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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4164


Mr HALLETT (Canning) - The States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill affects 3 States. In this legislation, Queensland is allocated $10m, South Australia is allocated $ 19.9m and the sum of $8. 65m is appropriated for Tasmania. Western Australia was a claimant State under the principal Act until a few years ago when it withdrew following a decision arrived at in the course of a Premiers Conference. Some financial arrangements were made. I hope that Western Australia will be able to retain its position of monetary independence without the need to apply again to the Grants Commission. Earlier in the day the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) in addressing himself to this Bill spoke of happenings in Queensland. He stated that very little was received by that State from certain developments there. He was referring in the main to the bauxite industry in Queensland. Very little was being returned to Queensland from those enterprises. But the honourable member told only part of the story. A few days ago I referred to some of the development taking place in Australia and suggested that some honourable members should take a trip to see what is happening beyond the cities of Australia in terms of development. A lot of this development has been occurring in Western Australia. There seems to be very little evidence that Canberra knows what it is all about.

Today the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) made very false statements about the benefits which have been derived by the various States and the Commonwealth as a result of the introduction of large amounts of money, running into hundreds of millions of dollars, which are needed to develop various projects. There is not just a royalty paid to the State Government. There is the development of entire towns. The railways are built by developers and the ports are built by developers. This message is coming home to even Ministers of his own Party in Western Australia - Labor Ministers. I want to refer to the heading on the front page of today's Western Australian Press because of the things said by the honourable member for Bowman earlier in this debate. The newspaper article is headed WA Minister' and the next 2 words are: Canberra mad'. The article states:

The Western Australia Minister for the north-west, Mr Bickerton, yesterday described as mad the Federal Government's policies limiting foreign investment in developing remote areas.

He said: 'I can say unequivocally that without foreign capital our remote areas will not be developed.

It is a matter of sensible people sitting down to work out how to arrange this foreign capital which at no time will prevent local capital coming in'.

MrBickerton's criticism of Federal policies is the first in such blunt terms by any Western Australia Minister.

His remarks were similar in sentiment to comments by Opposition spokesman in Western Australia and Canberra, but carry more weight politically because he is a Labor Minister criticising a Federal Labor Government.

Mr Bickerton,who attended the first meeting of the Northern Development Council in Canberra this week, said that the Queensland Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, held similar views.

We did not have anything in the North West till we got foreign capital,' Mr Bickerton said.

It is not a matter of knocking back local capital, it is a question of getting capital - foreign or local.

The Australian content has not been available.'

I could read a lot more of what Mr Bickerton has said in a similar strain. It is precisely what I have been saying in relation to these things in this House in recent times. The only way in which we can develop this country, in view of the magnitude of the things that have to be done, is with very large amounts of capital. We have seen this happening in Western Australia but I fear that as development is being held up because of certain policies of this Government it may be necessary at some future time for Western Australia to go again to the Commonwealth Grants Commission to seek assistance. I hope that will not be the situation but unless the people in Canberra, in this Parliament and the Government of the day, can see what is required and can change their policies I am afraid there will not be much more of this development taking place.

I have every faith in our country; I have every faith that the Australian people will in time be in a position to supply large quantities of capital for this sort of development. But at present the bulk of the capital and the knowhow required to do these things which are so necessary is coming from overseas. This has never been more important that it is in our oil industry today. Over the last few years we had a program which up to this point has provided 70 per cent of our oil requirements. But now the know-how and capital which has been coming here is disappearing very rapidly. That is something we cannot afford in view of the politics that are being played in the Middle East today and which, I might say, are extremely dangerous for any country or group of countries in that or any other part of the world to be playing. An explosive situation could occur if those countries continue to apply those sorts of tactics. Australia cannot afford to lose one day in getting on with the job of finding the quantities of oil that no doubt exist in this country. Britain has done it in the North Sea, although it will be a few years before she can really harness it.

To get back to this Bill, it is interesting to note that Western Australia was given a grant back in 1910, which was before the Grants Commission was established, of some $500,000. Tasmania was given a grant in 1912. South Australia was given a grant in 1929. The Grants Commission itself was not established until 1933. The reason why there was a need for such a grant at that time was that the claimant States, of which Western Australia was one and I think South Australia and possibly Tasmania were the others, were dependent mainly upon agriculture and did not have the industry in which to generate the finance necessary to encourage development within their borders. The Grants Commission was set up with the object of assisting those States. The basis at that time for the making of claims was mainly the disabilities suffered in relation to development within the States themselves. All sorts of arguments were advanced in those days. But the situation is somewhat different today in relation to the way in which the grants are in fact made. Quite a different formula is adopted. I thought I had it in front of me, but that does not appear to be so.

The Grants Commission has done quite a useful job in this area over a number of years.

Its charter has been extended considerably into other areas following the passing of legislation by this House earlier this year. The Grants Commission's responsibilities have now been brought into the area of local government. In fact the local government regions that were drawn up were the subject of a document tabled some weeks ago by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). There is a considerable amount of confusion in the local authorities throughout Australia as to precisely what terms and conditions are applicable to the making of applications for these grants. I wrote to the Minister quite recently asking him for further information on this matter. I again appeal to him to spell out or to have somebody within the Government spell out in precise terms to the local authorities throughout Australia how applications should be made for grants in this respect. I assure the Minister that there is quite a considerable amount of confusion on this matter right throughout Australia.

As I read it the provision for making application for grants is laid down in the 1973 report of the Grants Commission. Time is against rae quoting from the Grants Commission report as it relates to this area. At page 36 of the report there is reference to what the authorities have to do. As I read it they have to make application to the Special Minister of State, who, if after due consideration he thinks it is fit to pass on to the Grants Commission, passes it on and who, if he does not think it is fit to pass on, will not pass it on and it therefore will never see the light of day. It is necessary to spell out these things so that local government bodies throughout Australia will know precisely where they stand and what their accountants have to do. I made a plea to the Minister last week, I think it was, and I make it again to let us have the details so that everybody will know what to do.

The Grants Commission, of course, covers only some sections of the requirements of the various claimant States. As far as the States as a whole are concerned, the Commonwealth has used section 96 of the Constitution to make grants for many purposes over many years. One, for instance, is water supplies. A considerable amount of money has been spent on water supplies from grants made to the various States over the last 20 years.

Debate interrupted.







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