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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3558


Mr HALLETT (Canning) - The estimates before the Committee for the Department of Urban and Regional Development provide for an appropriation of some $10. 8m as against an expenditure of $4,891,462 in the last financial year. The increase, as far as I can gather from the estimates, is mainly for the purpose of the administration of the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Perhaps the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) may care, if he has time, to explain in more detail what expenses are involved. I must comment on the statement made by the previous speaker in the debate, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), concerning local government and the Australian Country Party. It is not true to say that the Country Party has in any way downgraded the local government administration of this country. As a matter of fact, we agree entirely with the 3-tier system of government. Anyone who cares to look at the speeches I have made over the years will see that on many occasions I have raised the subject of the provision of financial assistance to local government. What we have been saying is that local government is a creation of the State parliaments and their legislation and therefore anything that is done by the Commonwealth should be done through the State Parliaments. We still abide by that view.

It has also been said, not only in this debate but also in other debates, that nothing much has been done in the last 20-odd years about the development of inland areas. I heard that said in a debate a few days ago, I think about northern development. It was said that nothing much has been done about the development of the north. I would suggest to those honourable members who have made statements of this nature that they should have a look at northern Australia. Perhaps a good place to start is Western Australia, where literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the creation of industries. I am not trying to knock what the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is doing, but I would like to know what will be the base of the development he referred to in the Bill he introduced tonight in relation to Albury-Wodonga. What I mean by 'the base' is the industry.

We talk about Canberra and the way in which it has developed. The industry in Canberra is the public service. That is what it revolves around. Take out the Public Service and we lose Canberra. Albury-Wodonga or any other development within the Commonwealth needs a base, an industry. It is one thing to develop houses, streets and whathaveyou, but the people have to have jobs. It is necessary to have a system of industry within such developments. This is what I mean when I say that development has gone on in various parts of Australia right outside the cities, particularly in my State of Western Australia where hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in towns, railways and ports in developing industries and facilities for exporting from this country. The base of industry in those areas is, in the main, mining. If one wants to develop an area in Australia, no matter where it is, one must have industry. I listened very attentively to what the Minister had to say tonight and, so far as I know, he did not mention the word 'indus try'. I would appreciate it if at some time in the future the Minister were to explain to the House what the base of the Albury-Wodonga development will be, how it will be achieved, and what negotiations have been taking place between industry and the 3-tiers of government that are involved. I think he will agree with me when I say that it is necessary to have a base.

The Grants Commission Bill was introduced into the House earlier in the session. It comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister. The Bill relates to the moneys that will be made available to local government throughout Australia. The local government bodies have been formed, according to a document which the Minister has put down in recent times, into regions. The point I wish to raise is that the regions concerned, particularly the local government bodies, are anxious to know how the system of allocating moneys will operate. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development and, I think, the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) made a joint statement recently - it does not appear to be dated - about the procedures to be followed in relation to Australian Government grants to local government. It was a brief statement. Apparently it was intended to give to local government some information relating to the making of applications to the Grants Commission. But the information in this respect is very brief indeed. The local government bodies throughout Australia want a detailed statement about what is to happen in relation to applications to the Grants Commission, what they will be able to apply for, and what areas will benefit from moneys provided under these grants.

They are waiting for the appropriate Minister to bring down a statement on what the Government policy is in relation to Commonwealth aid roads grants. I take it that the program for the development of roads would not come within this area to be covered by the Grants Commission. The sooner the Minister makes a definite statement in relation to the areas of local government to which moneys will be made available by the Grants Commission the better it will be. It will be only wasting the time of local government bodies and their accountants throughout Australia if that is not made clear. A lot of work will have to be done by the local government accountants throughout Australia. There are, I think, 900-odd local government bodies in

Australia. Their time will be wasted if the facts of the situation are not properly laid down. I appeal to the Minister to make this information available to the local government authorities as soon as possible. The Minister asked me to speak for only 7 minutes. I think I have spoken for 8 minutes. So I will resume my seat.







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