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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1858


Mr BURY (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thank the Minister for that information. It seemed to me that the present Minister for the Capital Territory was the one Minister in the whole Cabinet who did ring true as being thoroughly adjusted to the job that he had to do. He was in harmony with his job. He seemed to exude the spirit of it. He appeared to be a roundpeg in a round hole, one of the very rare cases in this Government of heterogeneous bits and pieces. He was in good harmony with the spirit of his job. His harmony certainly far exceeded that of the Ministers in charge of the financial and economic affairs of this Government who collectively seem to be getting the country progressively into a mess. Not only are these Ministers out of harmony with their colleagues but also are they notoriously subject to centrifugal forces and seem to scatter in every direction and come together but occasionally. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs seemed to be thoroughly attuned to his portfolio, so he has been removed from it. I suppose that the principle of cause and effect to some extent follows.

The new Minister for the Capital Territory is one of those rare occupants of this office who lives in Canberra, the Territory which he is to administer. He does know in a practical way through experience some of the problems of Canberra. For the most part, Ministers for the Interior or the Capital Territory, or whatever Ministers in charge of the Australian Capital Territory are called, in successive governments have not been residents of Canberra, although the last few Ministers have. I have always considered that the primary requirement for someone who is responsible for a city like this is that he should live here and be thoroughly acquainted with its practical problems. I wish to mention one or two matters to which I feel the new Minister should give attention. The new Minister has now entered the chamber and the former Minister for the Capital Territory, now sitting at the table, is about to leave.

For a number of years, I have pointed to certain aspects in Canberra which have not attracted the action of the Minister responsible for that portfolio. I begin by referring to 3 pieces of blatant pollution in this city which should have been cleaned up long ago.

I think that the new Minister lives in a different part of Canberra from the area that I mention first. I invite his attention to a nasty habit that the authorities of the Capital Territory have of burning garbage in the open in the area of the Causeway. This creates nasty, dirty smoke on a large scale. It is opaque and very smelly. Large quantities of it can be viewed from many parts of the city in the direction of the airport. It is time, I suggest, that this nuisance was eliminated. The municipality in which I live certainly has not the population of the Australian Capital Territory or the resources available to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Garbage and rubbish of this kind is disposed of by burning in an incinerator. A perpetual nuisance is not created to the inhabitants of the area.

I refer to the other two pieces of blatant pollution. I regret that the new Minister for Works (Mr Les Johnson) has left the Committee in the last few minutes. I say it is regrettable because his predecessors acquired a sawmill which burns rubbish in the vicinity of the Causeway and this burning pollutes the whole atmosphere. Another matter of importtance is the vast output from the Government Printing Office. It so happens that all unwanted printing material, papers and so on from the many government departments in Canberra, are disposed of in an incinerator attached to the Government Printing Office. I suggest to the new Minister for the Australian Capital Territory that he should go and have a look at this and examine the virtually daily burning that takes place in the morning at the Printing Office. At one stage this disgraceful state of affairs came under the control of the then Minister for the Environment.

I hope that the new Minister for the Capital Territory is able to get some assistance, if necessary, from his colleague the present Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) in order to get rid of this very nasty nuisance which at times causes a large area of Canberra to be covered in smoke. I ask the new Minister to do this because I know he is enthusiastic. He lives in Canberra and he knows the district. I gather he likes it. I do suggest that if he does not have the money available he should get together with the other Ministers concerned and try to do something about it. There is one thing about this Minister and that is he does seem to attract a large vote irrespective of what position he holds. He has just retired from being the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. While he held that portfolio he had available a colossal amount of money. I suppose it has been a reason for his success that he has been able to go around and deal out funds on a very generous scale - a scale which would give any reasonably well organised Treasury a nightmare. But that is the way in which this portfolio has been administered by him and his predecessor. But I point out that this is necessary in the administration of the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs. As has already been said in this place, it cannot be considered on the same basis as other expenditure proposals.

This morning I heard a broadcast which stated that the new Minister for the Capital Territory was going to carry on with various things including price control. It may not be fair to ask the new Minister a question like this on his first day in charge of this portfolio but it is curious to note that after the recent increase of 5c a gallon in excise on petrol the price of petrol in Canberra was frozen pending an inquiry into retailing in Canberra. This raises the question of who is responsible for prices and how prices are frozen. I noticed a couple of items in the Press, one of which was a Press statement which was made on 3 October by the previous Minister for the Capital Territory in regard to the price of petrol in Canberra being increased by 3c instead of 5c a gallon. I would like to know whether prices in Canberra are the responsibility of the Prices Controller or whether they are the direct responsibility of the Minister concerned. I would also like to know how this decision to increase the price of petrol in Canberra by 3c a gallon came about.

An inquiry was held into the price of petrol in Canberra. A report in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 4 October suggested that the Prices Controller did go into this matter fairly fully and did take evidence. The impression made on those who were giving evidence - perhaps people often gain the impression that they have made a bigger impression on the minds of the listener than they in fact have-r-was that the view of the Prices Controller or the Assistant Prices Controller was that it had been proven that an increase of 5c a gallon was justified. Yet the Minister increased the price by only 3c a gallon. Prices control and its administration is an important subject for the future and I think it would be useful if the Minister were to table the report of the

Prices Controller in order to clarify the question of whether the Prices Controller, as such, is responsible for fixing prices or whether the ultimate power lies with the Minister.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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