put more fear into the minds of investors than the knowledge that they would not get a fair appreciation of their land values as the land values rose in those areas. Approximately 20 years ago a New South Wales State Labor Administration had a closer settlement scheme. The Government intended to subdivide rural properties for closer development purposes. A proclamation was made over the land concerned, fixing the price at something like 1941 land values. The people who owned the properties were not able to sell them at the true market value, subdivide them or do anything with them. The development of the land was stymied. Many good properties in the State had little development carried out on them because of the arbitrary decision which had been made. It was not until the change of government in New South Wales that some of the proclamations were lifted. If a town is told that it will be part of a regional development scheme and if little money is ploughed into that area for 5 or 10 years, everybody in the region will be penalised unduly.

On 19th December the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin, made a statement on this matter. He was referring to the Bathurst-Orange area and the Albury-Wodonga area. He said that land values prevailing on 3rd October 1972 will be adopted but due allowance will be made for the effective inflation on money values after that date. At least that statement is an appreciation of the fact that land values will rise and that land owners whose land is to be acquired will need to get some compensation for inflation. But what inflation index will be used? They are things which we need to know before areas are suggested as likely regional growth centres. I can not really encourage any centre to make a strong application to be a growth centre until 1 know clearly how the land title system will be worked out and, if land is to be acquired compulsorily, as it would have to be, how values will be determined. We know that if the Commonwealth were to acquire the land it would have to do so on fair and just terms at the time that the land is acquired. The Commonwealth cannot make a long standing proclamation about land. No doubt this is one of the reasons why the Commonwealth Government wants the State authorities to be the authorities for acquiring the land. No doubt some States want to do this so they can retain certain control over the operation. But it could cause tremendous injustice to people who might not get fair values for their properties if this matter is overlooked. 1 hope that the initial Albury-Wodonga scheme will be seen as a pilot scheme which will show how these things are to be worked out. I know that in Albury-Wodonga at the moment there is concern among members of the local government authority about the contribution which the States and the Commonwealth will make to the development of services in the area. I think that at the moment Albury has ideas about a new water scheme to supply the present growth rate, but this scheme would be quite inadequate if the town had multiplied at 2 or 3 times the predicted growth at the time the scheme was installed. Why should the present local council commit itself to heavy Joans and heavy indebtedness on a water scheme if really the whole arrangement is to be made incorrect by actions of a State or Commonwealth Government. What the council wants to know is whether the Commonwealth will provide the money for this sort of project. How the responsibility of that local council overlaps with that of the development authority is another question which needs to be resolved. 1 am not posing these questions to make it difficult. All I am doing is posing these questions to point out that they are real problems that need to be worked out. J am sure that given men and governments of good intention we can work them out. But let us know clearly where we are going before a whole lot of other towns are named. Immediately they are named the State governments will have to move, in and try to prevent speculation taking place. They will have to prevent developers going in and buying up large tracts of land which will happen immediately the names are mentioned. So I would caution the Government in the first place to enunciate quite clearly how the land title policy is to work, how compensation is to be paid and how this matter is to be inter-related with the local government authority. Until this is done I think we need to tread very cautiously about going too widely on naming a good many cities.

The other point I want to come back to is that I hope that this system of decentralisation will not be the only one that the Commonwealth will be involved in. I want to see the Commonwealth have a policy whereby every town and every hamlet is given an opportunity to develop an industry with government assistance, if it is given a chance.


Mr Uren - You support dispersed decentralisation?


Mr ANTHONY - Yes, I do. I support both concepts.


Mr Uren - You cannot have your cake and eat it too.


Mr ANTHONY - It is not a case of that. The question is of whether both are capable of being implemented. It is being implemented in New South Wales where there is a policy whereby every town can get benefits. Of course, one has to have concentrated effort in one centre. I have enunciated this policy all along and have supported the con* cept that we need to have growth centres. This is the only way that we will get massive movement. Unless we do something to give other towns and cities an opportunity to develop we will tend to have the drift to the cities that we do not want. The whole emphasis of this Bill I believe is to try to ease the growth pressures on the capital cities which we all acknowledge have problems, and something has to be done about it.







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